Academic journal article Management Revue

Explaining Company-Level Influences on Individual Career Choices: Evidence from Belgium**

Academic journal article Management Revue

Explaining Company-Level Influences on Individual Career Choices: Evidence from Belgium**

Article excerpt

In the current career reality people not only make traditional career transitions such as entry into and exit from the labor market or upward in-company mobility, but also horizontal movements and transitions between employment and different social spheres such as household, care and leisure time. This broad perspective on career mobility that takes into account both traditional and new kinds of career steps is an important yet understudied area. Regarding the influences of making or not making a career transition, research has limited itself to individuals shaping their own career (i.e. micro level). Little research has examined the influence that organizations may exercise on the individual's career decision making process by means of their policies and practices (i.e. meso level). Drawing on Schmid's model of a transitional labor market (1998), this qualitative empirical research explores the factors at company level that individuals point to as obstructing or facilitating their career transitions. Results show that organizational policies and practices do play an important role in the individual's career trajectory as to whether or not he or she decides to undertake a transition. Implications for practitioners and policy makers are discussed.

Key words: Career, Transitions, Labor Market, Belgium

Introduction

Contemporary careers are defined as the individually perceived sequence of attitudes and behaviors associated with work-related experiences and activities over the span of the person's life (Hall 2002). These experiences are both on-the-job experiences as well as experiences related to transitions within and between organizations. While traditional career models focused on a limited type of transitions - entry into the labor market, followed by 30 or 40 years of full-time employment and upward mobility in a limited number of organizations, ending with retirement around the age of 65 - the current career reality has become more complex (Baruch 2003; Hall/Moss 1998). With a growing emphasis on international competitiveness and organizational flexibility, employees are said that they should be more flexible and adaptive with regard to their career development (Hall/Moss 1998). This has led to a greater awareness of the need to consider career transitions made during employment and to seek ways to promote career development even in the context of organizational change (Baruch 2003; Eby et al. 2005). Following this changing nature of careers, innovative concepts have emerged in management literature, such as the 'boundaryless career' (Arthur/Rousseau 1996), the 'protean career' (Hall 1996) and the 'post-corporate career' (Peiperl/Baruch 1997), which all reflect this shift from traditional towards transitional careers (Eby et al. 2005). Thus, a more complete view on career development requires to take into account not only the transitions of entry into and exit from the labor market, and the upward in company transitions made during this period, but also to include other types of transitions made such as horizontal movements and transitions between employment and different social spheres such as household, care and leisure time. Therefore, in this paper we address the broader range of career transitions that employees can make during their 'career lifecycle' and investigate the influences that are decisive for making or not making these transitions.

Ozbilgin et al. (2004) introduce three levels of analysis to study influences on career transitions: the micro, meso and macro level. The new career literature gives precedence to the micro level and focuses on individuals shaping their own career. But while this literature starts from the assumption that firms no longer cause careers, research has shown that external clues continue to mark the shape of a career (Dany 2003). Individual agency cannot be considered in isolation from contextual factors at the meso level such as company related influences (Ozbilgin et al. …

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