Individual Career Management’ Concept


Human resource management seeks to facilitate the growth of both the workforce and the organization through the integration of various frameworks and models. Employees could also embark on strategies that enhance their success in their professional endeavors thereby, resulting in desirable outcomes. In this case, the concept of individual career management (ICM) requires an application for employees to steer their way towards successful career experiences. The reason for the consideration of career self-management is to help professionals in coping with turbulent and unpredictable working environments that could undermine their personal and vocational growth. The integration of ICM in the working processes as depicted by features like proactivity, a protean attitude, and professional adjustment facilitate the realization of subjective and objective outcomes that have direct impacts on an individual’s career development. For this reason, this paper seeks to conduct a review of various articles that shed light on the fundamental aspects of personal career management.

Protean and Boundaryless Working Environments

The boundaryless and protean career attitudes have received considerable attention from the human resource development fraternity thus creating new insights about the two concepts. Protean attitudes are depicted by efforts put by professionals towards the realization of self-fulfillment and career progression whereas the boundaryless attitudes are portrayed by experts’ psychological or physical mobility (Volmer & Spurk 2011). Therefore, employees need to know the subjective and objective consequences of protean and boundaryless career attitudes. In perspective, the individual effects of the attitudes refer to the career fulfillment of an employee compared to their colleagues while the objective implications refer to the aspects of promotion and salary increment. Volmer and Spurk (2011) stress that protean vocational attitudes significantly contribute to active career success whereas the objective results are affiliated to boundaryless mindsets.

In the competitive corporate world, different economic trends may trigger the workforce aspect of devising ways of coping with different situations, In this regard, situations like economic recessions could induce changes among employees with the aim of adapting to the prevailing economic situation. In this line of thought, Briscoe et al. (2012) suggest that the coping mechanisms adopted by employees have significant implications for their individuals work output. Briscoe et al. (2012) identify the facets of self-directed protean and a boundaryless mindset as crucial for successful individual career management. Through the application of a structural equation model (SEM), it was noted that a differential correlation exists between a limitless mindset and a self-induced protean attitude concerning aspects of coping, external support seeking, and identity awareness.

The findings brought to light imply that individual self-management through the adoption of a protean attitude is essential for the attainment of outstanding performance in the workplace setting. Further, a boundaryless approach, which is characterized by psychological and emotional movement triggered by workplace challenges, facilitates an employee’s achievement concerning remuneration and promotion. Therefore, Volmer and Spurk (2011) shed more light on the subjective and objective aspects of a protean and boundaryless mindset that was omitted by Briscoe et al. (2012).

In this regard, the findings depict that individual career management is substantially dependent on the attitudes that employees adopt in situations that necessitate strategic coping mechanisms due to changes induced by economic and social tides. Further, the differential correlation was portrayed in the outcome elements of job search behavior, performance, psychological health, and career success (Briscoe et al. 2012). Therefore, this feature emphasizes the need for employees to brace themselves in the event of challenging moments like in the case of economic recessions by developing a professional approach that focuses on success despite the hurdles. Furthermore, the two models, boundaryless mindset, and a self-directed protean attitude manifest their significance in developing skills that are useful for coping with insecure workplace environments. Essentially, seeking external support, identity awareness, and active coping strategies are vital for surviving in unpredictable workplace settings thereby, facilitating the drive towards successful career development.

Cultural Adjustment and Perceptions of Alienation

Besides the adoption of a self-directed protean and a boundaryless mindset as emphasized by Briscoe et al. (2012), Cao, Hirschi, and Deller (2013) suggest that it is essential for employees to consider the cultural adjustment as a coping strategy. Turbulent economic tendencies have the capacity of evoking the thoughts of shifting to other economies with the aim of securing better working opportunities. However, the issue of cultural adjustment comes into play requiring the workforce to consider the value of learning new values and behaviors. Contrarily, workers should strive to become self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) by adopting self-protean attitudes that integrate cultural diversity (Cao, Hirschi, & Deller 2013).

