Sub-theme 01: (SWG) Careers: Multi-level Issues in Theory, Methodology and Empirical Research

Wolfgang Mayrhofer
WU University of Economics and Business, Austria
Hugh Gunz
University of Toronto, Canada
Marijke Verbruggen
KU Leuven, Belgium

Call for Papers

Careers are multi-level phenomena. They take place at the 'intersection of societal history and individual biography' (Grandjean, 1981: 1057) linking micro- and macro-frames of references (Schein, 1978) and are central to understanding how individuals, institutions and society interact (Hughes, 1937; Mills, 2000 [Orig. 1959]; Barley, 1989). Yet, skepticism is widespread about the field of career studies’ achievements in this respect (e.g. Arthur, 2008; Jones & Dunn, 2007). The reasons for this are manifold and include insufficient interdisciplinary work (e.g. Khapova & Arthur, 2011; Lawrence, 2011), the partial neglect of context (Mayrhofer et al., 2007), or a lack of a joint theoretical language allowing communication between various discourses (Gunz & Mayrhofer, 2011). However, one common denominator derives from the theoretical, methodological, and empirical demands resulting from the multi-level quality of careers.

Theoretically, a comprehensive understanding of careers requires theoretical frameworks spanning different levels of social complexity. From its early stages on, the field of career studies has been rooted in a broad view embedding individuals in a dynamic interaction with their environment. Early descriptive works from the Chicago school looking at hobos (Anderson, 1923), taxi hall dancers (Cressey, 1932) or jack rollers (Shaw, 1930) are just harbingers for later conceptual and empirical work capturing various levels of social complexity (e.g. Hughes, 1958). Methodologically, multi-level analyses (Sniders, 2011; Klein & Kozlowski, 2000) provide formidable challenges. They not only require an in-depth knowledge of the available methods, but also depend on the availability of adequate data. Empirically, multi-level designs pose problems, too. At the least they entail the use of different sources of data, e.g. individual survey data tailored to the study and nation-wide data such as unemployment rates or culture variables collected for different purposes. In any case, they require substantial efforts and use of resources to gather a data set which covers various levels (e.g. van Veldhoven & Dorenbosch, 2008; Sveningsson & Alvesson, 2003).

Against this backdrop, the SWG/sub-theme 01 invites papers which address one or several multi-level issues. They can have a theoretical, methodological or empirical focus or combine them. Examples include, but certainly are not limited to conceptual papers presenting multi-level frameworks; methodological papers showing how multi-level analysis can be made fruitful in career studies; and empirical papers using a multi-level design to answer a career-related question. In terms of content, papers from all areas of career studies are welcome.




  • Anderson, N. (1923): The Hobo. The Sociology of the Homeless Man. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Arthur, M.B. (2008): "Examining contemporary careers: A call for interdisciplinary enquiry." Human Relations, 61 (2), 163–186.
  • Barley, S.R. (1989): "Careers, identities, and institutions: the legacy of the Chicago School of Sociology." In: M.B. Arthur, D.T. Hall & B.S. Lawrence (eds.): Handbook of Career Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 41–65.
  • Cressey, P.G. (1932): The Taxi-Dance Hall. A Sociological Study in Commercialized Recreation and City Life. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Grandjean, B.D. (1981): "History and career in a bureaucratic labor market." American Journal of Sociology, 86 (5), 1057–1092.
  • Gunz, H., & Mayrhofer, W. (2011): "Re-conceptualizing career success: a contextual approach." Journal for Labour Market Research, 43 (3), 251–260.
  • Hughes, E.C. (1937): "Institutional Office and the Person." American Journal of Sociology, 43 (3), 404–413.
  • Hughes, E.C. (1958): Men and Their Work. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press of Glencoe.
  • Jones, C., & Dunn, M.B. (2007): "Careers and institutions: The centrality of careers to organizational studies." In: H. Gunz & M.A. Peiperl (eds.): Handbook of Career Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, pp. 437–450.
  • Khapova, S.N., & Arthur, M.B. (2011): "Interdisciplinary approaches to contemporary career studies." Human Relations, 64 (1), 3–17.
  • Klein, K.J., & Kozlowski, S.W.J. (eds.) (2000): Multilevel Theory, Research, and Methods in Organizations: Foundations, Extensions, and New Directions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Lawrence, B.S. (2011): "Careers, social context and interdisciplinary thinking." Human Relations, 64 (1), 59–84.
  • Mayrhofer, W., Meyer, M., & Steyrer, J. (2007): "Contextual issues in the study of careers." In: H.P. Gunz & M.A. Peiperl (eds.): Handbook of Career Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, pp. 215–240.
  • Mills, C.W. (2000) [Orig. 1959]: The Sociological Imagination. Fortieth anniversary edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Schein, E.H. (1978): Career Dynamics: Matching Individual and Organizational Needs. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Shaw, C.R. (1930): The Jack-Roller. A Delinquent Boy's Own Story. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Sniders, T.A.B. (2011): "Multilevel analysis." In: M. Lovric (ed.): International Encyclopedia of Statistical Science. Berlin: Springer, pp. 879–882.
  • Sveningsson, S., & Alvesson, M. (2003): "Managing managerial identities: organizational fragmentation, discourse and identity struggle." Human Relations, 56 (10), 1163–1193.
  • van Veldhoven, M., & Dorenbosch, L. (2008): "Age, proactivity and career development." Career Development International, 13 (2), 112–131.


Wolfgang Mayrhofer is a Professor of Management and Organisational Behaviour at the WU, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. Research on human resource management, careers, leadership, social systems theory; published in a wide variety of journals, 26 authored, co-authored or co-edited books.
Hugh Gunz is a Professor of Organizational Behaviour, University of Toronto, Canada. Research on careers, the management of professionals and ethics in a wide variety of journals as well as three books (incl. co-editing the "Handbook of Career Studies", published by SAGE in 2007).
Marijke Verbruggen is Associate Professor of HRM and Organizational Behaviour, KU Leuven, Belgium. Research on careers, work-life issues, person-environment fit, unemployment and underemployment published in academic journals and policy-oriented journals and book chapters.