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Do social capital and project type vary across career paths in project‐based work? The case of Hollywood personal assistants

Paul F. Skilton (Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness, Arizona State University‐Polytechnic, Mesa, Arizona, USA)
Jesus Bravo (Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness, Arizona State University‐Polytechnic, Mesa, Arizona, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 August 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the extent to which project preferences and social capital constrain mobility in project‐based careers.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper analyzes the careers of 352 individuals who entered the motion picture industry between 1988 and 1990. It uses motion picture credit histories to generate role sequence paths. The paper quantifies differences between paths using optimal matching techniques and cluster analysis to classify paths into clusters. It validates the classification by testing hypotheses about differences between path clusters.

Findings

In addition to a large group of individuals who exit the industry after the initial credit, the paper identifies three distinct clusters of career paths that exhibit differences in the sex of individuals on them, in the persistence of relationships with employers, in employer characteristics, and in the nature of subsequent projects.

Research limitations/implications

Because the paper is exploratory, general hypotheses are tested. Motion picture production may be an extreme example of project‐based production, which would limit generalizability.

Practical implications

Managers, individuals and career experts should recognize that mobility can be constrained and channeled by preferences in project type and by social capital. Employer celebrity appears to play no role in the careers of assistants, but control over many projects plays a significant role.

Originality/value

The paper demonstrates non‐organizational constraints on mobility in project‐based, apparently boundaryless, self‐managed careers.

Keywords

Citation

Skilton, P.F. and Bravo, J. (2008), "Do social capital and project type vary across career paths in project‐based work? The case of Hollywood personal assistants", Career Development International, Vol. 13 No. 5, pp. 381-401. https://doi.org/10.1108/13620430810891437

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited