Maintaining Focus, Energy, and Options over the Career

Dr John Blenkinsopp (Teesside University Business School, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 16 February 2011




Blenkinsopp, J. (2011), "Maintaining Focus, Energy, and Options over the Career", Personnel Review, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 149-150.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The gerontology theorist Aubrey de Grey argues that the first person to live to be 1,000 years old has already been born. His argument, the plausibility of which is supported by a range of eminent scientists, is that we already possess the scientific knowledge required to reverse the various forms of damage cause by ageing and await only the conversion of that science into the necessary technology. Even if de Grey is wildly over‐optimistic about the extent of our ability to prolong life, it is clear what would previously have been viewed as exceptional longevity is going to become relatively commonplace in many countries – an unscientific but telling illustration being that Hallmark now find it commercially worthwhile to produce “Happy 100th Birthday” cards! Throw in a financial crisis which caused wholesale damage to investments and pensions schemes, and economic stimulus packages on a scale which will take generations to repay and you have the situation in which a much longer than expected working life is a reality facing a sizeable proportion of the current workforce

Against the background, this edited text offers a welcome contribution to remedying the career field's neglect of later career. The eight chapters cover a range of topics from mid‐career renewal to post‐retirement “bridge” employment. Most are review chapters, offering a summary of current knowledge and proposing directions for future research. This leads to some rather lengthy chapters, which in a couple of cases would have benefited from some judicious pruning, though perhaps researchers working in these areas, especially doctoral students, will welcome the exhaustive approach. The opening chapter, by Feldman and Vogel, examines how the ageing process interacts with person‐environment fit to produce individually and organisationally important outcomes, developing a set of propositions for future research. Baugh and Sullivan explore the role of mentoring across the lifespan, highlighting the importance of multiple mentoring relationships to longer and more complex careers. Gentry and colleagues tackle the important issue of generational differences in attitudes towards learning at work, often highlighted as one of the negative assumptions employers hold about older workers (“you can't teach an old dog new tricks”). Bown‐Wilson and Perry examine career plateauing in older workers, and show how individual and contextual factors interact. The idea of midcareer renewal is reviewed by Power, who identifies the limits to current knowledge in this area and sets out a research agenda for future work. Wang et al. offer an interesting review of ‘bridge employment’, forms of employment which are seen to bridge between work and retirement. They note that increasing numbers of supposedly retired individuals are returning to the workforce, and the need for researchers to gain a deeper understanding of this key phase of working life is clearly of growing importance. Smith‐Ruig's chapter on the career journey of accountants in Australia highlights the potential for such professionals to reach a career plateau at a relatively young age, and underlines the need for individuals and organisations to think carefully about how existing career patterns and expectations may need to change in the face of much longer careers. The final chapter by Tharenou, on gender and self‐initiated international careers, seems out of keeping with the emphasis elsewhere in the text on issues of age, but is nevertheless an excellent piece and offers a series of well‐developed propositions for future research.

By offering a snapshot of current knowledge in this neglected area of careers research, the editors have put together a collection which will be considerable interest to both established careers scholars and to those new to the field. The careers field is notable for the extent to which edited texts, rather than journal special issues, have frequently proved to be the most important landmarks in the development of the field, and I would not be surprised if the present text comes to be seen as key source of future research on later career. The editors are to be commended for an excellent first volume in what promises to be a valuable series.

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