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Darren Francis, University College of the Fraser Valley

“Stephen” walks into an advisor’s office and explains that he needs help to become a doctor. Without hesitation, the advisor begins to outline the process and asks rapport building questions to develop a bond with Stephen. Through these introductory questions, the advisor is surprised to learn that although Stephen wants to be a doctor, he “does not like blood.” As the advisor learns more about his motivation for becoming a doctor, he realizes Stephen has little idea what a doctor “really” does, because his perception of medicine has been altered by his favorite television show.

Even in this day of expanding job duties, an academic advisor’s primary function remains to assist students in reaching both their academic and career goals. However, completing the primary function of the job has become more challenging because of unrealistic career expectations developed through media influence.

Analysis of media influence, both positive and negative, on society is not a new topic; however, for advisors the impact has never been more apparent. As the Faculty of Science Advisor for the University College of the Fraser Valley, I am inundated with student inquiries that are a direct result of watching popular television shows instead of general interest in the subject or career. The forensic investigation television franchises that dominate television channels across North America are an example of the impact a television show can make on student career choices. Over the last three years, the number of student inquiries relating to forensics has tripled. Even more interesting is that many students have little or no idea of what “forensics” means; they just want to do “the cool stuff” they saw on television last night. In many cases, they refer to the characters in their favorite shows by name, as if they are real people: “Last night, Nick was able to solve the murder by recreating the bomb that was used to commit the crime; I would really like to be able to do that.” This is just one example of how academic advisors are now responsible for dispelling misconceptions about the careers portrayed on television and in movies.

Academic advisors must address the misconceptions created by the media head on if we are to help students make realistic academic and career choices. A great way to facilitate this process is to have the students explain, in their own words, why they have made their respective program and/or career choices. When students explain their decision making process, it offers advisors an opportunity to dispel misconceptions students may have about a given career and provides an opportunity for students to realize errors in their decision making. For example, when working with “Stephen,” who wanted to be a doctor but didn’t like blood, I was able to highlight that all doctors work with blood, even though it was not addressed in the television show. After making that connection, Stephen asked some detailed questions about other medical-related programs that did not require him to work directly with blood. I suggested several programs and recommended that he job shadow careers that interested him to gain an accurate idea of the required work in each area. As a result of our discussion and his job shadowing, Stephen chose to pursue physical therapy, because it allowed him to help people, but did not require him to work directly with blood.

“Stephen” is but one example of how realistic career expectations can help students make good decisions. A combination of honest discussion and job shadowing allowed this student to make a practical career choice. As technology continues to expand, media influence will become greater. Academic advisors must focus their attention not only on academic planning, but on helping students make realistic career decisions by dispelling the misconceptions created by the media.

Darren Francis
University College of the Fraser Valley
Abbotsford, BC Canada
Darren.Francis@ucfv.ca

Cite this article using APA style as: Francis, D. (2006, February). Advising against 'pop culture'. Academic Advising Today, 29(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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