Careers In Transition Research Paper

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The world of careers has gone through a number of significant changes, with a major transformation in the 1980s-1990s of the 20th century. Earlier, the typical career system was organizational, highly structured, and hierarchy based. Individual progress was much due to tenure and compliance and would imply stepping up the ladder. The organization assumed the role of command and control, moving people around (a chess metaphor), but also taking care of them in a patriarchal way (family metaphor). The transition, which began in the last century, meant a shift to dynamic career environment, constant restructuring of organizations—hence breaking the traditional ladders—more focus on individualization of careers, and a change of the organizational role to enabler, supporter, and challenger. We expect this world of careers to prevail in the 21st century, and the career models discussed in this entry are presented to open the mind to the new realm of work.

Careers can indeed be seen as a sequencing of an individual’s life, work roles, and experiences, when limiting the observation to the individual perspective. Nevertheless, careers take place in specified social environments and, in particular, in organizations. In the early days, before the industrial revolution, the career path was very clear and rarely changed: Men would follow their father’s occupation (in most cases, in agriculture, in rural areas, working the land). Women would marry and become housewives.

All of this changed with the industrial revolution. The organization was reinvented for the purpose of industry (and later, services). Building on the classical hierarchy model, organizational structures became the landscape for career journeys. The structure became the ladder for upward promotions. Continuous supply of labor and increased demand for the products sustained the model up to the later stages of the 20th century. Traditional linear career models, as typified by the research of Super (1957), emphasize upward movement within one or two organizations over an individual’s lifetime. Even though the linear model may not have accurately represented most careers of that time, it was still portrayed as the ideal, desired career type. These types of career models tend to emphasize the attainment of extrinsic rewards including a high salary, quick rates of promotion, and job perks (such as company cars, parking places, offices, etc.).

The social, economical, and technological developments in the last part of the 20th century have caused these models a major shake-up. IT revolution, coupled with the growth of services and globalization, caused the collapse of this career model as the ruler in the career realm. It has not totally disappeared (it still exists in armed forces, some civil services, and even some organizations), but new models emerged alongside the old bastions of the traditional model.


Conceptual Models of Individual Careers

Examination of the roots of modern career theory brings us to Hughes’ (1937) argument about the importance of ordering of work experience and logic to the linkages between successive positions occupied over time. This “moving perspective of time” means that career concept implies a

relationship between employer and employee over time. Career is more than a single job, a single position, or a single role. It is a developmental process of progression. Both individual and organization may be equal partners in the game and share duties and responsibilities.

The wave of changes in the last two decades of the 20th century meant that the system became more dynamic— sometimes fluid and turbulent. To explain the phenomenon, Denise Rousseau (1995) introduced the new psychological contract, which had to be established because the traditional model became invalid.

Based on the new psychological contract, the boundary-less career, and the issues of diversity and global careers, the research-paper will deal with specific models such as the protean career, the postcorporate career, the intelligent career (or career capital), career resilience, the multidirectional career, employability and career proactivity, and the kaleidoscope career. These are compared and contrasted with the traditional model of stable structure and career tournament.

Matching Needs

While the following models are focusing at the individual level, the first career model presented here examines career processes from a dual point of individuals and organizations. Herriot and Pemberton (1996) presented a model that places in its core the concept of a match that is required between individuals and their employing organizations in terms of needs, wants, and provisions. It is a dynamic model in the sense that, in line with the open system approach, the nature of events is cyclical. The model views organizational career as a continuous sequence of renegotiations of psychological contracts (see the elaboration on psychological contracts later in this research-paper).

The model associates the business environment with organizations in terms of strategy, structure, and processes. It depicts the internal labor market (ILM) as an ideal approach, namely, promoting from within is deemed to be the best for career management, though absolute ILM never occurs in this practice, and many organizations can benefit from new talent recruited from the external environment, in particular when a change is needed.

From the individual perspective, the social context in which people grow and develop influences their values, norms, and beliefs. These, in turn, influence their career aspirations, career choice, and progress. People’s identities will determine what they would wish to gain from the organization. At the core of Herriot and Pemberton’s model lies the element of mutual recognition, negotiation, and agreement about the “give and take”—the psychological and contractual agreement to which organizations and individuals consent (or believe they agreed upon). It is the equilibrium of balance between what people offer to the organization, what they expect in return, and vice versa. Other influential factors on this core process are both the balance of power and the communication between the parties. These have implications for the two types of relationships that may exist between the individual and the organization: transactional, calculated “deals” and relational, even emotional, relationships.

