Table of Contents

Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers

Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers

Research Handbooks in Business and Management series

Edited by Ans De Vos and Beatrice I.J.M. van der Heijden

What is a sustainable career and how can individuals and organizations develop pathways that lead to them? With current levels of global unemployment and the need for life-long learning and employability enhancement these questions assume a pressing significance. With twenty-eight chapters from leading scholars, the Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers makes an important contribution to our understanding of sustainable careers and lays the foundation for the direction of future research.

Chapter 28: Sustainable careers then and now

Barbara S. Lawrence, Douglas T. Hall and Michael B. Arthur

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour, strategic management


This chapter examines sustainable careers within an historical context. We begin with a group of 1970s scholars who believed that studying careers required sensitivity to both psychological experiences and social context over time. Their approach provided a foundation for the interdisciplinary perspective reflected in our Handbook of Career Theory (1989), an explicit recognition that career theory’s home involves many disciplines, at many levels of analysis. Much has changed since then. Sustainable careers require that individuals recognize responsibility for their work within, across and outside organizations. They also require that organizations find innovative solutions for helping individuals reach their full potential while maximizing their institutions’ performance. However, much of the earlier work on careers can still inform the sustainable careers’ dialogue: we have a durable definition of career, everyone has a career, careers are interdependent with people’s lives, and an interdisciplinary approach is more important than ever. We see the sustainable career as an ‘ideal type’. It may never be fully realized, but it should be a goal in future careers research and responsible human resource management. Van der Heijden and de Vos’ (2015) four elements of sustainable careers – time, social space, agency and meaning – represent important components in framing this research agenda.

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