Therefore, the heterogeneity of the contemporary labor markets characterized by SIEs reveals the essence of attitudes that uphold self-protean approaches to individual career management. In the study conducted by Cao, Hirschi, and Deller (2013) using a sample population from the German setting, it was evident that individuals from diversified cultural backgrounds needed not to shift to other economies to seek for employment if they were self-driven. Thus, thinking outside the square, adopting flexibility, and the inculcation of individual career management skills was crucial for the realization of life satisfaction, career fulfillment, and the intent of remaining in the host country in spite of the harsh economic times.

Hence, the study revealed that personal and career growth would also be achieved in the workplace setting of affiliation regardless of the prevailing conditions. In this respect, SIEs have a better chance of surviving insecure workplace environments through upholding the significance of developing beneficial interactions with other professionals from diverse cultural backgrounds. For this reason, Briscoe et al. (2012) left out the essence of considering survival in the same environment by advocating for seeking external support systems through a boundaryless mindset that is characterized by physical or psychological motion. Conversely, the essence of preferring the host environment was underscored by Cao, Hirschi, and Deller (2013) who valued the importance of a self-protean attitude among professionals.

In the workforce setting, employees could experience instances of alienation that may either manifest in the form of perceptions or reality. In this case, the emotional imbalances have the capacity of inducing negative orientation towards work. As a result, the aspect of alienation triggers adverse outcomes from the employees resulting in unfulfilling experiences. Particularly, the element of perceived alienation in the workplace setting has undermined the career growth of various professionals, and thus it necessitates the employees’ intervention to foster inclusion and active participation regarding the organization’s processes.

Chiaburu, Diaz, and De Vos (2013) investigated the extent to which personal and social perceptions in the workplace contribute to career satisfaction or careerist orientation. The aspect of perceived alienation that could transcend from the personal to the social level was singled out as one of the pivot contributors of employee careerism thereby, negatively predicting their career satisfaction. In this regard, it is essential for employees to replace the negative perceptions of positive relationships that foster inclusion and active participation that would facilitate positive career outcomes (Chiaburu, Diaz, & De Vos 2013). Therefore, negative career outcomes are usually self-induced as depicted by the consequences of apparent personal and social alienation. For this reason, employees should portray emotional stability by disregarding thoughts that make them feel excluded from the larger social group within the organizational setting. In so doing, employees would attain healthy working relationships that enhance their integration into the working processes leading to career growth and development.

Continuous Career Development

Individual career management should be a continuous process that focuses on sound decision-making. In this case, professionals should ready themselves to cope with organizational changes that in most cases are inevitable. Therefore, organizations require the employees to possess adaptation skills that are normally inculcated through training sessions before their integration into the respective communities of practice (Garofano & Salas 2005). An employee should unceasingly depict a protean attitude since it boosts their decision-making endeavors that result in finding solutions to greater challenges in their career that translates to successful in their career.

A model that incorporates prior work from career growth, training, and educational materials that centers on a continuous development process is recommended to implant the necessary skills required for coping with organizational structural changes (Garofano & Salas 2005). The coping model is similar to the one underscored by Cao, Hirschi, and Deller (2013) since it also values the adoption of a protean approach to organizational changes. The difference that the two models portray is that Garofano and Salas (2005) regard the development of structures like prior training to prepare employees’ adaptation to organizational changes and unsecure environments. Therefore, an educational model that enables employees to learn the essential techniques of individual career management complements the efforts geared towards a satisfying career.

Proactive Career Behaviors

An organizational culture shape up the way employees should behave in their professional engagements. In this case, proactive actions are necessary for continued development of an individual’s career since the labor markets have become increasingly competitive day by day. A study conducted by Hirschi, Freund, and Herrmann (2014) investigated the extent to which career behaviors contribute to the personal and professional growth and development. The study involved a sample from the German population consisting of university students, working professionals, and university graduates through the application of a Career Engagement scale. The results showed that the prevalence of behavior proactivity was higher among the working professionals compared to the university students and university graduates. In this light, aspects of vocational identity, career self-efficacy beliefs, and clarity about the career path significantly contribute to the engagement levels among students.