If there is a breach of the “contract” (e.g., poor perception of procedural or distributive justice), people may try to renegotiate the contract or exit the organization. If, on the other hand, the contract is perceived as fair, the positive interpretation will be reflected in a deepening relationship.

Career Success

Career success is a desired outcome for each individual. Each individual may have various desired outcomes that are different from career aims of others. The possible measures to assess such desired outcomes and how far they reached are complex. Nevertheless, a clear distinction exists between two sets of career outcomes: those representing “external career success” and those representing “internal career success.”

Commonly accepted measures for external career success are associated with advancement—ascending the hierarchy and receiving more income, power, and reputation (status).

Commonly accepted measures for internal career success are mostly psychological: satisfaction, recognition, self-esteem, and self-actualization. To these, the new realm of careers added career resilience, in both meanings of resilience—the toughness of spirit in confronting career crisis and flexibility or pliability in adapting to ever-changing labor markets.

Other elements that represent a blend of the internal and the external are employability, professionalism, autonomy, entrepreneurship, self-control, and learning (gaining new skills, abilities, and competencies).

External measures were the ones appreciated within the traditional career system. Whyte’s (1956) “organization man” concept perceives people as parts of the system in organizations, in which they act like a cog in the machine and strive to climb up the ladder. Although perceived outdated, this concept is still alive and kicking, for men and women, too. Alongside it, however, new ways of thinking about careers have emerged, and they will be discussed further here.

Derr (1986) came up with the idea of “the new careerists” in the mid-1980s. His framework identified five measures for career success, contrasting, or at least expanding, the traditional measures of career success. Derr’s five dimensions of career success and their meanings are as follows:

  1. Getting ahead: motivation derived from the need to advance on both the professional stand and the organizational ladder
  2. Getting secure: having a solid position within the organization
  3. Getting high: being inspired by the nature and content of the work performed
  4. Getting free: motivated by need for autonomy and ability to create own work environment
  5. Getting balanced: attaching equal or grater value on non-work interests

To sum up, career success may be examined via explicit measures that are relatively objective and comparable (external), as well as by the subjective feeling of the person (internal). Both are important for individuals and play crucial roles in motivating and directing people.

New Psychological Contracts

The current business environment is characterized by perpetual changes. Much of it is involved with organizational restructuring, redundancies, and downsizing. To attract and keep the right people, organizations and employees should build new psychological contracts that reflect this new realm. Organizational psychologists originally suggested the idea of psychological contracts in the early 1960s. In laymen’s terms, the psychological contract is “the unspoken promise, not present in the small print of the employment contract, of what employer gives, and what employees give in return” (Baruch & Hind, 1999, p. 299). This is a real, though not explicit contract, which is distinct from the formal, legal employment contract in its context and expected impact.

The major changes of the 1980s and 1990s meant that with wide scale redundancies and “fit to survive,” organizations ceased to offer job security and, as a result, new psychological contracts evolved, whereby loyalty and mutual commitment have lost their highly significant relevance. Organizational commitment was commonly accepted as the desired norm, for both organizations and employees. This indicates one of the problems with the downsizing trend that led to very negative outcomes. Organizational commitment, motivation, and satisfaction are associated with each other. High levels of organizational commitment, motivation, and satisfaction would subsequently lead to an improved performance and a tendency to stay in the organization. With the diminished mutual commitment and trust-based relationship, however, the relevance of the construct of organizational commitment has declined. New ideas were introduced to compensate for the loss of balance in the relationship equation. Employability is one of them: The organization is expected to invest in the employees in terms of training and development, and the employee is expected to exert effort and be flexible. Employees gain a dynamic job security, namely, the ability to find appropriate new job in case they are made redundant, and the company is released from the lifelong obligation.

Among the factors that enable the transition is the decline in the power and influence of trade unions. Individual negotiations are replacing collective bargaining. These are more flexible, but the employee can find a worsening balance toward the organization’s bargain power.

