Career Management Research Paper

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In the developed countries, we have moved a long way beyond times past when most people had “employment” or “jobs” rather than careers. A career is often defined as “the evolving sequence of a person’s work experiences over time” (Arthur, Hall, & Lawrence, 1989, p. 8). The term evolving sequence tells us that a career is more than just a string of jobs: These jobs are linked together over time and patterned so that we can see a career as a single meaningful entity, for example, “a career in banking,” “getting to the top of the organization,” or “from hairdresser to salon owner.” Careers are cumulative in that experience, skills, and interests developed in one job can be carried over into the next. While not everyone who works is a manager, everyone who works has a career, and for most people, it lasts for many years. This makes careers a very personal and important topic for just about everybody.

Arguably, for most of us, the management of our careers is the most important management there is. When we join organizations and contribute to them, we do so with our own welfare in mind. Of course, we are also interested in organizational matters; we ask questions about the organization: What does this organization do? What are its values and culture? Where is it going, in the long term? But these questions are asked from a personal perspective: Does the organization do something that suits me? Are its values in line with mine? In the long term, where will this organization take me? In many cases, we willingly identify with the organization’s objectives, mission, and way of doing things, but this is less because we value these intrinsically than because we know that cooperating with the organization will enable us to pay our own bills, meet our own values and needs, and provide for our current lifestyle and development into the future. In short, we join organizations and often commit to them for future-oriented personal reasons—reasons that are connected to our careers.

It follows that career management is an important facet of management in general. If individuals are to become and to remain committed to organizational objectives and to effective completion of their work tasks, they have to gain not just immediate rewards but ongoing personal benefits for their careers in doing so. If careers are not managed or are managed badly, they, like organizations, can become aimless, disorganized, and dysfunctional.

Another key aspect of career management relates to whether the career is regarded as an individual activity or as part of a collective activity. In some cultures and in some families, careers are seen as an expression of collective will and advantage. Individuals may be expected to cede their control over their careers to wider and more important forces. This was true in some of the former communist and other totalitarian societies where the state controlled important aspects of many careers. It is also true in societies that have a strong emphasis on collectivism rather than on individualism and where family businesses or traditions determine careers. In contrast, in the United States, a career is typically regarded as a major individual project or series of projects: The person is very much in charge, and in the end, while he or she may seek support and guidance, he or she must take personal responsibility for the career. In this research-paper, this second approach is assumed as the main focus.

Career Management: Organizational Or Individual?

In the organizations that you join, you will seldom find a career management department. Rather, it may be assumed that if the organization in general is managed effectively, employees’ careers will look after themselves. For example, if the organization is successful in developing itself, it will most likely grow in size and, thereby, will provide expanding career opportunities for its members. The human resource management (HRM) area, which involves policy and practice in recruitment, staff selection, employee training and development, performance evaluation, promotions, and planning for future staffing, is key to providing an organization in which people are able to maximize their career opportunities. Many HRM textbooks have research-papers on career management viewed as an organizational function on behalf of the organization’s members.

But individuals have an important role to play in the management of their own careers. For a person’s career to work, it is not enough for that person to respond passively to whatever career development the organization seeks to offer or impose. He or she should indulge in career planning and should be proactive in thinking strategically about his or her future, setting personal goals, making effective decisions about career moves, and seeking new opportunities for learning and advancement. Thus, career management has two distinct meanings: the individual’s management of his or her own career and the organization’s management of all its employees’ careers. An employee’s personal career management is often done in partnership with the organization as a joint manager of the career. Managers themselves have to manage their own careers while simultaneously contributing to the management of the careers of their subordinates.

Career management using either meaning encompasses a range of techniques for imposing order on what might otherwise be a series of disconnected noncumulative employment experiences. Career management seeks to utilize management ideas such as strategy, planning, goal setting, rational decision making, assessment, feedback, personal development, and control to maximize the individual’s long-term fulfillment of his or her potential and of his or her long-term contribution to the organization or organizations in which he or she works. But career management can be practiced by individuals and their organizations either separately or collaboratively. It will succeed best for both parties when this collaboration is strong, and each party appreciates what the other is trying to do.

