The system of two career ladders, one for managers, the other for (top‐level) specialists or professionals, has worked satisfactorily up to a certain level. There are, however, indications that there will be a change in the “natural” career progression in the near future. Responsible for this are rising educational level of the workforce, onset of lean, knowledge‐driven companies which are competence‐based, and doubts about the effectiveness of the classical manager. Studies the concept of a “career”, and current changes in career motivations and opportunities of managers and professionals. To illustrate, describes how three large Dutch companies recruit their future top‐level managers and professionals. In particular, the career aspirations and opportunities of an important group of professionals, viz. engineers will be investigated. Finally, suggests how to align career path and motives with organizational requirements, both for managers and for professionals. Compares HRM policy with the way in which Japanese companies manage careers and transitions between managers and professionals.
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