Individual Career Development and Self-Management

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 11
Words: 2828
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: College


Measures such as training and development are aimed at facilitating career progress and growth. However, they consume organisational resources, especially time and finance. Hence, career development involves the interaction or exchange that occurs between employers and the workforce. Business strategies are aimed at increasing organisational competitiveness in terms of reducing expenditures and/or boosting revenues. Consequently, human resource strategies, including career self-management, may be in conflict with strategic business strategies. This paper reviews ten articles on career self-management. Specifically, it identifies issues and challenges that are associated with integrating the human resource strategy, namely Individual Career Development (ICD), and business strategies. It then discusses strategies to deal ICD as a human resource issue. It also proposes and justifies reasoned arguments for adopting initiatives in strategic human resource management with a focus on ICD.

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Themes from the Articles

Hall (2004) investigates the concept of protean career and its relationship with career self-management (CSM). The concept is important in the survival of employees in a turbulent work environment. In the protean workplace, job insecurity is high such that employees cannot consider themselves having a life-long career (Hall 2004). Hence, a job that is available today may not be accessible tomorrow. Therefore, employees have a responsibility for assessing the employment markets, monitor career trends, and/or expect future changes in the industry. In the wake of any global financial crisis, many organisations undergo restructuring. Others engage in business partnerships such as mergers and acquisitions. Such partnerships are part of business strategies to deal with reduced profitability, which often causes the collapsing of firms. Such strategies are accompanied by increased levels of job insecurity where many firms offer very few, if any, promotion opportunities (Muja & Appelbaum 2012). Consequently, employers develop fear, or are unwilling to engage in any agreement for managing and ensuring career opportunities for employees in a formal manner. Thus, employees are only left with the choice of managing their careers individually (Muja & Appelbaum 2012,).

Amid the claims raised by Muja and Appelbaum (2012), Morrow (2011) defends the position that employers value the need for employee career development. He reckons that organisations pursue policies that shift their accountability in career management. Such policies uphold the role of employees through interventions such as offering training programmes that touch on accountability in the management of one’s career. In this context, under the discourses of individual career management, the work of Morrow (2011) confirms that employers only provide an enabling environment for employees to take full accountability and management of their careers in preparation for taking higher career roles in the future. Morrow (2011) defines career self-management as the capacity of people to accumulate information on a regular basis concerning the resolution of their career problems and/or making appropriate decisions. Various questions have been asked concerning organisational interventions. Can such involvements increase an individual’s management skills? Is it possible to make career management skills effective through training?

Raabe, Frese, and Beehr (2007) assert that employees have a noble responsibility of taking full control of their careers. The current trend in career management indicates that the task of managing careers now rests on the proactive and adaptive employees, as opposed to their employers (Raabe, Frese, & Beehr 2007). Changes in jobs and the emergence of protean careers, as discussed by Hall (2004), cause this shift of responsibility. Through the action regulation model, Raabe, Frese, and Beehr (2007) assert that people engage in environment-induced transactions, which guide their activities based on their personal initiatives and the need to adapt to career changes. Employees’ control over their careers implies that they can execute their activities in line with their desired goals.

The action regulation model identifies issues such as increased job attendance and/or decreased problematic workplace-related behaviours as important career mobility elements. Nevertheless, there is inadequate evidence that supports the capacity of the model to encourage employees to pursue long-term career goals. However, Raabe, Frese, and Beehr (2007) indicate that it explains employee conduct when it comes to controlling their careers. They also claim that employees can be influenced to engage in career self-management behaviours (Raabe, Frese, & Beehr 2007).

From the action regulation model, Chiaburu, Baker, and Pitairu (2006) questioned whether the personality of individual employees influences their behaviours. The researchers studied the effects of proactive personality on people’s career self-management behaviours. The study focuses on job mobility and its preparedness. Chiaburu, Baker, and Pitairu (2006, p. 619) also studied ‘development feedback-seeking behaviours while providing evidence for one mediator (career resilience) and one moderator (public self-consciousness) on this relationship.’ They deployed the quantitative research method to analysing data collected from a sample size of 127 employees who were obtained from only one organisation. Based on the findings, the studied personality has a positive correlation with career self-management behaviours. Behavioural, traits, social cognitive, psychoanalytic, and humanistic theories explain different personalities that individuals depict. For example, behavioural theories suggest that people’s personality emanates from their interaction with the environment. Consistent with Chiaburu, Baker, and Pitairu (2006) findings, some personality attributes can be learnt. Hence, professional interventions can induce personality attributes that encourage individual career self-management.