Therefore, students who continually participated in activities about their career pursuit later adopt behaviors that enhance their growth in the job market. In most cases, students do not engage in career management endeavors that are self-directed implying that there is a need to emphasize on the issue at the educational level to facilitate positive outcomes upon graduation. However, the relevance of self-directed career enhancement behaviors depicted outcome after graduation and the first year of employment as the young professionals strive to learn the survival techniques in the new environment.

Additionally, career attitudes regarding self-efficacy and identity are crucial determinants of proactivity among students leading to job and career fulfillment. In this perspective, Hirschi, Freund, and Herrmann (2014) agree with Garofano and Salas (2005) on the significance of an educational background that enhances self-direction as a continuous process in one’s career endeavors. Further, a clear sense of identity among students and employees is crucial for the development a successful career in the unpredictable and turbulent working environments.

The social cognitive career theory (SCCT) as an embodiment of four overlying, segmental models focuses on the comprehension of choice-making, educational and occupational interest development, career satisfaction, and performance and persistence. Up to now, the theory has stressed content facets of career behavior, for instance, a forecast of the types of activities, career fields, or school subjects that form the foundation for individuals’ educational or vocational comforts and choice paths (Lent & Brown 2013). In this light, the social cognitive model of career self-management enhances the development of behaviors that enhance an employees’ proactivity while undertaking their tasks.

Nonetheless, SCCT may also steer itself to the study of variable process features of career behavior, encompassing such concerns as how employees manage normative tasks. Such a development focus could augment and significantly expand the array of the dependent variables for which SCCT was originally designed. Therefore, Lent and Brown (2013) advocate for a social cognitive approach to career self-management that regards the adaptive process behaviors is strategic for employees to consider in their professional endeavors thereby, complementing the works of Hirschi, Freund, and Herrmann (2014).

Vocational adjustment

Vocational adjustment is also a crucial aspect of career self-management since it facilitates employees’ adaptation to challenging workplace environments. In this regard, employees need to portray particular behaviors that enable them to cope up with the turbulent and unpredictable organizational settings. King (2004) found out that behaviors that include influence, positioning, and boundary management are key aspects of vocational adjustment that facilitate career self-management concerning thwarting working conditions.

Further, the issue of self-efficacy was considered as a prime element of vocational adjustment since it enhances the protean attitude among the employees as argued by King (2004) and Briscoe et al. (2012). Additionally, career anchors and the desire for control should be considered as crucial determinants of career self-management since they boost one’s driving force towards successful employment experiences. However, King (2004) contradicts himself by associating career anchors, the desire for control, and self-efficacy with employees’ maladjustment and negative career outcomes.

A positioning behavior is an important feature of career adjustment since it assists the employees in the instigation of job moves or integration of proposed alterations to the working processes. Through the strategic choice of mobility opportunity that characterizes positioning behavior, professional gear themselves up for experiences that promote their exposure to seniors and skill development. Educational involvement and training investments is also an attribute of positioning behavior as it factors the development of the human capital (King 2004). Therefore, conditioning the employees and preparing them to handle future challenges in their career endeavors. Professionals should engage in active network development and content job innovation in a bid to broaden their links and create fulfilling working experiences regardless of the barriers that they face in the workplace.

King (2004) emphasizes that influence behavior is an equally vital aspect of career self-management. In this case, employees are expected to uphold self-promotion, ingratiation, and upward influence. Therefore, employees need to present themselves in a competent manner that fosters their attractiveness to co-workers and seniors. In so doing, they depict their intent of achieving particular career outcomes, thus contributing to their performance. Moreover, experts in their respective fields need to maintain equilibrium between work demands and network domains as a way of managing their career boundaries.

Career self-management goes hand in hand with effective decision-making implying that successful careers should value the significance of the two aspects. In this perspective, Weng and McElroy (2010) examined the mediation relationship that is triggered by the crystallization of vocational self-concept and career self-management. Based on a Chinese sample population, the study revealed that there is a career self-management directly influences the crystallization of vocational self-concept. Thus, initiatives emanating from the employees with the aim of improving their performance cultivate a sense of professional self-concept crystallization thereby, aligns the individual and the organizations in a manner that is success-oriented.

