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The meaning of career success: Avoiding reification through a closer inspection of historical, cultural, and ideological contexts

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which the concept of career success has been subject to reification, and identify potential implications for individuals, organizations, and societies. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The current paper offers an in-depth analysis of the different contextual forces contributing to the reification of careers (i.e. history, culture and ideology), and how these have impacted on the social reality of career and the definitions of career success held by different relevant actors. Findings ‐ In total, eight research propositions are identified that need to be addressed in future research in order to advance knowledge and understanding of career success in context. Social implications ‐ One manifest outcome of career reification is the establishment of collective norms prescribing what a "normal", "successful" career is ‐ and what is not. Consequently, all careers not conforming to these norms are devaluated, which is inappropriate given the present-day climate of workplace diversity. Originality/value ‐ Career theory, in general, has been criticized for overemphasizing individual agency while neglecting contextual issues. Furthermore, more conceptual development is necessary in relation to the career success construct. The current paper aims to address both of these gaps by presenting in-depth analyses of the historical, cultural, and ideological contexts impacting on the meaning of career and career success.

Keywords: Boundaryless career; Career reification; Career success; Career theory; Globalization; National cultures; Subjective career

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 16, 2011

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