Experts on sustainable employability of university employees assume that you are responsible as an individual employee for consciously shaping your own career, while the university as employer should facilitate and support you in this endeavor. This implicit hypothesis emerged in an expert meeting about a research report by dr. Judith Semeijn and prof. dr. Tinka van Vuuren on sustainable employability of university employees.*
Is employability policy the instrument for a university to select top talent and sort out the ‘losers’? This is one of the more cynical questions discussed at the expert meeting. I do not believe this is necessarily the case. Career diversity and flexibility has grown enormously in the past decades. Fluid career paths and corresponding freedom of choice come with great responsibility. Yours, if you think like this: “If I am free to choose any career, it is also up to me whether I succeed or fail” – a potentially crushing thought indeed. And that of the academic employer: you need to give active support not only to the absolute top talents among your researchers, but also for the subtop and other staff and facilitators – with an open mind to outcomes that might not be in the best interest of the organization directly. But there is a fine line between encouraging free, personal career responsibility and paralyzing people with unattainable succes images.
Whether you take the personal perspective of the individual or the organization’s perspective of the executive, my best advice is to look into your notion of success. What does a successful career look like? And how does it allow for diversity and unforeseen turns of life?
*In February this year I organized this expert meeting together with the Women’s Network at Utrecht University and the Campus Coaches from Campus Orléon. My article resulting from this meeting has just been published in Pandora, the UU Women’s Network magazine. This post touches upon some highlights. I will link to the complete article as soon as it is available online.