Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

CAREER FITNESS: Career Strategies That Enable Job Satisfaction

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

CAREER FITNESS: Career Strategies That Enable Job Satisfaction

Article excerpt


Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living... what make's us happy, be satisfied or enables us to perform effectively at an optimal level. It compels us to march forward under the banner of strength, rather than dictate our lives by the avoidance of that which we perceive to be weakness or negative information. It calls on us to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst things in life. The value of positive psychology is to complement and extend the problem-focused psychology that has long dominated our thinking and behavior. It enables us to influence that!

Several truisms provide the foundation, or basis of positive psychology: What is good in life is as genuine as what is bad. What is good in life is not simply the absence of what is problematic. Have you ever tried to define evil in objective, factual terms, without mentioning its "good" counterpoints? Yes, there is a difference between not being depressed and bounding out of bed in the morning with enthusiasm for the day ahead.

The good life requires its own explanation, not simply a theory of chaotic discord regurgitated with a positive spin. In the traditional job market, for example, the Department of Labor would have us believe that Corporate America controls the recruitment process and that the market is defined by requisitioned jobs getting filled with people that meet their requirements. But the whole market place is comprised of buyers and sellers that must interact to get work to happen.

A Complex, Chaotic System at Work

If there are not many links between employers and potential employees, the job market/ network is not very effective. If there are too many links everyone spends so much time communicating that they do not get to get on with the work available. As the number of links increases, there is a point where the effectiveness of the group increases dramatically.

If we take a working marketplace with many participants all linked and interacting heavily, and then remove participants (economic downsizing or outsourcing), we can test how effective the system remains. Often employers find that reducing staff does not make the existing work go away. We find that the system is remarkably resilient at first because surviving employees and contractors can take over the role of the lost employees. This means at first there is not much difference in effectiveness. However, as more and more employees are taken out, the system reaches a tipping point. At this point its effectiveness reduces suddenly as too many workers are missing and the remaining ones are finally overwhelmed. The system of productive work suddenly collapses. An employer can sustain serious economic change and continue to function surprisingly well, but if the damage reaches the tipping point, the disintegration is quick and dire economic realities may produce quite negative results.

The work market place then is quite fragile and unpredictable. It is a very complex, chaotic system, not unlike delicate eco-balances in our physical world. The tipping point also works the other way such as in trying to market one's self in the job market. Here we want to reach the tipping point. As any one industrial or functional market gains available workers and builds connections, it can eventually reach the tipping point. Suddenly sales take off. Sometimes we talk about reaching a critical mass.

A Systems Approach

Systems' thinking is a way of seeing the work marketplace as a web of interaction and linkages. The whole of it is more than the sum of its constituent industries and professional categories. Systems' thinking is critically important to solving career-oriented problems. It is the approach that allows a worker to move from seeing the world as a chaotic series of disjointed events, externally controlled by employers, to recognizing patterns of interaction and connection. …

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