Career Engagement and “Good Jobs”

Written by Drs. Roberta Neault and Deirdre Pickerell

In a recent edition of the National Employment Counselling Association’s (NECA) NECA News, Dr. Michael Lazarchick drew on Work Shift (; to reflect on what constitutes a “good job.” He noted four key factors – stability, opportunity, flexibility, and pride. We thought it might be interesting to consider these factors against our career engagement model.

Career engagement is realized through the dynamic interaction of challenge and capacity. When the level of challenge exceeds available capacity, individuals move out of the zone of engagement, becoming overwhelmed and, ultimately, burned out and completely disengaged. Conversely, when the level of challenge is too low for the available capacity, individuals move out of the zone of engagement, becoming underutilized and, ultimately, bored and completely disengaged. The dual routes to disengagement, through being overwhelmed or underutilized, help differentiate career engagement from other forms of engagement.

In considering the four components of a good job, stability is the knowledge that essential payments can be covered and that the means to earn a living is secure However, although any steady job paying sufficient wages may contribute to a sense of stability, it won’t guarantee engagement. Studies show that engaged workers are more productive and, in turn, more valuable to employers. The opposite is also true; those who are disengaged, or at risk of becoming disengaged through being overwhelmed or underutilized, aren’t as productive or valuable and, therefore, might be at risk of losing their jobs. This, in turn, impacts stability. A basic amount of stability likely helps to keep someone engaged – uncertainty about layoffs, restructuring, or the long term viability of an organization could be both challenging (in terms of managing finances and other responsibilities) and also a strain on capacity (i.e., taking time and energy away from work to ruminate on what may or may not happen next or losing focus due to the stress of uncertainty). This combination could move an individual out of engagement into the zone of being overwhelmed.

Opportunity refers to whether or not individuals perceive potential within their workplace to enhance their skills and build a positive future. Within the career engagement model, opportunity could relate to both challenge (e.g., promotions or taking on new roles or responsibilities) and capacity (e.g., opportunities to be coached, mentored, sponsored for training, or enrolled in a leadership development program). Without challenging opportunities, individuals risk becoming stagnant within their work roles; without opportunities for support or development, however, they risk becoming overwhelmed as new challenges outweigh their capacity.

Flexibility is the ability to meet the needs of those we love, even in the midst unexpected circumstances or events. With sufficient flexibility, individuals can create the life space to take on new challenges or to capitalize on happenstance; this fits with Krumboltz’s Happenstance Learning Theory. However, flexibility also relates to capacity; individuals with a surplus of resources (e.g., time, money, personal, and organizational support) can more easily accommodate unexpected challenges or opportunities.

The final factor, pride, refers to being respected for one’s contributions and knowing that those contributions matter and are, in some way, making the world a better place. Individuals are less likely to experience pride in their work when they are overwhelmed and feeling that they are not fulfilling their commitments; nor do they experience pride when they are feeling underutilized and not able to fully contribute the best they can offer.

Career engagement clearly fits with the key components of a good job: stability, opportunity, flexibility, and pride. Finding a good job, not surprisingly, can contribute to career engagement. However, proactively enhancing career engagement may help to create the essential components of a good job where you already work.

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