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Keep the expert! Occupational expertise, perceived employability and job search: A study across age groups

Ans De Vos (Antwerp Management School and Faculty of Applied Economic Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium)
Anneleen Forrier (Faculty of Economics and Business, KU Leuven, Antwerp, Belgium)
Beatrice Van der Heijden (Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands) (Open University of The Netherlands, Heerlen, The Netherlands) (Kingston University, London, UK)
Nele De Cuyper (Department of Occupational and Organisational Psychology and Professional Learning, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




In the current war for talent employers are concerned about the idea that the best employees are more likely to leave the organization for another employer (i.e. the management paradox). This study tests this management paradox. The purpose of this paper is to advance our understandings of how employees’ occupational expertise is associated with job search intensity, through its assumed relationships with perceived internal and external employability in the internal and the external labor market. The authors thereby tested the research model across three different age groups (young, middle-aged, and senior employees).


The authors conducted a survey among 2,137 professional workers and applied multi-group structural equation modeling.


Perceived internal employability negatively mediated the relationship between occupational expertise and job search intensity, whilst there was a positive mediational effect of perceived external employability. Age had a moderating effect on the association between perceived internal employability and job search intensity.

Research limitations/implications

The findings contribute to the scholarly literature on the management paradox, and the empirical work on employability and age.

Practical implications

Organizations can recoup their investments in expert workers’ employability and enhance their retention by providing opportunities for internal career development.


This study is original by including both internal and external employability. By doing so, the authors thereby shedding new light on how occupational expertise might explain job search and how this relationship differs depending on employee age, thereby using a large sample of respondents.



De Vos, A., Forrier, A., Van der Heijden, B. and De Cuyper, N. (2017), "Keep the expert! Occupational expertise, perceived employability and job search: A study across age groups", Career Development International, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 318-332.



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