Job decision effectiveness is a crucial aspect of enhancing the realization of personal and organizational goals. Weng and McElroy (2010) argue that there is direct correlation between career self-management and the effectiveness of job decision-making. For this reason, professionals who continually engage in self-improvement efforts accumulate their chances of making wise and strategic decisions regarding their work processes and career development. Additionally, it would be important to note that vocational self-management crystallization has direct implications on the efficacy of job decisions. Therefore, professionals in their line of duty should endeavor on engagements that foster the crystallization of self-management to enhance their skills concerning finding effective solutions to problematic situations. Moreover, Weng and McElroy (2010) reveal that the crystallization of vocational self-concept moderately mediates the relationship between decision-making efficiency and career self-management in a positive manner.

Proactive personality

A proactive career endeavor considerably facilitates an employee’s self-management through the mediation of career resilience during challenging situations. Moreover, an interactive effect manifests when proactive personality attitude and a public self-consciousness come into play. Consequently, feedback-seeking behaviors develop among employees who portray resilience in handling workplace challenges through proactivity and willingness to embark on new tasks (Chiaburu, Baker, & Pitariu 2006).

In particular, specialists in organizations where the outcomes sum up can outline mediations coordinated at improving the immediate impact of proactive identification on vocational self-management. The intercessions can be associated with dealing with the workers’ vocational flexibility and rebuilding their open reluctance psychologically. Additionally, the capacity to perceive one’s qualities, improvement regions, and general effectiveness is essential before a pioneer can settle on fitting choices to change his or her conduct later on. Therefore, professionals ought to uphold the importance of a proactive personality to foster their decision-making endeavors.


Career self-management is an essential concept that every professional should understand in a bid to initiate efforts that lead to successful careers. Diverse studies have been conducted to identify the elements that are inherent in successful careers through the adoption of individual career management skills and strategies. Key features like a protean and boundaryless attitudes, vocational adjustment, continuous development, and proactive behaviors have received support from various scholars who link them to desirable career outcomes. Therefore, employees should engage in individual career management strategies for the propulsion of their careers to greater heights that result in both life and career satisfaction.

Reference List

Briscoe, J, Henagan, C, Burton, P & Murphy, W 2012, ‘Coping with an insecure employment environment: The differing roles of protean and boundaryless career orientations’, Journal of Vocational Behavior, vol. 80, no. 2, pp. 308-316.

Cao, L, Hirschi, A & Deller, J 2013, ‘The positive effects of a protean career attitude for self- initiated expatriates: Cultural adjustment as a mediator’, Career Development International, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 56-77.

Chiaburu, S, Baker, V & Pitariu, A 2006, ‘Beyond being proactive: what (else) matters for career self-management behaviors’, Career Development International, vol. 11, no. 7, pp. 619-632.

Chiaburu, S, Diaz, I & De Vos, A 2013, ‘Employee alienation: relationships with careerism and career satisfaction’, Journal of Managerial Psychology, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 4-20.

Garofano, C & Salas, E 2005, ‘What influences continuous employee development decisions’, Human Resource Management Review, vol. 15, no.4, pp. 281-304

Hirschi, A, Freund, P & Herrmann, A 2014, ‘The Career Engagement Scale: Development and validation of a measure of proactive career behaviors’, Journal of Career Assessment, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 575-594.

King, Z 2004, ‘Career self-management: Its nature, causes and consequences’, Journal of Vocational Behavior, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 112-133.

Lent, R & Brown, S 2013, ‘Social cognitive model of career self-management: Toward a unifying view of adaptive career behavior across the life span’, Journal of Counseling Psychology, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 557-668.

Volmer, J & Spurk, D 2011, ‘Protean and boundaryless career attitudes: relationships with subjective and objective career success’, Journal of Labor and Market Research, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 207-218.

Weng, Q & Mcelroy, C 2010, ‘Vocational self-concept crystallization as a mediator of the relationship between career self-management and job decision effectiveness’, Journal of Vocational Behavior, vol. 76, no. 2, pp. 234-243.