Organizational boundaries and beyond: a new look at the components of a boundaryless career orientation

Purpose The key purpose of this paper is to develop a new conceptualization of the boundaryless career—a widely acknowledged contemporary career concept—that reflects its original description more fully than previous literature has done, and to apply this conceptualization in an empirical investigation of career behavior and intentions of a large sample of European Information Technology (IT) professionals. Design/methodology/approach As part of a large study of IT professionals in Europe (N = 1,350), we had three research objectives. First, we developed and empirically tested a new operationalization of a person’s boundaryless career orientation (BCO) that reflects the originally proposed boundaryless career meanings more closely than existing approaches. Second, we used this to identify in a holistic manner different patterns of BCO. Third, we examined the nature and extent of links between BCO and self-reported career behavior and intentions. Findings We identified five BCO factors that differentiate individuals into three distinct clusters. Although organizational boundaries appeared to be salient for most individuals, they did not differentiate the clusters. Instead, geographical mobility preference and rejection of career opportunities emerged as highly differentiating but hitherto rarely examined types of career boundaries. Practical implications Our findings can help HR managers to gain a better understanding of different mobility preferences amongst different groups of employees, which could lead to the development and implementation of more refined reward schemes and career development practices in organizations. Originality/value This study provides a new operationalization of the BCO that is grounded in its original definition and offers a new empirically tested 15-item BCO measure. It contributes to career research with scarce empirical findings regarding the components of the BCO, their salience for individuals, and the connections between BCO and behavior.