Similar to Chiaburu, Baker, and Pitairu (2006), Hirschi and Freud (2014) regard individual motivation to engage in proactive behaviours that encourage individual development as an important force that shapes career self-management. In their study, Hirschi and Freud (2014, p.5) deployed ‘a micro-level perspective on how within-individual differences in motivational and social-cognitive factors affected the weekly fluctuation of employee engagement in proactive career behaviours’. The study deployed a sample size of 67 students from a Germany university. For a period of 13 weeks, they investigated students’ beliefs on self-efficacy for their careers, their barriers to career mobility, their career support experiences, their emotions towards career progression, and their career engagement approaches. Data was then analysed using regression analysis, particularly the linear hierarchical approach. The results of the analysis indicated that career social support predicted students’ career engagement. A positive emotion towards their career also produced a similar effect on career engagement to social support. The results show that negative emotions, self-efficacy, and career barriers have no effect on career engagement (Hirschi & Freud 2014).

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Ans and Jesse (2013) studied the effects of career directedness on individual career management with a focus on retirement intentions. Their research arises from a scholarly gap in terms of linking self-directedness in career management on retirement intentions to the decisions of older employees. They used a survey as a primary data collection methodology. With a sample size of 271 participants comprising old employees (53 years on average) who had worked for over 10 years (an average of 16 years), they measured their ICD behaviours, career attitude, employee engagement, and their retirement plans (Ans & Jesse 2013) as indicators of career self-directedness. Their results suggested a direct relationship between the variables of study and individual career management behaviours. Employee engagement provided 100-percent mediation effect. Quigley and Tymon (2006) hypothesise that intrinsic motivation for an individual’s career development can foster career self- management. They develop an integrated model that seeks to explain this relationship. In the model, issues such as development, employee aptitude, choice, and the acknowledgement of the meaningfulness of the respective careers help in individual professional management. However, their model does not have any experimental data to support its application. De Vos and Soens (2008) support the need for employees to embrace protean career attitudes. Their research tests the theoretical model where they specify the correlation between ICD behaviours, career results, occupational insights, and the protean career attitudes (De Vos & Soens 2008, p.449). The research deploys a sample size of 289 workers. Their results indicate that positive attitudes towards career turbulence within an organisation foster individual career management.

The Key Features of Strategic Human Resource Management Models

Modern organisations increasingly seek unique human resource plans and business strategies to ensure sustained competitive advantage. Issues such as the changing technologies, workforce demographics, intellectual capital, and the growing necessity of effective management of human resource assets prompt this HRM concern. Essential aspects that define the business environment control every level of the strategic decision concerning organisational growth. Therefore, HR professionals play a critical role in developing strategies that ensure that employees work collectively towards meeting business strategies. This claim reveals why human resource models have a common feature of maintaining a productive work environment that is characterised by good labour relations.

The above feature is reflected in different HRM approaches that align the department’s responsibilities with business strategies. Such approaches include reimbursement measures, performance administration, training and development, professional management, enrolment, separation of workers, the use of HRIS, setting employee regulations, business strategies, and establishing a link between internal and external environment (Wang & Shyu 2008). These approaches aim at ensuring fertile and calm labour relations that guarantee harmony in the management of employee relationships. The primary goal entails preventing and reducing conflicts that occur between employees and organisations or among the individual employees. Such conflicts are a big hindrance to the achievement of corporate and business-level strategies.

Issues and Challenges that are associated with Integrating the Human Resource Strategy and Business Strategies

Strategies refer to plans that detail the necessary actions for achieving an overall aim. Business strategies focus on the affairs of organisations such as their relationship with other businesses or customers (D’Aveni, Ravenscraft, & Anderson 2004). Human resource strategies focus on employees, especially how to build positive relationships between workers. Focusing of these two strategies attracts a challenge of connecting the two where employees demonstrate all elements that are necessary for successful execution of a business strategy. The elements include thoughts, remuneration schemes, contentment, likely behaviours to guarantee client approval, team spirit, performance, the necessary excitement and eagerness, gratitude, and competencies among others. These elements are hard to induce without compromising others. For example, an attempt to apply ICD as the HR strategy for increasing competencies may result in dissatisfaction, and hence poor performance, if the reward system is not reviewed.

Business strategies focus on aspects, which help to increase revenues such as the relationship with customers. They also focus on ways of ensuring that a company remains well ahead of other companies (competitive advantage). While these two concerns increase earnings, human resource strategies increase expenses. For example, ICD may call for an organisation to provide paid leaves to employees for them to attend to their career growth and development of new skills as a way of preparing them to take higher roles. Therefore, an organisation bears the cost of reduced paid labour input.

Issues and challenges also emerge in integrating the human resource strategy, namely the ICD, and business strategies due to gaps that occur between HR strategies and specifics of business policies. Commitment and nature of talent disposition are necessary for successful execution of a business strategy. ICD is one of the ways of developing such talents (Wang & Shyu 2008). However, as the HR strategy, it is problematic to integrate ICD with business strategies due to the cost-benefit analysis approach that is used in making decisions on the necessary business tactics. From the economic analysis, the best business strategy is the one, which has low operations costs and high potential for returns. The HR strategies, including ICD, address such costs in the short-run.

