Understanding non‐work relationships in developmental networks

Wendy Marcinkus Murphy (Department of Management, College of Business, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA)
Kathy E. Kram (Department of Organizational Behavior, School of Management, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Publication date: 30 November 2010



The purpose of this study is to explore the different contributions of work and non‐work relationships that comprise individuals' developmental networks to career success.


A multi‐method approach provides a rich understanding of how work and non‐work developmental relationships combine to support individuals' careers. Survey data were analyzed from 254 working adults who were also part‐time MBA students. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 37 participants.


Quantitative results indicate that non‐work developers provide more overall support than work developers. Support from non‐work developers is positively associated with career satisfaction and life satisfaction. In contrast, support from work developers is positively associated with salary level and career satisfaction. Qualitative data indicate differences in the sub‐functions and quality of support offered by work versus non‐work relationships, particularly in terms of role modeling.

Research limitations/implications

Developmental relationships from different domains emphasize different sub‐functions of support and differentially affect career outcomes. While broad functions – career support, psychosocial support, and role modeling – are identifiable across domains, non‐work relationships provide some distinct sub‐functions from work relationships.

Practical implications

Practicing managers should develop and maintain developmental networks that extend beyond the boundaries of their current organization. Human resource professionals will want to consider how well their initiatives encourage individuals to enlist a variety of potential developers into their networks.


The findings indicate that non‐work relationships are a critical part of developmental networks and individuals' career success.



Marcinkus Murphy, W. and Kram, K. (2010), "Understanding non‐work relationships in developmental networks", Career Development International, Vol. 15 No. 7, pp. 637-663. https://doi.org/10.1108/13620431011094069

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