Kaleidoscope Careers and Evolving HRM Issues

Kaleidoscope Careers and Evolving HRM Issues

Sherry E. Sullivan (Bowling Green State University, USA), Lisa A. Mainiero (Charles F. Dolan School of Business, USA) and Siri Terjesen (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-883-3.ch085
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Abstract

The quotations from Isobel and Jackie illustrate the very real problems that individuals encounter when trying to combine work, family, and lifestyle activities. In the course of our research, we interviewed thousands of men and women, who like Isobel and Jackie, were enacting nontraditional careers; careers based on their personal values, relationships, and life priorities rather than careers dominated by corporate values. Like many others, both Isobel and Jackie later left their corporate jobs to start their own companies. This growing phenomenon of individuals, especially women, leaving established, “plum” corporate jobs was highlighted in recent media stories regarding the “opt-out revolution” which emphasized women’s desire to focus on family rather than career. Similarly, there was a shift in the academic literature away from models that focused on describing careers as a linear sequence of hierarchical promotions in one or two organizations to concepts that reflect nonlinear career structures and view careers as having “multidirectional” patterns (Baruch, 2004). This new, nontraditional, flexible career model has been described as “boundaryless,” “protean,” “post-corporate,” “intelligent,” and “customized” (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996; Arthur Inkson & Pringle, 1999; Hall, 1996; Peiperl & Baruch, 1997; Valcour, Bailyn, & Quijada, 2005). Many of these newer models, however, fail to fully recognize workplaces changes due to increased globalization and technological advances and fail to fully capture the differences in how men and women enact their careers (Powell & Mainiero, 1992, 1993).
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I was transferred to the Berlin project, so I commute from London to Berlin. My parents live around the corner and look after my son during the week, but this situation is unsustainable in the long term.

—Jackie, Senior Manager, Consulting Firm

Tomorrow morning, my daughter is in the main part of a school play. It starts at 9:15, so my first appointment will start at mid-day... I was on the phone last night until 11pm for a client. It’s a give and take.

—Isobel, Headhunter, Recruiting Agency

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Introduction

The quotations from Isobel and Jackie illustrate the very real problems that individuals encounter when trying to combine work, family, and lifestyle activities. In the course of our research, we interviewed thousands of men and women, who like Isobel and Jackie, were enacting nontraditional careers; careers based on their personal values, relationships, and life priorities rather than careers dominated by corporate values. Like many others, both Isobel and Jackie later left their corporate jobs to start their own companies. This growing phenomenon of individuals, especially women, leaving established, “plum” corporate jobs was highlighted in recent media stories regarding the “opt-out revolution” which emphasized women’s desire to focus on family rather than career. Similarly, there was a shift in the academic literature away from models that focused on describing careers as a linear sequence of hierarchical promotions in one or two organizations to concepts that reflect nonlinear career structures and view careers as having “multidirectional” patterns (Baruch, 2004). This new, nontraditional, flexible career model has been described as “boundaryless,” “protean,” “post-corporate,” “intelligent,” and “customized” (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996; Arthur Inkson & Pringle, 1999; Hall, 1996; Peiperl & Baruch, 1997; Valcour, Bailyn, & Quijada, 2005). Many of these newer models, however, fail to fully recognize workplaces changes due to increased globalization and technological advances and fail to fully capture the differences in how men and women enact their careers (Powell & Mainiero, 1992, 1993).

To understand the changes that are taking place in this new age of careers, Mainiero and Sullivan (2005, 2006) developed the kaleidoscope career model (KCM). A kaleidoscope career is a career created on an individual’s own terms, defined not by a corporation but by the individual’s own values, life choices, and parameters. Like a kaleidoscope, a career is dynamic and in motion; as an individual’s life changes, his/her career pattern can be altered to adjust to these changes rather than relinquishing control and allowing a corporation to dictate time demands associated with work. Unlike most of the previous research on careers (Sullivan, 1999), the KCM recognizes gender differences and takes a broader perspective by examining work/non-work issues rather than work/family issues so that relationships with friends, elderly relatives, and community members, as well as oneself (e.g., personal development and needs) are also factored into career decisions. Similarly, the KCM also considers how societal factors (e.g., discrimination, stereotyping, and government policies) and environmental influences (e.g., organizational culture, workplace policies, supervisor attitudes, and behaviors) impact the career choices of men and women. And unlike the traditional career models, the KCM can be readily used to the help explain the phenomenon of individuals, especially women, opting-out of corporate life to start new entrepreneurial ventures.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Challenge: One of the parameters of the kaleidoscope career model which emphasizes engaging in activities that permit one to demonstrate responsibility, control, and autonomy while learning and growing.

Balance: One of the parameters of the kaleidoscope career model which emphasizes making decisions so that the different aspects of one’s life, both work and non-work, form a coherent whole.

Authenticity: One of the parameters of the kaleidoscope career model which emphasizes being genuine, being true to oneself, and making career choices base on one’s own values.

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