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Career success in academia

Karma Sherif (Department of Accounting and Information Systems, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar)
Ning Nan (Management Information Systems Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Jeff Brice (Department of Business Administration, Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 31 July 2020

Issue publication date: 4 December 2020




In this study, the authors explore the boundaryless careers of faculty and adopt the intelligent career framework to examine success factors for academic careers.


The authors conducted a field study of 36 researchers in the management information systems field from 22 institutions in the US, Australia and Canada. The authors selected the participants representing four strata of researchers: luminaries (high expertise status and high citizenship behavior), experts (high expertise status but low leadership roles), statesmen (low expertise status but high leadership) and journeymen (low expertise status and low leadership). Data regarding the participants' experience of social relationships and social resources as well as entrepreneurial motivations were collected and analyzed.


Results show that faculty who “know-why”, “know-how”, and “know with whom” possess socially valued resources and are successful in advancing their careers. They establish high social status and exercise power within their networks to mobilize resources that promote their careers. On the other hand, faculty who fall short of these competencies impose social closure on themselves and do not strive to exploit resources available through their contacts. The study advances a number of theoretical propositions to guide future research on boundaryless intelligent careers.

Social implications

Social relationships and social resources do not substitute individual competence, leadership and entrepreneurial motivations; individuals need to develop competence valued by their professional communities and exploit available opportunities and assume leadership roles in order to effectively establish instrumental relationships and mobilize social resources to achieve career advancement.


In this study, we attempt to extend career development research through an examination of the bidirectional relationship between know-why, know-how and know-who in academia.



The Authors would like to thank the Associate Editor, anonymous reviewers, and Professors Shaila Miranda, Bob Zmud, and Habib Mahama for their many constructive suggestions and insightful comments.


Sherif, K., Nan, N. and Brice, J. (2020), "Career success in academia", Career Development International, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 597-616.



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