Debate has arisen in recent years as to the respective roles of organization and individual in managing the individual and as to which one has the strongest influence. One formulation contrasts career self-management (CSM) with organizational career management (OCM) and notes that, while these may be regarded as competing interests battling for the control of a person’s career, it is possible for the individual and the organization, respectively, to practice them collaboratively so that both parties benefit (Sturges, Guest, Conway, & Mackenzie Davey, 2002). For example, a company accountant, bored with figures, might seek to direct her career more into marketing; her employing organization might recognize both her aspirations and her potential and might offer her a suitable job move within the company.

Theory And Applications 1: The Context Of Careers

Like all management, career management is occasionally assisted and often constrained by contextual forces that are broader and stronger than individual careerists and the organizations that employ them are. People cannot always go exactly where they want in their careers. Careerists have been likened to travelers moving across a landscape (Ink-son & Elkin, in press). Like travelers, they must plan and traverse their routes taking due account of the topography— for example, the hills, mountains, and rivers to be crossed and the paths available. There may be severe constraints, and the topography may change unexpectedly.

First, forces such as economic development, technological change, and new public tastes both constitute and change the landscape as the traveler proceeds. The careerist must pay attention. Decisions taken by career beginners now may have consequences for them in 40 years. Occupations, organizations, and even industries that seem attractive now may cease to exist or may change beyond recognition. Current trends that are relevant are the move toward temporary and part-time forms of work, to contracting rather than employment, the continuing emancipation of women in the workplace, the continuing restructuring of work due to information technology, the aging of societies, the increasing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” and the rise of the creative industries (Inkson & Elkin, in press). These trends change the labor market and career development must fit in with what the market wants: There are many more wannabe dress designers, rock stars, and astronauts out there than their respective markets can absorb.

Second, factors such as social class, gender, ethnicity, and education often determine whether people can reach their career aspirations or even what aspirations they develop in the first place (Johnson & Mortimer, 2002). If you are poor, Black, female, and uneducated, you may not even think of the possibility of eventually becoming the CEO of a large corporation, let alone trying to do it: If you do try, there are many barriers to stop you from succeeding. But if you are from a well-off family, White, male, and Harvard educated, it will not be surprising if you have both the aspiration to “get to the top” and a reasonable chance of doing it one day. This does not necessarily mean that the less privileged should give up on their dreams, but they will have to find ways to manage and overcome the barriers to their aspirations, as well as the aspirations themselves.

Third, organizations are themselves part of the context. They have important structural features that influence careers. In one sense, organizations can be representations of features of the wider society. For example, an organization may embody societal biases against minorities or against women and may express these, possibly unconsciously, in its personnel selection and advancement decisions. But organization structures also have an influence. The jobs that are the building blocks of careers are linked in structures that provide career pathways. After serving as a management trainee, you may move up the hierarchy to become a first line manager. Next, you may volunteer for an assignment to another department or overseas, and then you may apply for promotion. Here, you are dependent on the structures and job opportunities created by the organization. A restructuring of your organization may have the collateral effect of restructuring your career. The ways in which organizations manage the careers of their members are spelled out in the second half of this research-paper. If you want to manage your career, you must manage aspects of the organization or organizations in which your career is enacted.

Theory And Applications 2: Career Self-Management

CSM—sometimes called career development—includes personal career planning and decision making. The career development movement, whose theories are summarized periodically by Brown and Associates (2002), focuses on individual psychology and decision making. A person’s choices (e.g., choice of school subjects, of university degree, and of first job or occupation) have strong influences on his or her subsequent career, yet are often made at a relatively young age without much to support them by way of information or logic. The founder of the career development movement, Parsons (1909) believed that individuals should maximize their knowledge of their skills and interests, maximize their knowledge of the world of work and the alternatives open to them, and use what he called “true reasoning” (rational decision making) to find the match between the two. Nearly 100 years later, that is still the rationale for much career theory and guidance.

