Unpacking sustainable careers: Stories of consulting careers

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Over the last decades several concepts on careers have “decoupled” the individual from the organisation by emphasizing individual mobility across boundaries. This includes the boundaryless career (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996) which shows highly qualified mobile individuals building career competencies and labour market value by crossing national and organisational boundaries. Another influential concept is the protean career (Hall, 1996; Hall, 2002). This emphasizes individual value systems and portrays individuals as self-directed, focusing on their psychological success as a resource. However more recently, authors of sustainable careers have (re-)introduced the role of organisations and the wider social context and argue that both individual actors and organisations play an important role in developing sustainable careers (De Vos & Van der Heijden, 2015). Sustainable careers refer to the sequences of work experience characterized by the development, conservation and renewal of individuals’ career-related resources over time De Vos & Van der Heijden, 2015). However, much of the research on sustainable careers has so far focused on studying career actors in single national contexts (De Vos & Van der Heijden, 2015 for overview; see also Fleisher, Khapova, & Schipper, 2015 for studying corporate volunteering in a Dutch multinational organisation) and has given little attention to international dynamics and aspects on careers. Yet, nowadays many careers happen in global contexts. While previous research has highlighted that international work experience is an important ingredient for developing career capital over time (e.g. Dickmann et al., 2016; Brewster, Dickmann, Suutari, Tornikoski, & Mäkelä, 2015), building on a resource-based view emphasising individual career capital i.e. the “three ways of knowing” (Knowing how, Knowing whom and knowing why) (DeFillippi & Arthur, 1994), some even argue that global career experiences are necessary for successfully developing one’s professional career (Colic-Peisker, 2010). Nowadays, business managers and professional service providers often work in transnational environments (Faulconbridge & Muzio, 2007 see also Muzio & Faulconbridge, 2013). These groups are often considered to be part of an elite (Ashley & Empson, ) who develop global aspirations and seek to improve their professional status (Colic-Peisker, 2010). While for global career actors economic incentives, financial rewards, high compensation and status (Stahl, Miller, & Tung, 2002; Suutari & Brewster, 2000) used to be relevant, meanwhile personal development and learning opportunities as well as “securing” career progression is among the most mentioned drivers for working in a global context (Thomas, Lazarova, & Inkson, 2005). Thus careers involve an interesting interplay of individual, organisational and global factors (Cappellen & Janssens, 2005). Therefore it is important to gain a better understanding of how career actors constitute sustainable careers in these global settings. Prior literature in the settings of global careers has been dominated by work on comparing different forms of assignments and investigating career attitudes and behaviours towards expatriates or other forms of international mobility (e.g. self-initiated expatriates, short-term assignees, and frequent fliers) (e.g. Dickmann & Harris, 2005; Suutari, Brewster, Riusala, & Syrjäkari, 2013; see also Baruch, Dickmann, Altman, & Bournois, 2013 for overview). However, this literature has been less concerned with global aspects of careers within one single organisational context and the global dimensions of individual careers. Additionally, literature on cross-cultural careers argues that specific cultural contexts have their own unique sets of deep-seated values, attitudes, and beliefs, and these are reflected in ways that the society and the economy operate, and in ways how people work (Baruch et al., 2013) and are managed at work (Chudzikowski et al., 2011). This is reflected in how individual actors develop career capitals (Dickmann, Doherty, Mills, & Brewster, 2008). Thus, literature discussing several aspects of careers such as career planning, career progression, individual career decisions and career preferences indicates that those aspects differ between cultural contexts and values, (e.g. Chong, 2013; Chudzikowski et al., 2009; Dany, Mallon, & Arthur, 2003 ; Schaubroeck & Lam, 2002). Moreover, we are interested in career stories as they provide us with insights and enhance our understanding on how people experience their careers and how they understand themselves in cultural and social context. (Cohen, 2006). Hence, we ask the following question: How do professionals develop a long-term career perspective and develop career capitals within a global operating firm?In this paper we will explore the question by focusing on the concept of career capitals (Chudzikowski & Mayrhofer, 2011; Latzke, Schneidhofer, Pernkopf, Rohr, & Mayrhofer, 2015) building on Bourdieu’s work (Bourdieu, 1986). Career capitals are a useful concept to explain how individual actors develop their career at the intersection of the individual, organisational and global (Boussebaa, Sturdy, & Morgan, 2014) and enrich the debate on similarities and differences across contexts. Specifically, we focus on the storytelling of professionals working in one global operating organization in two national contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2017
Event33rd EGOS Colloquium: The Good Organization - Aspiration, Interventions, Struggles - http://www.egosnet.org/2017_copenhagen/general_theme, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 6 Jul 20178 Jul 2017


Conference33rd EGOS Colloquium
Abbreviated titleEGOS Colloquium


  • Career capital
  • sustainable career
  • Professional service firms


Dive into the research topics of 'Unpacking sustainable careers: Stories of consulting careers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this