Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Exploring Career Engagement

Career engagement is defined as the emotional and cognitive connection to one’s career; it is a state where one is focused, energized, and able to derive pleasure from life’s activities. Career engagement focuses on the dynamic interaction between challenge (i.e., level of difficulty; stimulating, fascinating, and invigorating activities) and capacity (i.e., skills, resources, relationships, conflicts). Too much challenge for the available capacity and individuals move out of the zone of engagement towards overwhelmed. Conversely, too little challenge moves individuals towards underutilized. Without these two dimensions being in re-balanced individuals can become completely disengaged.

Within the career engagement model, the use of career, as opposed to work, employee, or even life engagement is intentional. The goal is to encourage you to consider your level of engagement across the broad meaning of career (i.e., “the interaction of work roles and other life roles over a person’s lifespan including both paid and unpaid work”; European Lifelong Guidance Partnership Network, 2012).

In my recent explorations into career engagement, work was having the biggest impact on whether or not individuals were able to be engaged. Take time to reflect on your work role. Do you feel engaged? Overwhelmed? Underutilized? Using the career engagement model, you can explore your level of engagement from the challenge component by reflecting on whether your current role is too difficult, or too easy; also consider whether you have opportunities to be stimulated and fascinated by the work you are doing.

In exploring your level of career engagement from the capacity component, reflect on whether you have the resources necessary to meet the challenges your job presents. Consider skills, knowledge/education, access to equipment, sufficient budget, supportive colleagues and supervisors, as well as supportive friends and family. Remember to look at your whole life, even when focusing on your work role – sometimes your energy is being consumed by challenges at home making work seem more difficult when, in reality, it is personal challenges that are reducing your overall capacity.

Your goal should be to balance challenge and capacity in order to stay within the zone of engagement. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, strive to either increase your level of capacity or reduce the level of challenge. If you’re feeling underutilized, look for opportunities to increase your level of challenge . . . reducing level of capacity is also an option but likely much harder to do; after all, you can’t suddenly become less-skilled at your job.

If you are interested, I’m currently collecting data for my doctoral dissertation where the career engagement model is a focus of my research. Click here to review the official invitation to participate in the research study and access the link to the survey.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recognizing the Multifaceted Nature of Diversity – Tips for CDPs

Career development practitioners (CDPs) regularly work within a fixed program/service mandate, typically stipulated by the funding source. For many, such a mandate often defines a very specific client group (e.g., immigrants). This approach tends to lump all clients from a particular group into one category, forgetting that diversity is far more complex.
At Life Strategies, we strive to take a broad definition of diversity, looking beyond visual clues (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) to include a multitude of other factors (e.g., sexual orientation, religion, educational background, level of ability, communication style, speed of learning and comprehension). Although we recognize that focusing on one element of diversity can provide targeted initiatives to support the needs of specific groups, it is equally important to ensure assumptions about individuals aren’t made due to their inclusion in the broader group. 
For example, a client who is Aboriginal may be impacted by challenges related to that group; however, perhaps the client is also a woman, perhaps an older woman. In that instance, she can likely also identify with challenges related to sexism and ageism. To further complicate the matter, perhaps this particular client doesn’t identify with her Aboriginal culture – perhaps she’s worked outside of Canada for the past 10 years and is just returning to the Canadian workforce. Consequently, a program focussed on supporting Aboriginal clients may not fit her particular circumstances. Perhaps something targeted to repatriates would be a better fit.
As the case above illustrates, individuals are multifaceted; it would be easy to make assumptions about this client if she was only considered as Aboriginal. CDPs can better serve their clients if they recognize and appreciate a broader definition of diversity. We recommend taking a culturally-curious approach; don’t assume what you know about a specific group applies to an individual member of that group. Get to know your client; take time to listen to his/her story.