Career Decision Making and “Fit”

One way of thinking about careers—a way popular with the career development movement—is as a sequence of decisions: for example, which program of study to undertake, which occupation to choose, which organization to work for, what kind of job to seek, and which offer to accept. Career theorists suggest that a person will increase both career success and career satisfaction by making “congruent” choices, that is, choices where there is a good fit between the person and the work. Because careers are so central in their lives, people should maximize the information they have available to them both about themselves, about the opportunities available to them, and about using rational analysis and thought to find an effective match between the two. There are many schema, assessment devices, and how-to-do-it books to assist good career decision making, as well as professional agencies such as the National Career Development Association (NCDA; see http://www.ncda. org) and qualified career counselors, often employed by colleges and universities.

An individual seeking a good fit will seek to gather information about both him- or herself (e.g., abilities, interests, values, personality, educational qualifications) and about the world of work (e.g., occupations, industries, organizations, and future opportunities) with a view to making effective rational matches between the two, for example, in choosing a job, an occupation, and an employer.

Career development theorists have gathered a lot of information and have formulated some important theories about how individuals make career decisions. Many of these theories are summarized by Brown and Associates (2002). For example, social cognitive career theory propounded by Lent and his colleagues focuses occupational choice and in particular the influence of self-efficacy (a person’s belief in their own abilities to carry out specific actions) and outcome expectations (their evaluation of the likely outcomes of a particular course of action) as determinants of occupational interests and ultimately career choices. The career information-processing model of Reardon, Lenz, Sampson and Peterson (2006) identifies different decision-making levels and skills that individuals apply to the information available to them about their career options. Work adjustment theory put forward by Dawis and Lofquist (Dawis, 2002), in contrast, emphasizes the way in which people’s abilities and values are congruent or incongruent with the requirements of and reinforcements for the career choices they make, causing them to move on in their career when the fit is poor.

One of the most influential approaches is that of Holland (1997) who developed “vocational personality theory.” Holland asserted that a key factor in career choice and adjustment is people’s individual vocational interests and the fit between these and the occupations available to them in the world of work. By completing Holland’s self-directed search questionnaire (Psychological Assessment Resources, 2001), individuals can have themselves assessed in six specified areas of interest—realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. By considering his or her three strongest areas and their order of magnitude, a person can then match their pattern of interests against the various occupations available, each of which has its own profile in terms of which of the six interests fit it best. The key to managing one’s career according to this approach is to make choices that are congruent with one’s intrinsic interests. Over many years, Holland (1997) has assembled a great deal of data in support of his theory, though with mixed results in terms of validity (Spokane, Meir, & Catalano, 2000).

Because careers last a lifetime, finding the right fit is an ongoing process. People and the jobs, occupations, and organizations they work in change constantly—the landscape change referred to earlier. Individuals’ personal circumstances may change—they may get married, have children, or move to a new town; their skills may change as they learn new ones through work experience or outside activities; their motivation may change as they mature or develop new interests. At the same time, organizations also change; for example, they grow or contract, reorganize their structures, or introduce new technology. This changes the jobs that people have and work that they do. For example, in recent years automation has reduced the number of manual jobs, especially unskilled and semiskilled jobs, creating major career problems for those whose manual abilities are their only qualifications.

As the person and the work environment change, the fit between them also changes. The person will need new experiences that will maximize his or her employability and career satisfaction and success. Likewise, if organizations value their employees’ commitment, they must ensure that as individuals develop their careers in the organization they are continuing to make a good, if different, contribution to it.

Careers as Personal Development

Other theorists consider the career to be an exercise in personal development that takes a lifetime to complete. It is therefore related to patterns of human development and aging and involves different periods of exploration, growth, establishment, stabilization, and maintenance as people age and their interests, aspirations, and personal and family circumstances alter over time. Super and Savickas (see Savickas, 2002) are major theorists who have attempted to place career development within a perspective of overall adult development. The application of such theories to career management suggests that to an extent one can anticipate some likely phases and changes in one’s careers and that one must monitor and manage one’s goals, health, and energy as well as one’s work.

In addition, women’s careers have been observed to have sequential patterns different from men’s careers (e.g., Bard-wick, 1980). Childbearing can be done only by women; child rearing can be done by men as well as women, but since time immemorial, different societies have organized their labor around the idea that child care is a woman’s natural forte. The current trend to two-career couples and the establishment of women’s careers in such a way that they postpone childbearing until they are at least in their 30s (often to ensure that their careers are securely established first) and that they attempt to compete equally with men for more senior jobs later in their careers changes women’s career patterns substantially, making them more like men’s career patterns despite the typical interruptions (Friedman & Greenhaus, 2001). Again, the key point is that because of the influence that career and family life have on each other, they must be jointly managed by individuals and by couples. In this sense, career management is again part of life management.

