Introduction considered to be a skill that is the


Psychologists for many years have tried to define the term ‘career’. A definition
used across the board is provided by Arthur et al. (1989), who states that a
career is ‘The evolving sequence of an individual’s work experiences over
time’. Furthermore, a career is “The individual’s development in learning and
work throughout life’ (Collin and Watts, 1996). Sullivan & Baruch (2009)
defined the traditional career in terms of an employee’s relationship with
their employing organisation. Careers were viewed as linear and had a stable
hierarchical organisational structure (Levinson, 1978) and employees were loyal
towards their organisation and kept a high degree of job security (Sullivan
& Baruch, 2009). This therefore allowed employees to develop an
‘organisational career’, in which job mobility was not common (Arthur, 2008). Due
to the current economy, it is highly likely that individuals’ in today’s
society do not stick with one job for the rest of their lives. In the western
wold, individuals are constantly changing jobs every 4-5 years, which converts
into roughly 8-10 job transitions, including many career changes over time (U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics,
2017). As competition for jobs are increasing, an individual’s continuing
employability and career success are constantly determined by one’s ability to
master individual career self-management. Although
managing one’s own career comes with many benefits, there are also many
challenges one faces when taking matters into their own hands.

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This essay
will explore the various research that has identified the strengths and
limitations associated with individuals’ career self-management. This will be
done by firstly discussing the areas that define what career self-management is.
Then secondly discussing Protean and Boundaryless careers and finally discussing
careers as a ‘calling’. This essay will then conclude by summarising all of
these areas.


What is
career self-management?

Career self-management
is considered to be a skill that is the vital aspect for enabling not only
organisational but also individual success in the knowledge economy. The term
self-management refers to a range of behaviours that primarily focus on how an
individual manages themselves in their career and everyday lives. For instance,
Goleman et al. (2006) suggest that self-management has these six characteristics:
initiative, achievement, optimism, transparency, adaptability and self-control.


research from Kelley’s (1998) chapter on self-management defines these
following significant elements in career self-management: The first is ensuring
one is committed to long-term learning in order to support/develop the
organisation’s achievements and the individual’s achievements, the second is
ensuring that the work one is producing adds significant value to the
organisation, the third is developing the required skills in order to be able
to manage both one’s commitments and time, the fourth is broadening online and
interpersonal networks that allows one to solve the organisations more complex
problems and finally being able to adapt to change and construct new ideas for
organisational structure as new opportunities surface. Kelley (1998) states
that to develop from a good employee to a star employee, one must continuously
manage both their work lives and their career. This therefore provides great
value to the organisation, which provides star employees increased opportunities
to choose which tasks they want to work on and are constantly gaining new and
vital skills that will further their future career paths.


Protean and
Boundaryless careers

Industrial age workplace has now become the Protean workplace (Hall, 2002). The
protean career juxtaposes traditional career concepts. It is drawn upon a
values-driven and self-directed individual, whom have the power and the
responsibilities to mould and transform their career paths (Dobrow Riza &
Heller, 2015; Strauss et al., 2012). This power and responsibility is applied
in order to express what matters most to the individual. The protean career
requires individuals to firstly, foresee future trends, developments’ and
industry shifts, secondly, assess and monitor the job market, thirdly, attain
the necessary skills, relationships and qualifications to meet the requirements
and finally, quickly adapting to any situation in order to thrive in an
ever-changing workplace. Another modern career concept is the boundaryless
career (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996), it is viewed as exceeding the limits of
occupations and organisations. The concept of a boundaryless career was
developed to provide a new insight on longstanding traditional career theories
(Arthur, 2008).


Protean and
boundaryless careers have many valuable qualities and uses. Due to the
unpredictable nature of the modern day working environment, maintaining a
protean and boundaryless career is extremely useful in the Western culture.
Littler et al. (2003) suggest that these new career concepts were developed to
overcome the wider organisational and economic changes. Moreover, Inkson et al.
(2010) state that if organisations are continuously more flexible, then fluid
careers should also become increasingly flexible.


These career
concepts imply that careers are the personal property of individuals (Inkson
& Arthur, 2001). Individuals therefore create their own definition of
success and use this to guide them toward their career paths. This enables them
to choose projects that allow them to develop the required skills, gain a
various number of professional networks and allow them to be highly visible
within the working world. Thus, in turn, will allow the individual to become
more satisfied with the work they produce and become overall more productive
(Lazarova & Taylor, 2009). An increase of various knowledge provides
individuals an advantage to become more capable of progressing onto several
jobs within the organisation or with other organisations.


Eby et al.
(2003) found that individuals who display behaviour in relation to these career
concepts state that they have a significant increase in levels of career
success. Protean and boundaryless careers focus not only on success within the
organisation but also on the success within other aspects of work life (Arthur
et al., 2005).


capital plays a vital role in career theories of today, social contracts are
constantly used to gain key information about future job prospects. An
individual with relatively large and widespread social capital are more likely
to be successful in finding a job and developing a career. These concepts of
protean and boundaryless careers are beneficial in the formation of personal
networks, as the networks are facilitated by these concepts, therefore the
networks become more widespread (Lazarova & Taylor, 2009).


