The Evolution of the Boundaryless Career Concept: Examining Physical and Psychological Mobility

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rJournal of Vocational Behavior 69 (2006) 19–29 www.elsevier.com/locate/jvb

The evolution of the boundaryless career concept: Examining physical and psychological mobility Sherry E. Sullivan a,¤, Michael B. Arthur b,1
Department of Management, College of Business, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA b Sawyer School of Management, SuVolk University, 8 Ashurton Place, Boston, MA 02108, USA Received 8 September 2005 Available online 16 November 2005 a

Abstract Although there has been increased interest in the boundaryless career since the publication of Arthur and Rousseau’s book (1996), there is still some misunderstanding about what the concept means. This article examines the boundaryless career and presents a model that attempts to visually capture Arthur and Rousseau’s suggestion that the concept involves six underlying meanings. Rather than considering whether or not an individual has a boundaryless career, the model focuses on the degree of mobility reXected in a career along two continua: one psychological, one physical. Based on the model, we suggest Wve propositions and a series of directions for future research. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Keywords: Career; Boundaryless; Protean; Women; Transitions; Mobility; Gender

1. Introduction There have been calls for greater clarity of terms and further conceptualization of the boundaryless career (e.g., Inkson, 2002; Pringle & Mallon, 2003; Sullivan, 1999) and its distinction from the concept of the protean career (Briscoe, Hall, & DeMuth, 2006; Hall, 1996; Hall, Briscoe, & Kram, 1997). Some authors have considered the boundaryless career Thanks to Jon Briscoe, Madeline Crocitto, Tim Hall, Kerr Inkson, Sally Power, and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. * Corresponding author. Fax: +1 419 372 6057. E-mail addresses: ssulliv@cba.bgsu.edu (S.E. Sullivan), marthur@suVolk.edu (M.B. Arthur). 1 Fax: +1 617 994 4260. 0001-8791/$ - see front matter © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2005.09.001

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S.E. Sullivan, M.B. Arthur / Journal of Vocational Behavior 69 (2006) 19–29

as involving only physical changes in work arrangements. In contrast, other authors have considered the protean career concept as involving only psychological changes. However, this separation between physical (or objective) career changes and psychological (or subjective) career changes neglects the interdependence between the physical and psychological career worlds. The result is a body of work that lacks applicability for the individual, who needs to take both physical and psychological issues into account. Similarly, it lacks applicability for the practicing manager or career counselor who seeks to support the individual. While recent research has begun to recognize the links between physical and psychological career changes (e.g., Marler, Barringer, & Milkovich, 2002; Peiperl, Arthur, GoVee, & Morris, 2000; Valcour & Tolbert, 2003), there still remain rich opportunities for further research. In this article, we seek to stimulate new research by focusing on two questions. First, how can we further clarify and elaborate on the meaning of the boundaryless career? Second, how can we better explore the possible interaction of mobility across (a) physical and (b) psychological boundaries? We begin by examining Arthur and Rousseau’s (1996) deWnition of the boundaryless career as well as its subsequent interpretation and application. Next, we present a model to better illustrate the physical and psychological aspects of boundaryless careers. Using this model as a basis, we explore how career competencies, gender, culture, and individual diVerences inXuence individuals’ opportunities for physical and psychological mobility. Finally, we discuss the implications of these ideas for both practice and future research. 2. Mobility across physical and psychological boundaries Arthur and...
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