Strategies of Career Self-Management (CSM)

What does all this theory mean in terms of what one needs to do to manage one’s career (CSM)? CSM has affinities to business management. Like businesses, careers can be rationally planned, and career plans can be precisely executed, but can also be modified in the light of experience. This approach conceptualizes career management as a problem-solving, decision-making process. If individuals have problems to solve and decisions to make, this should be done rationally, based on maximum information. Like effective businesses, individuals can

  • plan their activities in relation to their internal resources and external opportunities;
  • break the plan down into steps and execute it; and
  • monitor the results and modify their actions accordingly.

As in business, in CSM, information gathering is an important phase. The process takes account of both the internal resources of the person and the external context indicated in the “social structure” material outlined earlier. In an initial career exploration stage, the individual builds awareness of self and environment—for example, interests, values, and talents (self) and opportunities, options, and obstacles (environment). This awareness enables a plan to be expressed in terms of goals sought—for example, a tentative choice of occupation. The plan can then be implemented on a step-by-step basis, for example, through the choice of educational programs, the seeking of family support, and the development of interpersonal skills. Feedback from the environment enables the individual to modify goals and methods of implementation as he or she goes.

One rational model is the Career Information Processing (CIP) model (Peterson, Sampson, & Reardon, 1991), which considers the way in which people weigh information about their careers. By following the CIP model, the authors considered that students can “formulate personal goals and action plans designed to proactively enhance (their) careers” and “develop personal, employment related skills and information” (Reardon, Lenz, Sampson, & Peterson, 2006, p. ix). The skills in the decision-making level are labeled “CASVE,” an acronym for a repeated cycle of communication, analysis, synthesis, valuing, and execution, which the authors believed are involved in career decision making. The elements of the cycle are

  • communication—recognition of the problem or the choice to be made;
  • analysis through questioning, information gathering, and reflection;
  • synthesis in terms of identifying potential solutions;
  • valuing options in relation to the person’s values and the options’ likely effects—ranking options and committing to the best; and
  • execution including trying out and review.

A key element is information about the various occupational options available. That information may come from professional and trade bodies, employing organizations, friends or relations in the occupation, and government information sources. For example, in the United States, statistical information is available annually from the U.S. Department of Labor on hundreds of different popular occupations, listing current employment, projected employment change, and information on employment prospects in each one.

One problem about career planning is that careers are lifelong events. But in the long term, these trends cannot be relied on and will be replaced by others. The careerist of the future will need to be able to improvise as well as plan.

Another way of thinking about CSM is in terms of thinking of your career as a “resource” (Inkson, 2007). It is commonplace nowadays for organizations to talk and think about their employees as resources, as in HRM. The HRM approach to careers is dealt with in the second half of this research-paper. But you can also consider your career resources from a personal point of view. In one formulation, you can develop three different types of career capital: knowing-why (motivation and values), knowing-how (skills, expertise, and experience), and knowing-whom (contacts and networks). Your assets in these three areas will change over time, not just in their extent but also in their nature (Arthur, Claman, & DeFillippi, 1995; Inkson & Arthur, 2001). It is worthwhile checking out periodically how these shifts are occurring and what they mean for your career direction: The Intelligent Career Card Sort (ICCS) Instrument enables you to do just that (see

As your career progresses, you will build your career assets, but you will also notice that aspects of these become depleted or become obsolete. Each time you invest your capital in a new job or occupation, you are hoping it will appreciate rather than becoming devalued (Inkson & Arthur, 2001).

Theory And Applications 3: Organizational Career Management

According to many experts on HRM, careers should be determined, at least in part, by the employer’s staffing priorities. A business that pays an employee his or her salary is a legitimate stakeholder in that employee’s career and will often seek to develop, control, and exploit that career for commercial advantage, while no doubt also hoping that the employee too will benefit.

