Product Information:-

  • Journals
  • Books
  • Case Studies
  • Regional information
Real World Research - #RealWorldResearch
Request a service from our experts.

The Role of Career Shocks in Career Development: Integrating Structure and Agency

Special issue call for papers from Career Development International


Call for Papers for Special Issue of Career Development International

Guest Editorial Team
Jos Akkermans, School of Business and Economics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Ricardo Rodrigues, School of Management and Business, King’s College London, UK
Scott Seibert, Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon, USA
Svetlana N. Khapova, School of Business and Economics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Stefan T. Mol, Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The aim of this special issue is to spur research on the role that career shocks have in contemporary career development processes. Such shocks – or chance events – were a prominent part of the scholarly discussion from the 1960s through 1980s (e.g., Hart et al., 1971; Miller, 1983; Roe and Baruch, 1967). However, despite the increased uncertainty and unpredictability associated with contemporary careers, interest in the topic of career shocks appears to have waned. This may in part be attributed to the introduction of the boundaryless and protean career perspectives (e.g., Briscoe and Hall, 2006) that have come to dominate the careers literature since the 1990s. Specifically these perspectives have led to a focus on the role of individual agency, including topics such as career self-management (King, 2004) and proactive career behaviors (De Vos et al., 2009). Indeed, in a recent review of published papers in four core career journals, Akkermans and Kubasch (2017) found that the most popular topics were all related to individual agency, featuring topics such as career success, career mobility, and employability. This dominance of agency-related constructs makes sense, given the widespread consensus that careers have become more complex and unpredictable (e.g., Vuori et al., 2012), and thus that individuals have to take charge and proactively self-manage their careers. Yet the boundaryless perspective, which highlights the more unpredictable and interrupted nature of careers, also suggests careers with more open and permeable boundaries will likely be impacted by many unexpected major events. This is evidenced by recent studies that have shown that chance events not only occur in most peoples’ lives but also have a major impact on their careers (e.g., Bright et al., 2005; Williams et al., 1998). Therefore, to supplement existing theoretical thinking about career development, research needs to incorporate these important events that are part of most, if not all, people’s careers. In addition, the interplay between agency and career shocks would be of great interest, for example in studying whether career self-management behaviors and proactivity may better equip individuals to deal with major unexpected events in their career.
Major events that occur in peoples’ lives, and which are often unexpected, have an important role in career development (Hirschi, 2010). Such events have been referred to as chance events (Bright et al., 2005), serendipity (Betsworth and Hansen, 1996), happenstance (Miller, 1983) and career shocks (Seibert et al., 2013). In a recent paper, Akkermans, Seibert & Mol (submitted for publication) characterized career shocks as disruptive and extraordinary events that are, at least partially, outside an individual’s control, and which trigger an active choice process with regard to one’s career. Examples of such events include a promotion or job offer (“positive shocks”), or a major reorganization or job loss (“negative shocks”). Research has shown that such events may impact career outcomes in various ways, for example by affecting subjective career success (Hirschi, 2010) and career decision making (Hirschi and Valero, 2017; Seibert et al., 2013) among various groups, such as academics (Greco et al., 2015), young workers (Hirschi, 2010), and individuals with disabilities (Rojewski, 1999). Taken together, there is clear evidence that career shocks are an important factor in career development.
We believe research on career shocks can serve as a valuable counterbalance to the recent emphasis on individual agency in the careers literature. We would argue that now, more than ever, we need to enhance and reintegrate the study of career shocks into the contemporary careers literature. One reason for this is the growing complexity and flexibility of careers (Vuori et al., 2012) because of major changes on the labor market characterized by more flexible, dynamic, and “gig” employment types (Kalleberg and Marsden, 2015). These changes can reduce employment security and predictability, and are likely accompanied by an increase in seemingly unpredictable events. The second reason is that prominent career scholars (e.g., Inkson et al., 2012; Rodrigues and Guest, 2010) have increasingly called for research to take into account the context in which careers evolve, as a means to more fully understand the interplay between individual agency and context. The recently introduced perspective of the sustainable career (De Vos and Van der Heijden, 2015) also emphasizes the importance of context, noting that social space (cf. Van Maanen, 1977) is one of the core dimensions of building a sustainable career. Career shocks may be considered such a contextual element, as they are events that are unexpected and outside of an individual’s control. Hence, it is crucial to examine these chance events and, specifically, their impact on contemporary career development processes.
Many questions still remain regarding the role of career shocks in career development. First, scholars need to better conceptualize the nature of career shocks; which dimensions they consist of, and how these interact with each other. For example, recent developments in event system theory (Morgeson, Mitchell & Liu, 2015) suggest novel, disruptive and critical shocks are the most salient. These and other dimensions are likely to influence the impact of such career shocks on an individual’s career path. For example, certain shocks – such as losing a highly valued coworker – might occur frequently, yet have a relatively limited impact on one’s career decision making, whereas other shocks – such as losing a loved one – might occur only once or twice in one’s career, yet have a major impact on well-being and success. Hence, the dimensions of career shocks and their interaction need to be more clearly conceptualized and empirically tested. Second, the nomological network of career shocks is still in a very nascent stage. Past research has clearly shown that shocks occur in most peoples’ lives and that they have a clear impact on career success and decision making, yet much more knowledge needs to be generated about the antecedents, outcomes, moderators, and mediators of career shocks. Third, new insights are needed into how career shocks can be effectively researched. Thus far, they have mostly been researched with survey items and retrospective interview questions. These methods might be fine, yet more validity and reliability evidence is needed. Indeed, a strongly validated questionnaire of career shocks is lacking at this point. In addition to survey items and interview questions, innovative study designs and analytical techniques might be valuable opportunities to bring the field forward. We provide some concrete examples of research opportunities below.
The main aim of this special issue is to generate a number of high quality studies that examine the role that career shocks have in contemporary career development. Submitted manuscripts can have a conceptual, methodological, or empirical focus, or a combination of those. In case of empirical research, both qualitative and quantitative designs are actively encouraged. Examples of research questions that would fit with this special issue include, but are certainly not limited to:


