Sub-theme 01: (SWG): Careers within and across Organizations: The Return of Boundaries?

Hugh Gunz
Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Canada
Wolfgang Mayrhofer
Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Polly Parker
University of Queensland, Australia

Call for Papers

Career is a dynamic concept that reflects multiple perspectives, including concepts and variables at many levels of analysis. Part of the great appeal of studying careers comes from the way in which they have the potential "to reveal the nature and 'working constitution' of a society" (Hughes, 1937). Social contexts provide structure to careers and, in turn, are produced and reproduced by career processes.

At its root there is an interesting duality in that each career belongs to an individual and yet does not exist in a social vacuum. Careers provide meaning to individuals' lives, they provide social roles that reproduce societal norms, and careers are fundamental to organizations both locally and globally. Mutual influence and reciprocity are increasingly evident, and across multiple levels of analysis. The influence of the environment and of societal changes on career development and progression has been clearly demonstrated by the alteration to traditional patterns in recent years.

One way to conceptualize the impact of context on career is via career boundaries, which constrain, enable and punctuate careers and ultimately are essential for the individual and collective meaning of careers. For the past fifteen years much career scholarship has addressed the issue of boundaries in terms of boundary-crossing. Perhaps the best-known label that has been attached to this school of thought – the boundaryless career – has encouraged many scholars to adopt the view that careers are no longer subject to boundaries; in other words, that individual agency is, now, the only thing that matters in determining how careers work out. An alternative view is that boundaries do matter, and that agency-controlled – boundaryless – careers cannot be understood properly without a full understanding of the boundaries that they transcend.

In this sub-theme we address this question of agency vs. social determinism from the perspective of different kind of boundaries and their respective characteristics. We welcome papers examining such questions as:

  • To what extent have changes in the nature of work, and the social arrangements within which work happens, resulted in career boundaries disappearing, or is it just that, for some people, they have become more permeable?
  • Are there certain kinds of work, or certain kinds of person, for which or whom this is more true?
  • What evidence do we have for this shift, and are there changes on the horizon that may be portending further changes in the way that boundaries can be expected to shape careers?
  • What types of boundaries are relevant for a better understanding of careers?
  • Do we see changes to career-relevant boundaries as a result of economic, legal, demographic, societal, etc. developments?
  • What is the relationship between careers and relevant boundaries?

These questions are merely examples; we also welcome other papers addressing the issue of boundaries in careers.


Hughes, E.C. (1937): Institutional Office and the Person, American Journal of Sociology, 43, pp. 404-413.


Hugh Gunz 
Wolfgang Mayrhofer 
Polly Parker