OCM, therefore, is the counterpart of CSM: It is the activities that organizations undertake to manage the careers of their employees to mutual advantage. Thus, while most people would understand that ultimately any individual is responsible for his or her own career, the organization provides a vital framework of opportunities for and constraints on its employees’ careers and, often, intervenes actively through HRM activities such as hiring, transferring, developing, promoting, and laying off staff. Sophisticated organizations can achieve a degree of certainty and stability for their future requirements for staff, skills, and commitment in the long run by encouraging its employees to develop long-term, lifetime careers as loyal servants of and as developing contributors to the organization.

The idea of organizational career management organizations is an important effect of what Barney (1991) called the “resource-based view of the firm.” This view of company strategy focuses on its human resources—for example, their skill, expertise, experience, motivation, and teamwork—as a major basis of competitive advantage and on the fact that human resources can be systematically increased in value over time by appropriate experience and development in the company. That is, as their careers provide employees with new experiences and expertise, their value to the organization is increased. Careers, therefore, are “repositories of knowledge” (Bird, 1996), specifically knowledge of value to the organization. Therefore, organizations must know of and plan for the competencies they need in order to succeed and must either capture them in the careers of the people they recruit from outside the organization or develop them in the careers of present employees. So organizations have a very good reason to intervene actively to influence the careers of individuals, by attracting outsiders with the right expertise to join, by persuading insiders with the right expertise to stay, and by placing and developing these people where they will have greatest effect.

A key aspect is the enhancing of employees’ commitment to the organization (Meyer & Allen, 1997). In an environment of high labor turnover, organizations often need at least a core group of long-term staff that has a sense of the organization’s past, its culture, and its key skills to provide continuity and act as guardians to this institutional memory. The package of rewards and incentives that the organization offers is very important here. By offering benefits such as good holidays, health programs, savings programs, recreational activities in company facilities, social and country club memberships, travel and educational benefits, access to housing loans, and employee assistance programs, employers can make it difficult for their staff to contemplate leaving. Equally important are arrangements for remuneration: An employee on a flat salary level has a considerable incentive to leave the organization; another on a constantly increasing salary with a pension plan tied to the organization and a long-service gratuity has every reason to stay. Lastly, strong, appealing “organization cultures” can be used to engage the individual psychologically and socially in being part of a greater enterprise.

Against this, there is always the possibility that, in the future, the organization will run into difficulties and will be forced to downsize or to change its strategic direction in a way that would render its long-service staff obsolete. Severing those long-term relationships is likely to be painful for both the organization and its people. A smart organization looks ahead and tries to achieve the right balance of organizational careers and flexible careers among its people.

Organizational career management is often based on the development of an internal labor market in which, wherever possible, vacancies are filled from within the organization. That way, positions at the lower levels of the organization can be filled from external sources, and these new recruits can be socialized and developed so that they gain the right background knowledge, skills, and attitude to move up to higher positions. The configuration of the hierarchical structure of the organization can provide a “career system,” or a set of career pathways. That way, members’ progress through the hierarchy and between departments in pursuit of their career goals can simultaneously develop them in ways conducive to meeting company goals and their goals.

These powerful internal labor markets reached their high point in the 1970s and 1980s in many giant corporations in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In many Japanese organizations, for example, young entrants to the organization were offered “lifetime employment”—a career in a paternalistic employing organization in which their continuing employment with substantial benefits and a supportive social environment for themselves and their families was guaranteed.

The Destabilization of Organizational Careers

Unfortunately, the internal labor markets, hierarchical structures, strong organizational cultures, and lifetime employment that were idealized at that time had a problem. They created rigidities that eventually reduced competitiveness under conditions of change. From the 1980s, staff numbers in many organizations were reduced by downsizing; organization structures were flattened, reducing opportunities for advancement; and work was outsourced from permanent employees to casual contractors or relocated to offshore locations with lower labor costs. At the same time, information technology displaced traditional skills and required new ones, job and occupational boundaries were broken by new emphases on “multiskilling” and “teams,” and the return of more women to the workforce introduced employees who needed new, more flexible patterns of work.

