Original Research

Tales of the unexpected: Integrating career shocks in the contemporary careers literature

Jos Akkermans, Scott E. Seibert, Stefan T. Mol
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 44 | a1503 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v44i0.1503 | © 2018 Jos Akkermans, Scott E. Seibert, Stefan T. Mol | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 November 2017 | Published: 19 April 2018

About the author(s)

Jos Akkermans, Department of Management and Organization, School of Business and Economics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands
Scott E. Seibert, Department of Management, Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon, United States
Stefan T. Mol, Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Orientation: This article addresses the interplay between individual agency and contextual factors in contemporary career development processes. In light of the prominence of the former in the contemporary scholarly debate, we present a case for a more comprehensive approach by heeding the latter as well.


Research purpose: The main aim of this article was to provide a definition and conceptualisation of career shocks, as well as an agenda for future research on this topic.


Motivation for the study: Most of the contemporary careers literature has overemphasised the role of individual agency in career development. While certainly important, we argue that we also need to address the role of context – in this case, career shocks – in order to gain a fuller appreciation of career development processes.


Main conclusions and implications: We provide a definition of career shocks based on the existing literature related to chance events and turnover. In addition, we provide an overview of attributes of career shocks, potentially valuable theoretical perspectives and key issues for future research.


Contribution: This article brings together several existing streams of literature related to career shocks and provides an integrative definition and conceptualisation. We hope that this will ignite future research on an important but often overlooked topic.


career shocks; chance events; career development; sustainable career


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doi: 10.3166/rfg.2020.00491