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Exploring career transitions: accounting for structure and agency

journal contribution
posted on 2009-04-07, 13:24 authored by Joanne Duberley, Mary Mallon, Laurie Cohen
Purpose – To apply and develop Stephen Barley's model of career structuration to offer insights into the transition into portfolio working. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative case study methodology is used. Interviews were conducted with managers who had left the National Health Service to develop portfolio careers. Findings – The adoption of the Barley model of career structuration as a sensitising device has made it possible to show how individuals have drawn from existing scripts embedded in institutional forms but have also contributed to developing new career scripts, such as portfolio working. Their enactment of career scripts is a dynamic process whereby they impact back on those scripts in both intentional and unintentional ways. Thus the transformative capacity of individual career actions is asserted but, critically, alongside awareness of constraints as bound up in structures which have salience for individuals and for collectives. Research limitations/implications – This is a study based in one large public sector organisation. Further exploration of the potential role of career as a way of understanding socially embedded action and its capacity for change is required, which takes account of different occupational settings. Practical implications – The study outlines some of the frustrations experienced by portfolio workers and has practical implications for the ways in which they should be managed. Originality/value – The paper contributes to the debate concerning structure and agency in career theory.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


DUBERLEY, J., MALLON, M. and COHEN, L., 2006. Exploring career transitions: accounting for structure and agency. Personnel Review, 35 (3), pp. 281 - 296


© Emerald Group Publishing Limited


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