Sub-theme 60: Sustainable Careers: A New Paradigm for the Contemporary World of Work?

Ans De Vos
Antwerp Management School & University of Antwerp, Belgium
Monika Hamori
IE Business School, Spain
Marijke Verbruggen
KU Leuven, Belgium

Call for Papers

Careers form a complex mosaic of objective experiences and subjective evaluations. They unfold over time within an increasingly complex environment. Organizations play an important role in the sustainability of careers through providing different work experiences, opportunities for development and support for work-life balance. These practices might not only contribute to the sustainability of individual careers, but also to the continuity of the organization. In this way, the sustainable career differs from career concepts such as protean (Hall, 2002), boundaryless (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996) and customized careers (Valcour et al., 2007), which are somewhat uncoupled from organizational career management, whereas the sustainable career might particularly serve the concerns of both employees and employers. Yet, many questions remain to be answered as regards the potential mutually beneficial outcomes of sustainable career management.
The rich variety of careers implies that individuals may encounter both ‘positive spirals’ wherein career episodes over time become enriched, and ‘negative spirals’ wherein career episodes are characterized by demotivating and/or unrewarding experiences. The complexity of our world today entails many opportunities for individuals to make choices in line with their inner drives, yet there is also an ample list of factors that might put careers ‘at risk’. Moreover, what might appear to be a ‘successful’ or ‘satisfying’ career in the short run does not always remain so in the long run.
This sub-theme addresses the drivers that contribute to the sustainability of careers at multiple levels. Sustainable careers refer to sequences of work experiences which are characterized by the development, conservation and renewal of individuals’ career-related resources over time (Van der Heijden & De Vos, 2015). There are challenges pertaining to the sustainability of careers for individuals in all key stages of the career life cycle: career starters, mid-career employees with carer responsibilities and older adults (Greenhaus & Kossek, 2014). Furthermore, as workers have moved away from an expectation of life-time employment towards a need to protect their employability, it is important to increase our knowledge of elements that contribute to sustainable careers for all workers, and to further our understanding of the factors at different levels that affect this sustainability (De Vos & Gielens, 2015).
Against this backdrop, we invite papers which address pertinent questions with respect to the sustainability of contemporary careers. We are especially interested in three questions:

  • How can organizations facilitate the sustainability of individuals’ careers? How can they be “good” with respect to the careers of their employees, and how can such an approach be beneficial for the individual and the organization?
  • What factors distinguish sustainable careers from less sustainable ones, recognizing the complexity of the current career context and applying a time perspective?
  • What is the role of the individual career actor, which individual factors affect the sustainability of careers at different career stages and in different organizational settings?

Papers can have a theoretical, methodological or empirical focus or combine them. Examples include, but certainly are not limited to conceptual papers on the notion of sustainable careers, its dimensions, antecedents and boundary conditions, methodological papers on how the sustainability of careers can be researched, and empirical papers answering questions related to sustainable careers. We particularly welcome papers addressing sustainable careers from the organizational perspective, consistent with the colloquium theme of “the good organization”.
Through the paper presentations and discussions, the debate set up in this sub-theme should result in new insights related to what sustainability of careers entails both from an organizational and individual viewpoint, how the complexity of the current career context provides both opportunities and obstacles for both parties pertaining to the sustainability of careers and how individuals can be engaged in their own career development across career stages and organizational settings, in view of sustainability. The theme of sustainable careers is complex and contains many tensions, the outcomes of the debate within this sub-theme will provide answers to the challenges above both in terms of avenues for future research and actions for stakeholders involved.


  • Arthur, M.B., & D.M. Rousseau (eds.) (1996): The Boundaryless Career: A New Employment Principle for a New Organizational Era. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • De Vos, A., & Gielens, T. (2015): “An integrated and multi-level approach for facilitating sustainable careers.” White paper prepared for the European Network on Career and AGE (Age, Generation, Experience) final event, Brussels, Belgium. Antwerp: Antwerp Management School, February 2015.
  • Greenhaus, J.H., & Kossek, E.E. (2014): “The Contemporary Career: A Work-Home Perspective.” Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 1 (1), 361–388.
  • Hall, D.T. (2002): Careers In and Out of Organizations. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
  • Valcour, M., L., Bailyn, L., & Quijada, M.A. (2007): “Customized careers. ” In: H.P. Gunz & M.A. Peiperl (eds.): Handbook of Career Studies. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 188–210.
  • Van der Heijden, B., & De Vos, A. (2015): “Sustainable careers: Introductory chapter.” In: A. De Vos & B. van der Heijden (eds.): Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1–19.
Ans De Vos holds a Chair on Sustainable Careers and is Professor of HRM and Organizational Behaviour at Antwerp Management School and University of Antwerp, Belgium. Her research focuses on careers, psychological contracts and employability, and she has published in ‘Journal of Organizational Behavior’, ‘Journal of Vocational Behavior’, ‘European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology’, among others. She is co-editor of the “Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers” (EE Publishing).
Monika Hamori is Professor of HRM at IE Business School, Spain. Her research focuses on topexecutive career paths and career success. Her articles were published in ‘Organization Science’, the ‘Academy of Management Annals’, ‘Human Resource Management’ and the ‘Harvard Business Review’, among others.
Marijke Verbruggen is Associate Professor of HRM at the KU Leuven, Belgium. Her research focuses on career path and transitions, employability, underemployment, work-life balance and person-environment fit. Her articles were published in ‘Journal of Vocational Behavior’, ‘Group and Organization Management’ and ‘Journal of Occupational Health Psychology’, among others.