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The meaning of career success: Avoiding reification through a closer inspection of historical, cultural, and ideological contexts

Nicky Dries (Faculty of Business and Economics, Research Centre for Organisation Studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 16 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which the concept of career success has been subject to reification, and identify potential implications for individuals, organizations, and societies.

Design/methodology/approach

The current paper offers an in‐depth analysis of the different contextual forces contributing to the reification of careers (i.e. history, culture and ideology), and how these have impacted on the social reality of career and the definitions of career success held by different relevant actors.

Findings

In total, eight research propositions are identified that need to be addressed in future research in order to advance knowledge and understanding of career success in context.

Social implications

One manifest outcome of career reification is the establishment of collective norms prescribing what a “normal”, “successful” career is – and what is not. Consequently, all careers not conforming to these norms are devaluated, which is inappropriate given the present‐day climate of workplace diversity.

Originality/value

Career theory, in general, has been criticized for overemphasizing individual agency while neglecting contextual issues. Furthermore, more conceptual development is necessary in relation to the career success construct. The current paper aims to address both of these gaps by presenting in‐depth analyses of the historical, cultural, and ideological contexts impacting on the meaning of career and career success.

Keywords

Citation

Dries, N. (2011), "The meaning of career success: Avoiding reification through a closer inspection of historical, cultural, and ideological contexts", Career Development International, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 364-384. https://doi.org/10.1108/13620431111158788

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited