Career Self Management (CSM)

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During the past few decades, the notion of a career has changed shape and content. Specifically, brand new types of careers have emerged (Arthur, 1994; Hall, 1996), and the concept of career self-management (CSM) arose. The purpose of this essay is to define this new career framework and CSM considering different theories around this new concept. This essay is based on the assumption that the organization could play a key role in CSM (Arnold and Randall, 2016; Hirsh, 2016; Waterman et al., 1994), which is implemented by the individual proactivity (Ameer et al., 2015; King, 2004; Sturges et al., 2002) and strongly linked with career success and satisfaction (De Vos and Soens, 2008; King, 2004). After that, the essay analyses the impacts of CSM on the relationship between individuals and organisations. Then, the internal sphere of the individual is considered and, consequently, the impact of CSM on intrinsic career goals, such as success and satisfaction. Lastly, limitations will be reviewed considering the organizational and the individual perspective.

Traditionally, a career was defined as a logical advancement of jobs in one or more organizations, usually within a single industry (Hall, 1982; Schein, 1978) with the belief that a planned career progression would lead to a linear sequence of roles and responsibilities (Gutteridge, 1988). However, over the past few decades, the socio-economic environment has mutated, and in this new landscape, it has been acknowledged that the single directional and hierarchical framework was not sufficient to illustrate the new dynamicity of career (Arthur, 1994; Hall, 1996). Hence, the new notion of career suggests that management has shifted from the organization to the individual (Arthur, Khapova, and Wilderom, 1995; Sullivan 1999; Stickland, 1996). As a result, new visions of career emerged, such as the boundaryless career (Lichtenstein et al., 1998), protean career (Hall, 1996), and customized career (Gunz and Peiperl, 2007). These views have in common the idea that the individual is fully responsible for his/her career.

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The new vision of a career highlights the primary importance of the individual as the leading actor in developing his/her career. In response to this new wave, around the end of the 20th century, some organizations ceased any attempt to manage employees’ careers (Arnold and Randall, 2016) entirely. Some experts suggested that when organizations decrease the number of career management programs, people will rely more on their CSM (Wijers and Meijers, 1996). Therefore, CSM could be described as a self-regulatory model built on the assumption that the individual can have full control over his/her career (Seibert et al., 2013). In other words, the individuals are fully responsible for their development of assessing and monitoring their goals through a continuous process (Lavalee and Campbell, 1995). If the plan produces unsatisfactory results, then a new one could be implemented with new goals and strategies (Gould, 1979).

Furthermore, CSM encourages individuals to be proactive (King, 2004) and ultimately manage their development (Ameer et al., 2015). This proactivity includes collecting information regarding career opportunities, asking about performance reviews, creating useful networks and actions that aim to enforce one’s visibility (King, 2004; Sturges et al., 2002). CSM is not a one-off execution, but rather a continuous process that can be used along with other strategies (King, 2001). Moreover, CSM promotes the transfer of the acquired personal and professional skills to other fields in the same industry or across industries. Due to this carryover process, the overall performance continues to improve and increase to the individual’s advantage, enabling him/her to become even more employable (Lichtenstein and Mendenhall, 2002).

The majority of theories highlight the importance of the organizations in the CSM plan (Arnold and Randall, 2016; Hirsh, 2016; Waterman et al., 1994). Even if the strategy itself is activated by the individual and, more specifically, by the individual’s proactivity, the organizations play a crucial role in helping the individual reach his/her goals. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the impacts of CSM concerning the organization.

Waterman et al. (1994) suggested that CSM requires the support of the organization since many factors, such as the lack of funds, could have a negative impact on the individual’s development path. This implies that the organizations could still have a relevant role in supporting the individual’s plan, even if the individual has primary control. Recently, Hirsh (2016) and Arnold and Randall (2016) illustrated many possible interventions that the organizations could implement to support employees in managing their careers. Some of these tools have already been adopted by prominent organizations, such as Nestle’, Jigsaw, PwC, and the UK Civil Service, and include individual feedback, internal mobility, career coaching, mentoring programmes, personal career plans, training and educational opportunities (Hirsh, 2016; Arnold and Randall et al., 2016). These types of interventions have a significant and positive impact on the organisation, including an increase in employee loyalty (De Vos et al., 2009), as these actions act as an important motivator (Granrose and Portwood, 1987). The organisation can provide active support to employees through different types of interventions, which in return influences an individual’s organisational commitment, as analysed in the following paragraph.

