PDW 09: Bricolaging Careers – Challenging Perfection and Celebrating Imperfection through Careers Research

Angelika Schmidt
WU Wien – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Katharina Chudzikowski
University of Bath, United Kingdom
Axel Haunschild
Leibniz University Hannover, Germany

Call for Applications


Alexandra Bristow, The Open University, United Kingdom
Nadia DeGama, AFG College with the University of Aberdeen, Qatar
Olivier Ratle, University of the West of England, United Kingdom
Sarah Robinson, Glasgow University, United Kingdom


In this PDW we want to question the construction of careers based on the notions of perfection and ‘excellence’ and their underlying organizational and professional norms (see, for example, Grey, 1994, Butler & Spoelstra 2012; Chudzikowski et al., 2020).Specifically, we want to reaffirm and re-examine how careers unfold as imperfect life stories and narratives of the self, over time, in diverse contexts and circumstances, and through a varied interplay of power/resistance and structure/agency relations.
Around the world, careers are becoming increasingly normative and prescribed as professionals are losing autonomy and following neoliberal scripts (see for example Dinovitzer et al., 2015; Gustafsson et al., 2018), and many others operate under unsustainable expectations and workloads in the name of relentless productivity, excellence and perfection. This not only stifles innovation and diversity but also makes professional lives increasingly unhealthy (Bristow et al., 2019; Ratle et al., 2020). By contrast, the aim of this PDW is to explore and celebrate the diversity of alternative and creative career trajectories and conditions for bricolaging careers by carefully observing, listening to and discussing narratives of careers that appear imperfect and different. We will pose questions about the assumptions of perfectly crafted and planned careers and challenge them through the notion of bricolage (Pratt et al., 2020).
Bricolage is a useful metaphor that helps us reconsider the way in which people assign meaning to their careers: it considers the way in which individuals may construct, or carefully piece their careers, drawing on a diverse range of artifacts within a given context. As bricoleurs, the convenors and facilitators will trigger the discussion through questions and issues arising from a range of their research of different types of careers, namely: researching careers in the corporate world, in academia, in creative and in an international context. Flashlights from this research are questioning performance-oriented norms (e.g. Beer et al., 2021), for example, showing many alternative ways of doing academic careers differently (e.g. Robinson et al., forthcoming). Just as exciting are the developments with regards to careers in the creative field (e.g. artists, journalists, freelancers, …), often combined with hybrid forms of work and employment, showing tendencies of professionalization, diversification and fragmentation that challenge linear clear trajectories and existing occupational values. These insights are rounded off by critically questioning careers in an international context by focussing on existing norms surrounding foreignness, citizenship, and belonging. These are examples for nuances of possible other, new, imperfect constructions of careers.
Bringing together researchers studying imperfect careers and career bricolage, the PDW will offer a timely re-evaluation of what constitutes fulfilling and successful careers, and will set out promising directions for future research that takes a more holistic and inclusive look into careers. We invite contributions to this PDW that consider how the lens of imperfection can help us see alternative and different ways of ‘doing‘ careers which challenge organisational and professional norms. In doing so we are keen to attract contributions that develop further sociological/relational approaches to career work, questioning and looking beyond the agentic and individual focus of career studies.
By employing an eclectic approach to the ways in which people assign meaning to careers, we want to enable a broad discussion that reflects the diversity of perspectives in studying careers. We invite a broad range of participants, including PhD students, early career scholars, as well as more experienced academics to think about other nuances, alternatives, and approaches to doing career research and submit their ideas.


The PDW will include a mixture of short presentations by the organizers and participants where the participants are invited to give a short pitch of their contribution. Our aim is to facilitate small group work and roundtables as well as plenary collective sessions incorporating bricolage work.
Additionally, we plan to offer the participants an opportunity to go on an exploration tour after the workshop. After lunch at a social dinners near to the venue a successful British radio host will take us through his Vienna and show us his approaches to bricolaging career in a space like Vienna.