While it is fit for the emergence of individualistic society, the transformation just described was not always welcomed by employees and society as a whole. Each round of redundancy generates disillusionment and feelings of betrayal on the employees’ side, as suggested by Brockner, Grover, Reed, and DeWitt (1992). Much has been taken from them, and the agreement is more of a necessity rather than will. There is no longer life term employment or mutual loyalty. There is more complexity and less clarity. A higher level of risk exists, and the relationships no longer rely on “trust.” Under the new deal, employees offer long hours, assume added responsibility, provide broader skills, and tolerate change and ambiguity, whereas the employers offer high pay, reward for performance, and above all, a job. No single archetype mode fits all; diversity and flexibility are the new rules.

New Deals Under the New Psychological Contracts

Under the Old Deal, the employee offered loyalty, conformity, and commitment. The employer offered security of employment, career prospects, training and development, and care in trouble. In return, the employee may have expected lifelong employment, pay related to tenure, and vertical promotion. Respectively, the employer expects, in return, to have the employee consider the organization’s needs over individual needs. In general, there are a standard, rigid structure and work pattern and predictability, and the dominant values are loyalty, stability, and paternalism.

Under the New Deal, the employee offers long hours, added responsibility, broader skills, tolerance of change and ambiguity, and willingness to work in a dynamic situation (as long as it fulfills their needs). The employer offers high pay, rewards for performance, and above all, a job (employment as long as business needs exist). Employees expect to be entitled to personal development, investment in employability, a learning environment, updated technology, and flexibility. In return, the employer expects self-reliant, resilient employees ready for flexibility. In general, an unconventional, flexible structure and work pattern and uncertainty exist, and the dominant values are self-reliance, versatility, and dynamism.

The Boundaryless Career

The new psychological contracts fit well with contemporary concepts and terminology that emerged in the 1990s. One of the first terms to depict the new ways of careers is the boundaryless career. Under this approach, individuals can move from one company to another to pursue the best opportunities for their professional development, with no negative stigma of a failure. Career progress comes not only from intracompany hierarchical advancement but also, and even more often, from intercompany self-development. Under this perspective, careers can be viewed as boundaryless, as the borders between organizations and work environments become blurred. To flourish in this new environment, individuals should become self-reliant and free themselves from dependency on the organization as the prime provider of structure to a career. Developing new competencies and a new architecture to careers becomes the role of individuals.

Under the notion of boundaryless careers, many employees deliberately choose to leave their employer for a better job offer elsewhere. Moreover, this organizational exit is not perceived as a negative career move.

Intelligent Career

The concept of intelligent career, introduced by Arthur, Claman, and DeFillippi (1995), may be defined as the sequence of work roles undertaken at the individual’s own discretion and with personal goals in mind. In an intelligent career world, the fundamental element is having personal goals and choosing employment that helps to fulfill them. It is also the key to long-term employability, through the learning that careers can accrue in a new, increasingly knowledge-based, economy.

Intelligent career theory employs the “know why, know how, and know whom” classification as a set of career competencies, introducing these as the three components of intelligent career:

  1. Knowing why: This refers to why the person is involved within the realm of work—the motivation people bring to their roles. Know why relates to the aspirations and underpinning values, including ethical values, and is associated with personality traits. It also includes any commitments we have made to other constituencies of our lives (e.g., family, community) and the way people seek to accommodate them through work and leisure.
  2. Knowing how: This refers to how we work and is concerned with the skills, abilities, and competencies (e.g., mathematical competencies) that enable people to thrive in their performance. It incorporates both explicit and tacit knowledge. (The former is “prescribeable” knowledge, typical to formal job descriptions, that can be described to others; the latter is something we “know but cannot tell,” such as that often found among various kinds of professionals and skilled workers.)
  3. Knowing whom: This refers to those with whom we work or with whom we have a relationship that somehow affects the way we work. It builds on the contacts and relationships that people develop with others, in particular, networking. The ability to collaborate with present and past colleagues, acquaintances (e.g., university alumni), prominent leaders, businessmen, thinkers, or politicians can be crucial in making an impact. Mentoring is a different way of networking.

