Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers
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Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers

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.
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Chapter 13: The role of employee adaptability, goal striving and proactivity for sustainable careers

Karen Van Dam, Tanja Bipp and Joris Van Ruysseveldt


In today’s dynamic work environments, employee adaptability, proactivity and goal striving are important requirements for sustainable careers. One the one hand, change has become an important aspect of the work setting; on the other hand, the labor market has changed substantially, with employees largely self-managing their careers. In the current chapter, we argue that a sustainable career requires employees to engage in adaptive and self-regulated (that is, goal-directed, proactive) behavior. In particular, we explore the role of three personal aspects that appear crucial for modern careers: workers’ adaptability, goal striving, and proactivity. We first pay attention to adaptation in general and employee adaptation in particular. Both concepts refer to self-regulatory processes and emphasize the importance of goal-directed and proactive behavior. Therefore we discuss research on goal-directed striving (goal setting and goal pursuit) and proactive behavior in relation to workers’ sustainable careers. In conclusion, we argue that career sustainability requires adaptive behavior that is balanced; it should be aimed at establishing or restoring the balance between the goals, interests, values and expectations of the organization and those of the employee.

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