As jobs were destabilized, so were employees’ long-term careers. Employees who had felt secure lost their jobs or had to lower their expectations, and Japanese lifetime employment lost its gloss as Japanese organizations were forced to downsize. Whether one is an individual or an organization, it is perhaps becoming both more difficult and less sensible to try to career plan far ahead, and career improvisation by both parties is increasingly called for. The result has been a growth in new forms of career—alternatives to the stable organizational and occupational career forms: for example, boundaryless careers (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996), protean careers (Hall, 2002), and postcorporate careers.

Mutual Benefits From OCM

Despite these instabilities in external and internal labor markets, smart organizations can still do much to make good management of their employees’ careers, an important element in their planning. Their staffing systems and philosophies (e.g., filling all positions from within the company) can enable strategic objectives to be enhanced by means of career incentives and plans for employees. The HRM elements of staff recruitment, placement, training, development, evaluation, and remuneration can be can be integrated to provide a sense of coherence in the employee’s perception of a developing company career.

While the key objective of all of this from the organization’s perspective is to recruit and develop superior human resources in order to gain a competitive advantage, this is not necessarily coldly exploitative. Many people still spend much of their working lives in a close, symbiotic relationship with a benevolent employing organization that assists them to find security in their careers, not only because it is commercially advantageous to do so, but also as an expression of social responsibility. In addition, employing organizations can make lots of career “goodies” available to their employees in the form of their HRM and human resource development activities. Just as smart organizations fashion their HRM to maximize their human resources in relation to their strategic plans, smart employees can take advantage of these same HRM practices to enhance their own career development.

What are the key management and HRM practices that constitute effective career management? Some of the day-to-day management practices that organizations employ in any case, without any thought about careers, can make a real difference. In the following, six key practices are summarized.

Staffing Policies

The philosophy and practices that underlie an organization’s planning of its workforce and filling of its vacancies are crucial determinants of career opportunities for those within. A critical factor paralleling the organization’s sourcing of physical components to a manufacturing process is the make or buy decision. Does it seek to “make” its appointees by developing promising staff within the organization or “buy” them by hiring outsiders who already have the

skills needed? “Making” favors the notion of the long-term development of a committed workforce whereas “buying” enables the organization to add new ideas through recruitment and avoids the time and the expense that employee development takes. Good organizations think about and plan their workforces strategically and systematically, trying to predict future human resource needs and to figure how to meet them.

At a more mundane level, the quality of human resource information systems (HRIS) and informal networks of the organization in communicating opportunities are all important. Job postings, possibly the most frequently practiced of all organizational interventions into employees’ careers, are a method of publicizing within-organization vacancies to all staff by means of organizational media such as company magazines, bulletin boards, and intranets. In succession planning, potential successors are identified if a position is vacated. In the dual career path system, special tracks for advancement are created for professional employees who want to advance but who want to remain professional specialists rather than becoming managers. Employees who want to get ahead monitor internal sources of information closely and pay attention to the intraorganizational career paths that appear to result in success.

Selection and Orientation

The normal staffing function of hiring employees and introducing them to the organization has a clear influence on careers. For some employees this will be the first major job in their careers, for others it will represent an important transition point. Organizational entry takes place in a series of stages: recruitment (attracting the right candidates), selection (choosing those who have a good fit with the organization), orientation (introducing the individual to the organization), and socialization (indoctrinating the new hire into the organization’s norms and expectations; Wanous, 1992). Because “first impressions count,” these stages may critically shape the employee’s attitude to work, to the job, and to the organization.

Good practice in this area benefits the organization by increasing the likelihood of favorable attitudes and commitment to the organization. But prior to organizational entry, the individual is likely to have expectations of what lies in store, and these may well be higher than what the job actually offers: Realistic job previews are advocated as a means of ensuring that candidates join the organization and fit its culture (Wanous, 1992).

Training and Development

This area is about increasing the value of the individual to the organization. Training provides employees with basic skills to do their jobs and, therefore, directly increases their value to the organization. Whether it increases the value of the individual in settings other than the job for which it has been designed depends on how far the skills learned through training can be generalized to other situations, including those that lie outside the current organization. To equip employees for broader or more responsible jobs beyond their current ones, an employer may offer opportunities for employee development.