The three ways of knowing depict a systemic way of thinking about career investments. For each knowing type, people look for a return on the investments made. These ways of knowing are interdependent. Motivation and ambition to become a medical doctor (why) is likely to lead to pursuit of health education (how), as well as to the development of contacts and friendships with other medical staff (whom). These may or may not, in turn, reinforce (knowing why) identification with the field, which leads to further choices about new skill investments and new relationships (e.g., moving to alternative medicine).

The Protean Career

The idea of a protean career was first offered by Hall (1976) in the mid-1970s, but at the time had not captured the attention of career scholars or HR practitioners. Twenty years later, it was fully endorsed, as time was ripe and life realities reflected the phenomenon. The protean career is a new career form in which the individual, rather than the organization, takes on the responsibility of transforming career path—takes on the responsibility for career. Moreover, the individual changes himself or herself according to needs. The term protean comes from the name of the Greek god Proteus, who could change his shape at will. Hall and Moss (1998) described the protean career as a process that the person, not the organization, is managing. This process consists of the totality of the person’s varied experience in education, training, work in several organizations, changes in occupational field, and so forth. The protean person’s own personal career choices and search for self-fulfillment are the unifying or integrative elements in their life. The major characteristics of the protean career are as follows:

  1. The person, not the organization, manages the career.
  2. The career is a lifelong series of experiences, skills, learning, transitions, and identity changes. (“Career age,” not chronological age counts.)
  3. Development is
  • continuous learning,
  • self-directed,
  • relational, and
  • found in work challenges.
  1. Development is not (necessarily)
  • formal training,
  • retraining, or
  • upward mobility.
  1. The ingredients for success change
  • from know-how to learn-how,
  • from job security to employability,
  • from organizational careers to protean careers, and
  • from “work self” to “whole self.”
  1. The organization provides
  • challenging assignments,
  • developmental relationships, and
  • information and other developmental resources
  1. The goal is psychological success.

The protean career is the contract between one and oneself, rather than a contract with the organization. It is not restricted to the realm of paid work or of work/nonwork domains. The protean concept alters the relationship between the organization and the employee. The person takes on the role of his or her own agent, instead of leaving it for the organization. In the protean career realm, people will have several careers, and each will have the inner stages of exploration, trial, establishment, and mastery. Reaching mastery will not necessitate stability but, rather, may lead to a new cycle of exploration that ends with the discovery of a new path or a different profession, role, or organization. In practice, when millions of jobs are lost across the industrial world, mostly from large firms, the individual has no other option but to take the responsibility to manage one’s own career and, at best, to make good use of organizational support mechanisms and career facilities.

The Postcorporate Career

Peiperl and Baruch’s (1997) postcorporate career is one example of the next leap forward in career horizons, now legitimately spread outside the organization. They claim that many people faced with slimmer prospects for advancement have become disillusioned with careers in large organizations. Thus, work and careers are moving out of these organizations altogether, into smaller, more entrepreneurial firms and into individual, consultant-type roles. To a certain extent, this represents a cycle where models of careers and career systems have evolved. Organizations become agile, changing form and features, and individuals can opt for a variety of career configurations unavailable in the earlier organization man era.

Career Stages Models

The traditional career stages model offered a typical growth path. Such were Super (1957) and Schein’s (1978) career stage models, offering a specific number of stages and allocating specific age ranges for each stage. For example, eight stages of Schein (1978) are the following: (a) growth and search (0-21), (b) entry to work world (16-25), (c) basic training (16-25), (d) starting full-time career (1730), (e) midcareer (25+), (f) late career (40+), (g) decline (40+), and (h) retirement.

These models fit the traditional, ideal type of career but not the emerging, new career model. Further, they did not accommodate diversity issues, in particular, gender difference: Many females had a career break that took them off this track. The models also did not fit for people having a second career and ignored vocational segregation. To answer the last issue, Dalton, Thompson, and Price’s (1977) model focused on professional growth and managerial development and, thus, is a better fit for professionals. They suggested a four-stage model of career development, in which a career can be conceptualized as a progression through developmental stages that are independent of organizational structure or hierarchy. In the first stage, individuals serve as apprentices, learning to perform and benefiting from more experienced mentors. During the second stage, they have developed specific competence and start to perform and demonstrate their own initiative and creativity. By the time they reach the third stage, they may become mentors to others and have broadened their interests by contributing through others. In the fourth and last stage, the individuals have been able to shape the practices, policies, and even the culture and direction of the entire organization. They guide and represent the organization (e.g., as a top manager or an expert). One should bear in mind, though, that not all would be able to develop into the third stage, and even fewer would reach the fourth.

