2.3 Employability

Rose Helens-Hart

Employability is generally understood as the likelihood an individual could obtain employment (De Vos et al., 2011; Fugate et al., 2003). Since most of you will not be in a traditional linear careers that occur in a single or few organizations, developing and maintaining your employability during your working years is important. Rather than thinking about finding the right kind of job, think about how to become the right kind of worker.

Various attributes contribute to one’s employability. This text modifies a model created by Fugate, Kinicki, and Ashforth (2004), which consolidates a host of attributes into four categories: career identity, personal adaptability, human capital, and social capital. Together these categories facilitate the “identification and realization of career opportunities within and between organizations” (p. 18).

Career identity refers to individuals’ understanding of who they are and who they want to be in the world of work (Fugate, Kinicki, & Ashforth, 2004). These identities are formulated with values, beliefs, hopes, fears, goals and work preferences, which may change with new experiences over a lifetime. Career identity acts as a “cognitive compass” guiding individuals to seek out particular career opportunities (p.17). Career identity is important to self-managing careers because it serves to limit the number of careers being considered. For example, if an individual wants to be a director of communications for a sporting goods brand, she may pursue a degree in corporate communication to gain theoretical knowledge and seek an internship in communications, and join her university’s chapter of DECA to hone her technical skills. In this example, the individual’s career identity is directing her actions and serving as motivation to sustain the behavior that is guiding her toward her career goal.

Personal adaptability, refers to an individual’s ability to meet the demands of a given situation (Fugate, Kinicki, & Ashforth, 2004). In other words, adaptable individuals are able to deal with rapidly changing work environments to stay productive and attractive to employers. They tend to be optimistic, open to change, have a propensity to learn, and have an internal locus of control. Optimistic and open individuals view change as opportunity and are willing to explore those opportunities. Individuals with a propensity to learn seek the knowledge and skill needed to take advantage of those opportunities. Individuals with an internal locus of control, who believe that they have the ability to influence the events in their lives and attribute success and failure to personal actions, tend to be more proactive and plan in situations of uncertainty.  More broadly, generalized self-efficacy refers to individuals’ perceptions of their ability to perform in multiple contexts in their lives. Together, these characteristics support personal adaptability and contribute to one’s employability.

The last two categories relate to one’s ability to locate and seize career opportunities. Human capital refers to individual characteristics such as a person’s cognitive ability, age, education, breadth and depth of skills, and work experience. Social capital refers to the information and influence inherent in one’s social network. The size and diversity of a network, and the strength of relationships with those in one’s network influence its value. Network connections can provide individuals with insider information and opportunities otherwise not accessible to others without these connections. For example, job seekers may be told about unadvertised job opportunities or be more likely to obtain interviews out of hundreds of applications if they have positive personal connections with others in the organization.

In BCOM210, each of our modules can be traced back to learning objectives related to these employability dimensions. Communication is a core feature for clarifying career identity, developing a professional network, exercising adaptability, and communicating our value to professional contacts.


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Introduction to Professional Development Copyright © 2022 by Rose Helens-Hart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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