Some development is built in as part of the individual’s day-to-day work experience. For example, in job rotation, an employee moves around between various, different, and often contrasting jobs and functions, thereby acquiring a wider range of skills. Developmental assignments involve adding responsibilities, projects, or secondments to the employee’s job, possibly on a temporary basis, partly to get the work done, but also to extend the individual’s potential for subsequent stages of the career. Examples might be having the employee complete a special short-term project or join an interdepartmental task force. Permanent transfers and promotions typically not only advance the career in terms of status, but also involve the individual in working on fresh problems and with new people.

In other cases, the development may take place within the organization, but as an “add-on” program to supplement normal work experience. Most common are in-house programs with expert speakers and trainers on technical and managerial techniques, often organized for groups of employees, so that morale and teamwork are developed as well as individual skills. In recent years, outdoors educational activities in which employees undertake such activities as rafting, orienteering, and solving outdoors problems in groups has gained credibility as a means of developing staff self-confidence and teamwork.

In addition, many organizations offer support for formal education including continuing professional development by sending employees away to undertake such experiences, allowing them time off from their jobs, and/or paying fees and other costs. Again, the idea is to “add value” to the employee for the long-term benefit of the organization, but individuals may also gain in terms of their own development.

Training and development is not cost free. It incurs both a direct cost and an opportunity cost in terms of the time of the employees who are involved. Thus, it is an investment by the organization. Whether it pays off depends on the relevance of the activities chosen to the organization’s future needs, and the retention within the organization of the staff members who are developed. While the development programs previously outlined are usually management initiatives, smart employees can volunteer for and utilize training and development to enhance their personal career capital. The fact has to be faced that while some employees will recognize that an organization that has given them development opportunities deserves some loyalty in return, others will simply “take the development and run”—to other organizations (Ito & Brotheridge, 2005).

Evaluation of Potential and Performance

As previously indicated, in order to make good career decisions individuals need good information about current performance and future potential. Organizations often gather basic information on staff members when they recruit them, but this needs to be regularly updated. Most organizations have performance appraisal systems to assess the performance of their staff on a periodic (often annual) basis and to provide feedback to them. Increasingly, 360-degree feedback through which the person’s performance is evaluated not just by his or her boss but also by peers and subordinates is used to give a more complete picture. Appraisal systems often aim to provide a forward-looking perspective in which future goals are set for the future and the individual receives ongoing coaching to achieve them. This approach enables the individual’s career planning to be focused on, with past and future contributions being focused on by the person and in organizational HRM systems considering further development, transfer, and promotion.

Another evaluation process is the assessment center (Howard, 1997), in which employees are assessed by means of tests, interviews, and work simulations and are judged by expert assessors across a range of skills and aptitudes relevant to their long-term potential in the organization and for the wider career.

Coaching and Mentorship

An important organizational aid to career management is support and advice in career development from others who are in a good position to offer guidance. Most people talk regularly about their careers with others including family and friends. Within the organization, a person’s direct superior may have a strong potential influence on his or her career, in terms of personal coaching, counseling, and sponsorship of the person in the wider organization. An annual performance evaluation interview, for example, may be a good opportunity for an employee to confide in a supportive boss and try to do some career planning.

Mentorship is a process of bringing together a senior and a junior person, so that the senior takes the junior “under his or her wing” and offers guidance on a range of issues including career. A mentor is not necessarily the person’s direct superior and need not even be a member of the same organization. Many organizations, however, now have structured mentoring programs in which junior staff are formally assigned to experienced mentors for periodic assistance. It may be that the best type of career management support an individual can receive will come not from individual mentors but from developmental networks including both organizational and nonorganizational advisors and supporters (Higgins & Kram, 2001).

Organizational Career Development

Some organizations provide direct career development assistance to employees. These interventions include workbooks, computer-assisted career management programs, career workshops, courses for minorities assisting them to promote their own careers, and individual career counseling. One practice that has taken off, regrettably perhaps, in recent years, is outplacement, meaning organizational initiatives to assist employees whose jobs have been terminated, mainly through restructuring, to cope with the disruption to their careers and find new employment and career direction.

While there is a finite risk that open-ended career exploration by individuals will persuade them that the best thing for their career is to leave the organization, proponents of organizational career management argue that such support actually builds employee commitment, identifies potential highfliers, and enables employees to be developed in line with business needs (Gutteridge, Leibowitz, & Shore, 1993).