Baruch (2004) offered an integrated model, which has neither a definite number of stages nor specific age boundaries. It, nevertheless, encompasses and captures the common nature and notion of the various career stage models and allows for a redefinition and regeneration of career change and renewal. The stages and their meaning are as follows:

  1. Foundation: Childhood, adolescence, experience, and education, which help in planting the seeds of future career aspiration
  2. Career entry: Usually through attainment of profession. This may be done via apprenticeship, on-the-job training, or formal education, such as attending college, university, or other professional qualifications
  3. Advancement: A stage that comprises both professional and hierarchical development within organization(s) or when expanding one’s own business. This stage can be characterized with either continuous advancement or progress up to a stage of reaching a plateau. In today’s career environment and concepts, this stage will typically be associated with several changes of employer
  4. Reevaluation: Checking the match between aspiration and fulfillment and rethinking job/role/career. This stage can emerge from an internal feeling or need (e.g., getting bored due to lack of challenge, life crisis) or external force (redundancy, obsolescence of the profession) and might end with a decision to keep on the same path or to change career direction, returning to stage (b)
  5. Reinforcement: After making the decision, a reinforcement of present career or returning to the learning stage (b) for establishment of a new career
  6. Decline: Save for the few who have a full life of continuous advancement, most will start, at a certain stage, to envisage a withdrawal from working life, which can be swift or long term, spreading over few years
  7. Retirement: Leaving the labor market (not necessarily at the formal retirement age).

While this model is composed of seven stages, the stages marked (b) to (e) can and, in most cases, will run several cycles. Some may involve a change of organization, occupation, vocation, and mode of work (e.g., move to part-time and then back to full-time employment).

Seven Career Strategies

Greenhaus, Callanan, and Godshalk (2000) offered a framework to analyze the strategies that people utilize to enhance their careers and reach further development and progress. While this framework is U.S. biased (i.e., in other countries, different strategies will have different relevance or impact), it is fairly comprehensive. They listed the following:

  1. Competence in current job: This strategy emphasizes efficiency and effectiveness in job performance. A person who gets results will be successful, receive promotions, and gain more income. The practice of performance-related payment is based on this concept.

It is clear that delivering results will be a prerequisite for promotion and success, but it is not necessarily sufficient in many cases. Such a strategy will certainly help in the lower echelons, but later will have to gain support from further strategies.

  1. Extended work involvement: Investments in the job such as energy, long working hours, and emotions show commitment and loyalty to the organization or the project, can improve performance, and may help in getting better career results. Such a strategy, warned Greenhaus et al. (2000), may backfire as a person might lose life balance.
  2. Skill development: This strategy focuses on acquiring new skills, competencies, and abilities, thus enhancing the know-how component of the intelligent career. Again, this is an indirect way to gain improvement on job performance, as well as generating a portfolio that will enable gaining further appointment (i.e., for jobs that require certain knowledge, skills, and qualifications).
  3. Opportunity development: This is a set of strategies designed to increase career options, mostly concerned with creating contact with organizational decision makers. Such strategies can be visibility (being able to approach top management and, thus, gaining understanding of the requirements for promotion) and exposure (being seen by top management and, thus, gaining recognition and sponsorship.
  4. Development of mentor and other supportive alliances: Finding (or having the organization appointing for you) a mentor can be a great career move—as long as the mentor is indeed successful in both coaching and promoting the protégé. Such relationships can be beneficial to the mentor, too, but contain some risk for both individuals and organizations if the relationship does not develop in the right direction.
  5. Image building: This strategy requires individuals to convey an image and reputation of success through external public relations and appearance. This strategy resembles the idea of career signaling and impression management.
  6. Organizational politics: This strategy requires individuals to be very positive toward bosses and organizational representation. This can take the form of flattering, supporting organizational policy and practice, and standing behind organizational rules rather than complaining. Forming coalitions and cliques as part of opportunistic networking is also political. An example for the extreme opposite for such approach is whistle-blowing.

