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Impact of career shocks on Indian MBA careers: an exploratory study

Vivek G. Nair (Department of Organizational Behavior, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Kolkata, India)
Leena Chatterjee (Department of Organizational Behavior, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Kolkata, India)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 17 April 2020

Issue publication date: 6 October 2021




The study explores career shocks in the Indian context and examines their impact on the career development of people with MBAs.


In-depth, semi-structured interviews with 41 Indian MBA graduates were thematically analysed to identify career shocks that resulted in different types of transitions. Eight themes were identified based on ongoing and iterative comparison of these instances.


Outcomes relating to competitive examinations that determined entry into various occupations were the first career shock experienced by participants. Geographical considerations were salient in the deliberations involving events relating to marriage, eldercare and spouse relocation. Events at the workplace that signalled uncertainty, a fall-out with one's boss or a request to relocate, prompted participants to switch employers. Some of the observed differences were gender based. While female MBA graduates adapted to handle both spousal and parental responsibilities, male MBA graduates did the same to shoulder eldercare responsibilities.

Research limitations/implications

The study's retrospective design could have led to concerns regarding memory recall. The use of open-ended questions partially mitigated this, by giving participants the freedom to recount their experiences, to the extent that they could remember.

Practical implications

Organisations in India could customise and strengthen policies to support employees who have maternity and eldercare responsibilities. Managers should make greater efforts to have open communication with their subordinates to overcome the challenges of operating in a culture with high power distance and indirect communication styles.


This study explored different types of career shocks and associated transitions. The Indian context, with its growing economy, large population, collectivistic culture and strong influence of family on careers, enabled a deeper examination of novel career shocks. The study also highlighted the dissimilar impact of career shocks for men and women and people at different career stages.



The authors would like to thank Chetan Joshi, Vidyanand Jha, Devi Vijay, Debabrata Chatterjee and the reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


Nair, V.G. and Chatterjee, L. (2021), "Impact of career shocks on Indian MBA careers: an exploratory study", Career Development International, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 540-561.



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