International Career Management

An important and developing area of career management is the management of international careers in which careerists have to integrate expatriate assignments, foreign migration, and travel into their developing careers.

The process of globalization replaces conventional organizational forms with multinational organizations and international strategic alliances of firms, affecting the career locations of millions of people. New multinational companies retain control and disseminate expertise by transferring employees to subsidiaries in foreign settings. Companies and countries build their human resources by opening their boundaries and borders to immigrants with suitable backgrounds, creating “brain drains” of talent. Political refugees seek a better life abroad. Young people from developed countries seek new cultural experiences. Increasingly, careers are international.

A major type of international career experience is the expatriate assignment, in which managerial or professional staff are sent usually from the base country of the multinational to an overseas subsidiary on a temporary basis—usually several years—as a means of managing and controlling it (Black, Gregersen, Mendenhall, & Stroh, 1999). The management of the careers of expatriates both during expatriation and after return, both by the expatriates and by their organizations, poses special problems—for example, cross-cultural career adaptation, family issues, reintegration into an organization—and needs to be carefully managed by both individual and organization.

In other cases, the impetus for international travel comes from the individual rather than a sponsoring organization, and people migrate to other countries temporarily or permanently in search of better lives and careers and have to find their own means of career management, often in an alien and hostile environment. Because of the internationalization of careers, more and more people see themselves as “global citizens” or “citizens of the world”: They have no firm national identity and will pursue their lives and careers wherever the best opportunities are in terms of their priorities.


Career management comes in two forms: CSM and OCM. Because of this book being a management book rather than a self-management book, this research-paper includes more material on the latter, but there is debate as to the relative influence of the individual and the organization over careers. In times of rapid societal, economic, and organizational change, of knowledge-based enterprise, and of contingent work, it is becoming accepted that individuals are becoming more responsible for their own career management.

Much career development theory and practice is in the CSM tradition. It assumes that career management should be practiced by individuals in relation to their own careers and that the career management can therefore be improved by empowering individuals to take charge of their careers, maximize their information about themselves and the world of work, improve their career decision-making ability, and offer them the support and services of skilled counselors. Readers considering their own careers are urged to research and to adopt such strategies.

On the other hand, managers and organizations can manage the organizational careers environment in which individuals pursue careers, to mutual advantage, in a wide variety of ways broadly derived from the principles of strategic management and HRM. Managers can make a difference directly as mentors and confidantes of their staff and by seeing the career development of their subordinates as a key part of their responsibilities. They can also do so indirectly through the background activities on which careers depend, in areas such as human resource planning, employee hiring, socialization, remuneration, and the development of a structure and culture sympathetic to members’ career aspirations. All managers have their own careers to think about—as they would be done by, so should they do.

In terms of further reading, the broad literature on the various theories, forms and practices of career management, including both CSM and OCM, are best covered in authorititative textbooks by Greenhaus, Callanan, and Godschalk (2000) and Inkson (2007), the latter summarizing current theory, research and practice in careers through the use of a range of powerful metaphors. Peiperl and Gunz (2007) provide an excellent compendium of state-of-the-art knowledge on a wide range of career phenomena and issues, and Greenhaus and Callanan (2006) an authoritative encyclopedia of career terms.

The main current theories of career development from a nonmanagement perspective are covered by Brown and Associates (2002) and subsequent editions of the same book, while Reardon, Lenz, Sampson, and Peterson (2006) provide a textbook of CSM, which utilizes the reader’s own career thinking as a basis for understanding the topic and has information on many important aspects.

Arthur, Inkson, and Pringle (1999) provide research-based insights into “the new careers”—new flexible forms of career development that seem in recent years to have replaced traditional career forms as individuals seek to exert more control over their own careers. The main theories of these new approaches are those of the boundaryless career (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996), and the protean career (Hall, 2002).

For good summaries of organizational career management, see Baruch (2004) and Gutteridge, Leibowicz, and Shore (1993). Many textbooks of human resource management, such as those by Cascio (2003) and Desimone, Warner, and Harris (2003) also include chapters on organizational career management, and Baruch and Peiperl (2000) provide a survey-based account of the most frequent OCM practices in today’s organizations.


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