Career Resilience

Career resilience is the ability to survive and strive in a labor market that is dynamic and fragmented, as characterized in the postcorporate career model. The concept was introduced by London (1983) in the 1980s and was widely recognized following Waterman and Collard’s work (1994). Career resilience is congruent with the many definitions of professional practice that include autonomy, self-direction, and continuous learning. Specific characteristics of career-resilient individuals and, hence, integral foci of a career planning and development program, include professional autonomy, competence, and self-efficacy. People can be agile in determining their future, and employability is perhaps the most crucial ingredient of career resilience.

Multidirectional Career

Career is a major life constituency; it evolves around work, and work provides sense of purpose, challenge, self-fulfillment, and, of course, income. Moreover, work is a source of identity, creativity, and life challenge, as well as status and access to social networking. Overall, one can see career as a life journey. Building on the metaphor of a life journey, people can opt to take the beaten path or to navigate their way in the open plains. Indeed, in the past, the “beaten,” linear path was acceptable, and very few rebelled. The overall changes in society and the world of work depicted earlier in this research-paper paved the way to a new realm where multidirectional career paths exist and both individuals and society positively consider them. Careers became transitional and flexible, and the dynamics of the restructuring blur the tidy and firm former routes for success (forcing new perspective of what is success). The new models of careers are composed of a variety of options and many possible directions of development. People experience different ways for defining career success: They can be sideways moves or changes of direction, organization, or aspiration. People can (or have to) choose from these options, and there is no single way for reaching success, hence the term suggested by Baruch (2004a), multidirectional career paths. The multidirectionality does not stop at the actual career path undertaken, but it also implies the evaluation of career success: We now have multioptions criteria for assessing success in career. These can be inner satisfaction, life balance, autonomy and freedom, and other measures of self-perception. All of these have entered the formula, alongside the traditional external measures of income, rank, and status.

Employability and Career Proactivity

In this new career landscape, people need to gain employability rather than secure employment. Employers can no longer provide secure jobs and stopped pretending that such a commitment is manageable; instead, they can help employees to improve their competence and ability to acquire employment in case they become redundant or just decide to move on. Career resilience, intelligence, and employability are the new essential survival tools in the struggle to endure the change. To be successful, people need to plan and be proactive in their pursuit of happiness in life and work. Taking the initiative was transferred to individuals, and to be successful they need to take advantage of their competence and reach for their goals. They use the organization rather than letting the organization play with them as chess pieces on the board.

The Kaleidoscope Career Model

Not everyone wants to climb to the top of the corporate ladder anymore. A survey of Fortune 1000 senior executives found that 60% had no desire to hold a top position in any company (Mainiero & Sherry, 2007). Instead, many individuals are choosing varied career paths, which change over the course of their lives. People take breaks from the workforce because of family demands or the need to engage in personal development. Individuals increasingly take control of their own career management and define success subjectively, on their own terms, beyond measures of salary and promotion rates.

In their opt-out revolt, Mainiero and Sullivan (2007) found that today’s workers had created kaleidoscope careers, which are careers that were not defined by a corporation but by the individual worker, based on his/her own values and life choices. Like a kaleidoscope, the careers of these individuals are dynamic and in motion; as people’s lives change, they alter their careers to adjust to these changes rather than follow company career norms. They developed the kaleidoscope career model (KCM) as the result of an in-depth investigation into the complex issues surrounding today’s workers’ choices regarding career, family, and nonwork aspects of life. Their research brought the complexities of careers, family, and lifestyle issues to the forefront. While many people remain in jobs that require them to put in the standard 40-60 hours or more of work per week at their offices, a refreshing change occurred in the way in which many others accomplished their work. Rather than being nakedly ambitious and focusing on climbing the corporate ladder, many individuals created careers on their own terms. They were searching for the best set of options that created the maximum fit between their work, family, and personal lives. They had created kaleidoscope careers—careers defined not by corporate standards but by their own values and life choices.

The kaleidoscope career model permits employees to shift and rearrange their roles and relationships in new ways. Consider the working of a kaleidoscope; as one part moves, the other parts also change. Like a kaleidoscope that produces changing patterns when the tube rotates and its glass chips fall into new arrangements, workers shift the pattern of their careers by rotating different aspects of their lives. Employees may evaluate the choices and options available through the lens of the kaleidoscope to determine the best fit among their many relationships, work constraints, and opportunities. As one decision is made, it affects the outcome of the kaleidoscope pattern. Like a kaleidoscope, individuals’ careers are dynamic and in motion such that they are able to alter their career priorities to adjust to the needs of their families, rather than letting corporations dictate their careers for them.