The PDW intends to offer an experimental setting for the session, e.g. an art gallery to encourage the viewing of careers from different angles and to explore the cracks of imperfection in the careers varnish. We will encourage participants to engage with non-traditional representations of careers as different and challenging.
To apply for this PDW, please submit – via the EGOS website – by April 30, 2022 a single document (.docx or .pdf file) that includes:

  • A cover page with full details of name, affiliation, email address;
  • A reflexive paper (of around 1,000 words), including (a) your idea and statement of interest for the contribution; (b) a reflection of how your conceptual and/or empirical ideas can help to bricolage or approach careers research in new and different ways, and (c) a reflection on some of the challenges for realizing your ideas;
  • A visualization of an artefact (e.g. pictures, sculptures, etc.) that expresses the basic ideas of your reflective paper.

In the workshop, participants will be supported to develop their work and ideas further through feedback, questioning, discussion and guidance from facilitators and fellow participants.


  • Beer, H.A., Micheli, P., & Besharov, M.L. (2022, in press): “Meaning, Mission, and Measurement: How Organizational Performance Measurement Shapes Perceptions of Work as Worthy.” Academy of Management Journal, first published online on November 3, 2021; https://journals.aom.org/doi/10.5465/amj.2019.0916
  • Bristow, A., Robinson, S., & Ratle, O. (2019: “Academic Arrhythmia: Disruption, Dissonance, and Conflict in the Early-Career Rhythms of CMS Academics.” Academy of Management Learning and Education, 18 (2), 241–260.
  • Butler, N., & Spoelstra, S. (2012): “Your Excellency.” Organization, 19 (6), 891–903.
  • Chudzikowski, K., Gustafsson, S., & Tams, S. (2020): “Constructing alignment for sustainable careers: Insights from the career narratives of management consultants.” Journal of Vocational Behavior, 117, 103312;
  • Dinovitzer, R., Gunz, H., & Gunz, S. (2015): “Professional ethics: Origins, applications and developments.” In: L. Empson, D. Muzio, J. Broschak & B. Hinings (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 113–134.
  • Grey, C. (1994): “Career as a project of the self and labour process discipline.” Sociology, 28 (2), 479–497.
  • Gustafsson, S., Swart, J., & Kinnie, N. (2018): “’They are your testimony’: Professionals, clients and the creation of client capture during professional career progression.” Organization Studies, 39 (1), 73–92.
  • Pratt, M. G., Sonenshein, S. & Feldman, Martha S. (2020): “Moving Beyond Templates: A Bricolage Approach to Conducting Trustworthy Qualitative Research.” Organizational Research Methods, 1–28., first published online on June 9, 2020; https://doi/10.1177/1094428120927466
  • Ratle, O., Robinson, S., Bristow, A., & Kerr, R. (2020): “Mechanisms of micro-terror? Early career CMS academics’ experiences of ‘targets and terror’ in contemporary business schools.” Management Learning, 51 (4), 452–471.
  • Robinson, S., Bristow, A., & Ratle, O. (eds.) (forthcoming): Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life. London: Routledge.
Angelika Schmidt is an Associate Professor at the Department Management at WU Wien (Vienna University of Economics and Business), Austria. Her work focuses on issues of organization studies, employment relations, HR-strategies, diversity and gender issues. Angelika has published in numerous international journals, such as ‘Journal of Managerial Psychology’, ‘Gender Work and Organization’, ‘British Journal of Management’, and ‘Organization’.
Katharina Chudzikowski works as Associate Professor at the School of Management, University of Bath, United Kingdom. Her research focuses on changing work practices and working careers across cultures. Particularly, she is interested in the interrelatedness of individual actors and forms of organizing. Katharina has several scientific and practical publications, including articles in the ‘Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Journal of Vocational Behaviour’, ‘Human Resource Management Journal’, and ‘International Journal of Human Resource Management’.
Axel Haunschild is Professor of Work and Employment Studies at Leibniz University Hannover, Germany. His research interests include changing forms of work, employment and organization, cultural industries, sustainability from an industrial relations perspective, organizations and lifestyles, and organizational boundaries. Axel has published in journals such as ‘Human Relations’, ‘Journal of Organizational Behavior’, ‘British Journal of Industrial Relations’, ‘International Journal of Human Resource Management’, and ‘Organization & Environment’.