Meyer and Allen (1991) suggested three components within a model of organisational commitment: affective, continuance, and normative. In the literature, affective commitment is defined as the extent to which an individual identifies him/herself with an organization; therefore, there is a sense of emotional attachment. Employees with high affective commitment stay in the organization because it is their intention to do so (Meyer and Allen, 1991). Continuance commitment occurs when the employees wish to remain in the organization due to financial reasons (Meyer and Allen, 1991). The last component is the normative commitment, which Meyer and Allen (1991) described as similar to a moral obligation of the employee to stay with his/her employer; therefore, they experience the feeling to remain. Bambacas (2010) and Sturges et al. (2002) found a positive relation between CSM and organizational commitment. Employees seem to have a higher level of affection, continuance, and normative commitment when they have the opportunity to manage their careers and, at the same time, the organisation supports them. As a result, there is a positive impact on the overall organizational commitment if organizations provide specific attention to the employees’ development (Ameer et al., 2015). The individual might experience a sense of ‘care’, which leads to positive consequences for the organization, including greater engagement and reduced turnover.

Besides enforcing the relationship between the organization and the individual, CSM also influences individual intrinsic career goals, such as satisfaction and success. Career satisfaction can be defined in many ways; however, the definition chosen for this essay is: ‘workers cognitive and affective evaluations of their career-related achievements’ (McKenna et al., 2016, p. 82). Research demonstrates that career satisfaction could predict different forms of individual and organizational outcomes, including happiness (Pan and Zhou, 2013) and, as previously discussed, retention that reduces turnover (Armstrong-Stassen and Ursel, 2009). Furthermore, career satisfaction and success are strongly linked; in fact, satisfaction is seen by most as a fundamental component of subjective career success (Hall and Chandler, 2005; Heslin, 2005). In parallel, Maurer and Chapman (2013) suggested that a proactive personality is the only prediction of career satisfaction. On the contrary, in less recent studies, proactivity was not even taken into consideration for Big 5 or goal orientation (Boudreau et al., 2001 and Judge et al., 2002).

Career success was traditionally perceived as an external factor coinciding with income and promotions; however, in recent years, there is much interest in the ‘subjective’ or ‘internal’ aspect of career success. In this context, individual CSM is considered a fundamental source of subjective career success (De Vos and Soens, 2008; King, 2004). More recent studies have stated that there is a gap in the literature and the debate has overemphasized CSM factors that should influence subjective career success (Yung and Takeuchi, 2017; Rodrigues et al., 2013). This could be because existing theories (e.g. King, 2004) mainly rely on a self-regulatory model that presumes individuals can control their career fully (Seibert et al., 2013). However, other scholars have investigated a balanced (Baruch and Vardi, 2016) or interdependent (Tams and Arthur, 2010) view of individual CSM and organizational interventions with the assumption that extrinsic career goals drive subjective career success. In contrast, others view the individual as the main subject who should have a more proactive role in his/her career and place greater emphasis on the individual rather than on the organisation. This can be more observed in those mentioned above boundaryless and protean career arguments (Ballout, 2009; Gubler et al., 2014).

Nevertheless, the impact of organizational career management in influencing career success remains vague (Yung and Tacheuchi, 2017). Yung and Tacheuchi (2017) investigated the effectiveness of both individual and organizational career management in achieving individual career satisfaction. They also argued that individuals reach greater career satisfaction by investing their resources by engaging in CSM and also when they obtain support from the organisation (Wheeler et al., 2013).

Notably, the negative impacts of CSM on the relationship between individuals and organisations also exist. Considering the individual’s perspective, the described interventions might be adopted only for those employees who have been categorized as ‘high potential’ (Hirsh, 2016) and are respected by the organization (Lee and Bruvold, 2003). Usually, organisations invest money in the development of those that make themselves more visible to the relevant decision-makers and who can develop a better relationship with important agents (Aguinis and Kraiger, 2009; King, 2004). Consequently, more passive personalities might be excluded from this ‘pool’ and, therefore, the organization might deny support for their CSM. This framework is based on the assumption that the outcome is not completely under the individual’s control as the organization holds some power; hence, some individuals might prefer not to involve the organization if they anticipate the disadvantage of having less opportunity (King, 2004). At the same time, there are negative aspects of the organization as well. For example, Cappelli (2008) argued that the main risks are that the employer could under-invest and risk that an available position will not be filled or over-invest in such development and waste economic effort on developing skills and people that the business does not need.

To conclude, this essay defined the new idea of a career based on the self-regulatory model and analyzed the recently born concept of CSM. Literature highlights the importance of the role played by the organization in CSM and, therefore, the relationship between CSM and the organization has been studied based on the assumption that CSM requires organisational support (Arnold and Randall, 2016; Hirsh, 2016; Waterman et al., 1994). In sum, the impacts of CSM on the relationship between individuals and organisations have been considered focusing on organisational commitment and following positive aspects (Bambacas, 2010; Sturges et al., 2002). Further, the essay focused on the impacts of CSM on one’s fundamental career goals, considering specifically the positive outcomes of career satisfaction and success. In contrast, the negative consequences of this relationship have also been discussed considering both perspectives: individual (Aguinis and Kraiger, 2009; King, 2004) and organizational (Cappelli, 2008). Nevertheless, the literature still lacks a single clear direction regarding CSM.


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