Just as a kaleidoscope uses three mirrors to create infinite patterns, the kaleidoscope career model has three “mirrors,” or parameters (authenticity, balance, and challenge), which combine in different ways throughout the lives of individuals and reflect the unique patterns of their careers. Each of these parameters, or decision-making questions, acts as a signpost throughout the career. Certain parameters predominate at different points in the life span, forcing decisions about opting out of or staying in the workforce.

Over the course of an individual’s life, the need for authenticity, balance, and challenge (the “ABCs of the kaleidoscope career model”) shifted and rearranged itself in response to life and career choices. But what exactly does each of these parameters represent? Consider the following descriptions.

The Need for Authenticity. Authenticity is the parameter that describes being genuine and true to oneself, knowing one’s strengths and limitations, and acting on the best information at the time. The need for authenticity is the quest to discover one’s true voice. For men and women, discussions about bad bosses, lack of advancement, bringing children to basketball games, and the continual demands of child care and elder care often drowned out this need. This was the voice of individuals as they reflected upon their choices, however, and asked, Did I make the right decision? Does this decision make sense for me as well as for others around me? Does the decision truly reflect who I am?

The Need for Balance. The need for balance is defined as bringing work and nonwork factors into a state of equilibrium. Balance is a nexus issue for people as the demands of their work outstripped the time available to spend with family or for themselves.

The Need for Challenge. This parameter reflects a worker’s need to learn, grow, and find stimulating, exciting work. The challenge of new product innovations, defining a new entrepreneurial enterprise, partaking in a “stretch” work assignment, championing a cause, or bringing changes to a company is a key motivation and driving force in current careers.

Challenge is the voltage of work achievement. When people are challenged in their work, they do not mind putting in the extra hours that are required to get the job done right. Challenge springs from the underlying source of creativity and drive that exists within each individual and spurs the accomplishment of great things. Challenge can be a powerful motivator. For some people it is a validation of who they are or a way to learn and grow. For others it is a way to develop a base of expertise. Most of the men and women in Mainiero and Sullivan’s (2007) study focused on challenges early in their careers, before the demands of family became overwhelming.

Career Anchors

Career anchors are the perceived abilities, values, attitudes, and motives people have, which determine their career aspiration and direction. These self-perceived talents and qualities serve to guide, constrain, stabilize, reinforce, and develop people’s careers. Edgar Schein (1978) suggested the idea of career anchors and updated this idea in his later work. One should bear in mind, however, that in many instances, the actual career path people follow does not necessarily derive from their initial aspirations; chance event, society pressure, and other influences may cause people to progress in careers that are not rooted in their true anchors.

The concept itself and, in particular, its constituencies— the anchors—have developed across time. Schein originally suggested five anchors in the 1970s, based on a sample of MBA graduates of MIT. The number of career anchors Schein suggested rose to eight by the 1980s. The original five are as follows:

  • Technical competencies
  • Managerial competencies
  • Security and stability
  • Entrepreneurial/creativity
  • Autonomy/independence

The additional three follow:

  • Dedication to a cause (e.g., service)
  • Pure challenge
  • Lifestyle

New anchors emerged toward the 21st century and may be added to the framework. Some of them may even replace some of the original anchors. Among these Baruch (2004b) counts employability, work versus family balance, and spiritual purpose.

Caveat 1: The Need for a Balanced Approach. Much of the earlier discussion of contemporary literature on business in general and on careers’ specific, related issues emphasized the dynamic nature of labor markets. The impression portrayed by the scholarly community is that in the past, organizations had a rigid hierarchical structure and operated within a stable environment. As a result, careers were predictable, secure, and linear. In contrast, the organizational system has moved to a mode of “all change,” all dynamic, and total fluidity. Careers became unpredictable, vulnerable, and multidirectional.

