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

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.