Saudi Reflections on Career Engagement

This week I had the privilege of working with some of Saudi Arabia’s best and brightest young professionals and the expatriate career and HR specialists who support them. As co-developer of the Career Engagement model, it was encouraging to see how well the model represented their experiences and inspired strategies for achieving and sustaining career engagement.

While in Saudi, I reflected on the similarities between arranged marriages and career paths that are pre-determined by an organization. In a culture where many marriages are still arranged, it’s perhaps not surprising that individuals may also have less choice in terms of their specific work roles and expect a career path to be clearly laid out for them.

However, there seems to be a trend in arranged marriages that there is significant input from the individuals who are to be married. Although the formal introductions are typically arranged by parents, those introductions may have been initiated when one individual expressed interest in marrying the other and, according to my contacts and reading, it seems that in most cases both individuals have the option to break off an engagement if it seems that it isn’t going to work out.

Similarly, in identifying appropriate career paths, recruiters, advisors, HR professionals, and career practitioners can play the role of making introductions and providing opportunities for individuals to explore potential careers. In a globally interconnected economy where “choice” has become a core value for many, some individuals desire more involvement in making decisions about their own careers. This is where the role of career development practitioners and career counsellors becomes crucially important – helping individuals reflect on what’s working and what’s not in their current position and strategically working together to plan next steps that may result in greater career engagement, productivity, and success.

TCareer Engagement Modelhe Career Engagement model identifies the importance of aligning capacity and challenge. Individuals who are overwhelmed or underutilized at work, just as in a marriage, are less likely to be successful and satisfied. Career practitioners/counsellors are uniquely positioned, in Saudi Arabia and throughout the world, to help individuals make sense of their career challenges and navigate the complexity of the rapidly changing global workplace.

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