However, protean
and boundaryless careers also have many problems in the sense that the term
needs better conceptualised and explained (Inkson, 2006). Additionally, Inkson
et al. (2010) provide an overview of the issues surrounding the boundaryless
career concept, suggesting that overall, there is uncertainty with regards to
whether the concepts; 1) provide explanations of how careers are in the modern
world, or recommendations of how they should be, 2) examining observations of
behaviour or of states of mind, 3) symbolise unitary concepts or collections of
detailed features of a career that may or may not co-occur and 4) interpret an
individual’s career behaviour as unconstrained individual action or a creative
response to the unpredictable demands of free-market economies. In relation to
the last of these issues, Hall (2002) and Hall & Briscoe (2004) in particular,
address the notion that one must know their own values in order to identify
their personal flexibility whilst also maintaining one’s core sense of self in
times of impulsive change.


These career
concepts also tend to focus on individuals who have the necessary experience
and skills and disregards individuals who may find it difficult to progress
further, and additionally ignores the ways in which those who are more
privileged have assistance in following their career paths (Hirsch &
Shanley, 1996). Analysis of the applicability of the protean and boundaryless
career concepts for collectivist cultures have revealed some limitations
(Pringle & Mallon, 2003), in particular, how an individual’s family and
community influence the priorities and values one brings to their career.


Careers as a

The way in which an individual chooses to work, effects their level of
job satisfaction and determines the type of meaning they find in employment. One
of the most important forms of psychological success or satisfaction occurs
when an individual experiences their work as something more than a job or even a
career, but something that is a calling (Hall & Chandler, 2005).


An early explanation for a sense of calling
was mentioned as a divine inspiration, doing work that is morally responsible (Weber,
1958, 1993) and also assumed that a calling was an impulsive characteristic (Hardy,
1990). However, recent explanations have diverted from a religious association
to a broader secular viewpoint that is characterised by an individual who works
due to a strong sense of inner direction, in other words, work that has a
positive contribution to the community (Davidson & Caddell, 1994;
Wresniewski, 2003).


Wrzesniewski et al.’s (1997) research in
job orientation identified ways in which to gain greater job satisfaction, of
particular interest for this essay is the notion of a sense of calling. Individuals
with a sense of calling often exhibit low levels of absenteeism (Duffy et al.,
2011; Peterson et al., 2009), higher levels of organisational commitment (Duffy
et al., 2011), incorporate more meaning into their work, have a better sense of
duty within their organisation (Bunderson & Thompson, 2009), and are more
likely to have a greater level of perceived employability and life satisfaction
(Praskova et al., 2015).

Research conducted by Wrzesniewski et al.’s
(1997) found that individuals who possess a sense of calling are more likely to
find a job that they consider meaningful and will also alter their tasks in the
workplace and form relationships within the workplace in order to make it more
so. These individuals tend to be more satisfied with their work and everyday
lives in general. Moreover, a sense of calling can be beneficial to those who
are unsure of what career path to take. For graduates, the job market is highly
competitive, therefore a sense of calling could play a vital role in supporting
students’ and graduates’ well-being as a calling can give these individuals
some direction and purpose to their career paths (Dobrow Riza & Heller,
2015; Zhang et al., 2015). On the other hand, these are not the only
characteristics; an individual with a sense of calling may also want benefits
and a high paying salary. However, individuals with a sense of calling are
generally more inclined to suggest that they would do their job even if they
weren’t getting paid (Bunderson & Thompson, 2009).


There are many benefits to pursuing a
calling, but there are also drawbacks that can occur in the process of having a
job that is associated with a sense of calling. Research by Duffy et al. (2011)
on a sense of calling suggests that there are two problems associated with
pursuing a calling; the first is associated with unfulfilled callings and the
second is the negative health problems related to callings that have been
achieved. Moreover, individuals who decide to leave their current job in order
to pursue their calling may experience and even suspect a decrease in salary
after they change their occupation, and they may also earn less over time due
to the lack of specific experience and skills required from their new
occupations (Wise & Millward, 2005; Parrado et al, 2007; Ahn, 2016; Wong et
al, 2016).



This essay has explored what research tells us about the strengths and
limitations of individual career self-management. In summary, individual career
self-management is a key aspect in an individual’s life to help them develop
the skills and experiences required to become not only a better employee but
also to achieve fulfilment and self-worth in the work they are producing. This
is because their occupation gives them a sense of purpose in life and they are
essentially working in a role that they enjoy. Individual career
self-management provides those who are unsure of what career path to take or
those who are seeking to change their career some guidance to problem solve and
make decisions (Kossek et al., 1998). Although there are some challenges that
may be faced when pursuing a career, with the right support from others, and the
individual’s determination any problems can be resolved.