DOTS Model by Law and Watts
In 1977, Law and Watts had a book on career guidance published, Schools, Careers and Community: A study of some approaches to careers education in schools, which detailed their now famous DOTS model. Each letter represents one of four key aspects which collectively lead to employability (Watts, 2006) including Decision learning, Opportunity awareness, Transition learning, and Self-awareness.
These four elements can be explained as (Law & Watts, 2003, 1977):
- Decision learning: students need access to career assistance to understand the many ways decisions can be made including pressures, expectations and cues; methods of decision-making; developing skills in prioritisation, curation of information and self-knowledge; learning to balance risk against likely reward; and taking responsibility for the impact and outcomes for themselves.
- Opportunity awareness: students need career assistance to experience and gain understanding of the world of work, their potential range of opportunities, what requirements and responsibilities they will need to meet, and what satisfaction and rewards they are likely to achieve.
- Transition learning: students need career assistance so as to grow self-awareness and skills, manage the transitions into adulthood and into adult decisions, such as ‘knowing’ the reality of the differences between school and work; applying and linking learning to the workplace; building soft skills to help them join and navigate the world of work, such as negotiation, communication, representation, rights and responsibilities.
- Self-awareness: students need career assistance so they can sense themselves clearly, knowing their similarities and differences to others; understanding their personality and how that may affect their opportunities; exploring actual and potential qualifications, abilities, aptitudes, skills, qualities, and physical strengths, and the limitations of these; exploring personal needs, aspirations, satisfiers, interests and values. In some areas of the world, understanding how family views may impact and intersect with self-awareness.
Figure 1: DOTS Model by Law and Watts, 1977 (RMIT, n.d.)
While DOTS is a useful model to illustrate the steps in working with someone who is preparing for the transition from learning into work, it is also useful for working with someone who is preparing for other transitions. For example, a client about to transition into retirement also must consider their personality, to explore their abilities, aptitudes, skills, qualities, physicality, needs, aspirations, satisfiers, interests and values. The DOTS model has a relatively pan-career approach.
While this model underpins a great deal of the high school and university career development work in the UK (and in the USA where the model is usually cited as Peterson, Sampson & Reardon, 1991, which is effectively the same as the DOTS model by Law and Watts), the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) has promoted the use of the DOTS model throughout their mission and vision statements, embedding it into their developmental approach and their lobbying. It is supported by the UK’s Higher Education Academy, the Association of Graduate Recruiters and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (Stapleford, Stanbury & Kuma, 2005).
The most likely developmental order that students would be ready for at each stage is S-O-D-T, as a certain level of Self-awareness needs to precede Opportunity awareness; which then requires Decision learning to enable any form of Transition learning (see RMIT DOTS Model, n.d.). Although the DOTS model is in Decision learning-Opportunity awareness-Transition learning-Self-awareness order, lacking a convenient acronym, DOTS remains the model’s name.
Mature clients in work are more likely to require career development in one or two areas of the model, rather than in all areas. Despite this, the DOTS model may be helpful to ensure that all areas are briefly investigated. RMIT cites Watts in saying there is “consensus amongst careers educationalists that any theoretical model for the educational process of careers education should be congruent with, and encompass as a minimum all these four elements, if it is to enable [clients] to implement fully informed and sound career plans” (n.d.).
If you don’t currently use the model, I would recommend downloading a copy of The Higher Education Academy’s career series publication by Watts (2006) where on pages 10 to 11 a list of outcomes for each area of the DOTS model is supplied. This is an extremely useful checklist framework for any career practitioner to have at hand.
Law, B. & Watts, A. G. (2003). The DOTS Analysis: Original version. Retrieved from http://hihohiho.com/memory/cafdots.pdf
Law, B. & Watts, A. G. (1977). Schools, Careers and Community: A study of some approaches to careers education in schools. London, UK: Church Information Office (pp. 8-10).
Peterson, G.W., Sampson, J.P. & Reardon, R.C. (1991). Career Development and Services: a Cognitive Approach. Pacific Grove CA, USA: Brooks/Cole.
RMIT University (n.d.). DOTS Model. Retrieved from http://www.graduate-careers.org/2016/03/21/dots-model/
Stapleford, J., Stanbury, D. & Kuma, A. (2005). Benchmarking Careers Education: support for enhancing student employability. At Enhancing Employability: Higher Education and Workforce Development, Ninth Quality in Higher Education International Seminar in collaboration with ESECT and The Independent, Birmingham 27th-28th January 2005.
Watts, A. G. (2006). Career development learning and employability. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/esect_career_development_learning_and_employability.pdf