Depictions of both past and present states offer extreme scenarios, which may not reflect a true and fair representation of the actual affair of careers. On the one hand, while many have shifted from the traditional and conventional mode, many organizations still perform within a relatively stable environment and apply well-established strategies for their management, keeping much of the traditional system; on the other hand, even within the traditional mode, careers were not fully rigid.

Realistic perspective will acknowledge that contemporary organizations are less rigid, though not fully fluid; that control may not reside solely with the organization, but that this shift does not mean that the organization has abandoned its role in career management; that individuals take more control of their own careers, but that much remains for organizations to plan and manage; and that careers can be seen as successful based on internal feelings, but that moving up the hierarchy ladder (that can be flatter), high earnings, and gaining status and power are, nevertheless, determining factors of success for people. These are indicators of external career success, in contrast to internal career success, which reflects the inner feelings of well being and satisfaction from what people do in their roles and their life.

Caveat 2: The Role of the Organization. Individuals need to find organizations that fit for them, and organizations have much to do in planning and managing. For example, Higgins defines career imprinting as the “capabilities, connections, confidence and cognition that groups of people develop as a result of a common set of career experiences in a particular organization” (Higgins, 2005, p. 4). The organization remains a significant player and is still the most dominant landscape for career journeys.


Studying Careers

To study careers, scholars employ a variety of research methods. This is due, in part, to the fact that no single methodological approach can provide a full and comprehensive view of such a wide phenomenon. For example, some advocate the use of a quantitative, positivist approach whereas others support qualitative analysis. Both can highlight different aspects in career theory and practice. To this general methodology issue, one should bear in mind that career, as a field, is not the property of any single theoretical or disciplinary view. Different scholarly fields are concerned when studying careers: psychology, social psychology, sociology, statistics, anthropology, economics, political science, history, geography, environment, and law, to mention the prominent ones. Most of these (though not all) reside within the boundaries of behavioral science.

This is why the study of careers is not restricted to a single mode of investigation and exploration. Indeed, academic journals that publish in the career area encourage a variety of research methods (see, e.g., Journal of Vocational Behavior, Career Development International, Career Development Quarterly, and the wider HRM journals such as Human Resource Management, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Personnel Review, and a number of others).


For Individuals

The major implication for individuals is that your career is up to you. Much is left for you to plan, initiate, manage, and monitor in your career progress. A clear shift has occurred in the relationships and the balance of power in planning and managing careers, and it has moved to the individual. The choice let for people is to become their own career agents.

For Organizations

The reader will find much input on the way organizations adapted to the new shape of careers in the entry to this volume by Kerr Inkson. In the past, the organization had the power in a culture of command and control. People strived to climb the organizational ladder, and the picture was clear, linear, and structured. It should be noted that while the changes described here have substantially changed this model of careers, much is still progressing in traditional systems. No full revolution occurred; the new structure and ways of careers emerged to exist alongside the traditional model. And, yes, the new developments influenced the traditional model. More choices exist and more decisions need to be made at both organizational and individual levels.

Global Career

One characteristic of current careers is that more of them have become global, and the geographical boundaries are amongst those boundaries that became blurred. The classical model of global careers was that of the organization expanding across borders and has to deal with two basic issues: first, how to keep and maintain a unified career system across the operational units in different countries and second, how to manage expatriation and repatriation processes.

The first one has changed from a single model of global expatriation to multiple options for individuals and organizations to handle it. Some global enterprises have a well-tested, operational system to attract, manage, and retain expatriates. It seems, however, that much is shifting here, too, allowing individuals to initiate and manage their career stage of expatriation. We witness a move from organization-induced to individual-oriented global career. People choose to be expatriated and offer it in a proactive way when they see it would benefit their future career, either within their present employer boundaries or beyond.


This entry presented the past, present, and future of careers from the individual point of view. It described and critically analyzed a number of contemporary career models to show the shift of power and responsibility, which has gradually moved from the organization to the individual.

In this research-paper, I defined, compared, and contrasted several career perspectives. In particular, I examined the individual versus the organization, the balance between them, and the environment in which they take place. Specific focus was devoted to the changing nature of careers, employment relationships, and the new psychological contract. This entry summarized the concept of career as perceived from the individual perspective. It covered several aspects and directions for understanding new careers—in particular, career choice, career stages, and the role personality plays in making career choice and interpreting careers.


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