Strategies to Deal with Career Development as a Human Resource Issue

Raabe, Frese, and Beehr (2007) raise the issue of workers’ individual knowledge and their commitments to career goals and quality. Their findings indicate a direct correlation between the variables and positive behaviours that foster career self-management. Therefore, organisations’ individual employee career management programmes are feasible strategies for encouraging career self-management. Although Raabe, Frese, and Beehr (2007) offer an important mechanism for inducing and encouraging individual career management in an organisation, their research suffers some drawbacks. The study deploys the quasi-experiment, as opposed to using the actual experiment. This approach introduces the challenge of making various causal inferences with certainty. Their data is based on self-reports, which may be distorted. Distortion impairs the reliability of research findings.

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Chiaburu, Baker, and Pitairu (2006) assert that self-consciousness in the public domain interacts with proactive personality to influence individual career management behaviours. This claim is valid in organisations and to various practitioners who look for various interventions for encouraging individual career management. In particular, practitioners and companies can design programmes for encouraging individual career management, which focus on mechanisms for boosting proactive personality development. Concurring with this position, Ans and Jesse (2013) evidence that career development is not merely a concern of the newly employed people but also those who have been employed for a long time. Therefore, it responds to the question of who career self-management programme should be developed for in an organisation. Career self-management behaviours are equally appropriate for old employees just as in the case of the newly employed class. Despite the lack of empirical data to support Quigley and Tymon’s (2006) model, approaches to inducing career self-management within an organisation are important, although each approach may have its limitations. Indeed, employees do not induce shifts in the career management responsibilities. The shifts arise from organisations due to various operational challenges that prompt organisations to adopt different strategies for remaining risk resilient. Therefore, to address the issue of career development in organisations, alignment of the HR strategy with business approaches is not adequate without the involvement of employees in ICD.


Conclusively, changes in the working conditions force employees to behave differently. The situation results in their vocational adjustment. In the process, they experience work success and satisfaction (King 2004). This observation suggests that if workers fail to respond to changes in the work environment, they may be frustrated to the extent of experiencing vocational maladjustment. Therefore, to deal with the changes in working conditions and work procedures, employees must be prepared for change by increasing their skill-base and knowledge. This goal can be accomplished by creating and integrating HR strategies of career development into the business schemes. The anticipated results are only realisable in an environment of trust and mutual good will between business strategists and the HR department.

King’s (2004) analysis of various thwarting situations is in line with the concerns of self-career management as discussed by Quigley and Tymon (2006) and Chiaburu, Baker and Pitairu (2006). In fact, the claim that people encounter frustration and barriers in career progression has received acceptance in the 21st-century career management discourses as the search of boundary-less careers continues. Frustrations, conflicts, and tensions in work environment compel people to adjust accordingly to minimise anxieties. The adjustment leads to career self-development since employees seek mechanisms for easing the ways of executing certain tasks that are allocated to them. Thus, to deal with the HR issue of ICD, it is necessary to look for effective ways of helping employees to accomplish a task in the quest for higher performance and accuracy. This strategy supports King’s (2004) claim that career self-management is driven by the quest for increased performance.

Boundary management is necessary when it comes to dealing with the problem of ICD. The process involves balancing the various demands in the workplace and those outside it. Positioning behaviours ‘are concerned with making sure that one has the contacts, skills, and experience to achieve one’s desired career outcomes’ (King 2004, p.119). Influential behaviours relate to efforts that determine the decisions that employers make to realise the desired individual outcomes. Hence, career self-management involves the compromise between employers’ expectations and the projected employees’ desired career direction. Why do employees engage in career self-management behaviours? King (2004) responds that they desire to take full control of their profession, achieve self-efficiency, and/or acquire occupational anchorage. The outcome of these quests is life satisfaction.

To deal with the HR issue, employees need to take a proactive role in decision-making, especially in determining the path of their careers, both currently and in the future. Therefore, employers should not determine where certain individuals would be in terms of career hierarchical positions. Rather, individual efforts and commitment to career progression should determine the outcomes of employee career growth. Drawing from the work of Hirschi and Freud (2014), organisations need to look for career social support interventions together with mechanisms for ensuring positive emotions towards the careers of their employees to encourage and support workers in taking accountability for their career management.

The problem can be proactively addressed by allowing employees to have responsibility for assessing the employment market, monitor career trends, and the expected changes in the industry. Thus, they need to look for qualifications and the appropriate skills that are necessary for thriving in a changing employment market. Although an organisation may train and develop its employees to ensure they can perform their traditional duties in a new technological business environment, such an attempt may not be feasible after its cost-benefit-analysis is done. Consequently, cheaper alternatives such as new hires while retrenching redundant employees may be favourable to an organisation. To avoid this situation, individual career management is inevitable for all employees.


Ans, D & Jesse, S 2013, ‘Self-Directed Career Altitude and Retirement Intentions’, Career Development International, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 155-172.

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