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Gubler_2011_PhD_Career-orientations_FINAL.pdf (6.98 MB)

Protean and boundaryless career orientations: an empirical study of IT professionals in Europe

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Version 2 2020-01-29, 09:29
Version 1 2011-10-13, 15:26
posted on 2020-01-29, 09:29 authored by Martin Gubler
One of the key themes in current career research is the debate regarding the prevalence of so-called 'new' careers and the assumed decline of 'old', organizationally driven careers. Yet, new career concepts characterized by increasing mobility, boundary crossing and self-directedness often suffer from a rather vague conceptualization, as well as from a lack of empirical evidence, especially outside the US cultural context from where most of these models originate. This study critically examines, conceptually refines, and empirically applies two frequently quoted new career models, namely the protean career and the boundaryless career. In addition, the two concepts are linked with career success, career anchors and career management three other relevant areas in career research. These themes are explored in a large empirical study in the context of the Information Technology (IT) industry in Europe. Careers of IT professionals have often been considered as prototypical for new careers. Hence, this study makes it possible to examine empirically the two American career concepts in a European context. It further addresses relevant topics for IT organizations in Europe, where many employers struggle to attract new talent whilst retaining and developing their existing workforce. The study applies a mixed-method approach, combining quantitative and qualitative, cross-sectional and longitudinal elements. Whilst it predominantly focuses on individuals and their careers, the study also takes into account more general perspectives, namely the organizational, industrial/professional and economic/societal levels, in order to provide a more encompassing view of individual careers. The findings suggest that the protean and the boundaryless career concepts are helpful tools to examine and understand individual careers. Based on the two concepts, three clusters of individuals with different career orientations are identified. These clusters differ significantly with regard to a wide range of characteristics. Yet, the results also show that both concepts require further conceptual clarification and that they cannot provide an all-encompassing perspective on career orientations. By taking career success, career anchors and career management tools into account, several additional aspects of individual careers are revealed. Also, the results demonstrate that only by looking at the complex interplay of various levels of analysis can individuals and their careers be understood more holistically. Finally, the study contributes to a better understanding of IT professionals and their careers and it provides a variety of practical implications which can support IT organizations in Europe in creating a more attractive, motivating work environment for their workforces.



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Loughborough University

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© Martin Gubler

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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John Arnold ; Crispin Coombs

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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