  •  What are the key dimensions of career shocks and how do they interact with each other?
  •  How, why and when are career shocks likely to impact career development?
  •  Are “negative” shocks likely to always have negative effects on outcomes, or might they also make individuals more resilient? What theoretical mechanisms would explain such effects?
  •  Is it possible to prepare for and become resilient against career shocks?
  •  How do individual agency and context (i.e., career shocks) interact with each other?


  •  What kind of research designs would be appropriate to research the role that career shocks play in contemporary career development?
  •  How can the antecedents and consequences of career shocks be effectively examined through qualitative and quantitative research designs?
  •  Which types of innovative research designs – such as experience sampling, qualitative comparative analysis, text mining, or latent growth analysis – might be appropriate to study career shocks?


  •  What are key antecedents of experiencing career shocks? For example, would certain personality traits, individual attitudes or psychological states have an impact on how individuals deal with career shocks?
  •  What are key outcomes of career shocks? For example, in which ways do career shocks relate to objective and subjective career success, job performance, employee well-being and engagement, and meaningfulness of work?
  •  What are the mediators and moderators of the relationship between career shocks and outcomes? And, more specifically, could certain individual agency-related constructs help to effectively deal with career shocks? For example, would career competencies and career adaptability help one be more resilient to shocks? Could high levels of employability and having a career calling help to better deal with such shocks?
  •  What are possible differences between internally (e.g., quitting one’s job) vs. externally (e.g., losing one’s job after a reorganization) attributed career shocks, and between career shocks with unexpected occurrences (e.g., unexpectedly being offered a promotion) vs. unexpected impact (e.g., knowing that a baby is coming yet not understanding its impact), and how might these differentially relate to work and career outcomes?

The above list is only meant as an illustration of possible research directions and is by no means meant to be exhaustive. Additional ideas and research questions are certainly welcome and encouraged if they advance research on career shocks.


Review Process

Submitted papers will be subject to a double-blind review process and will be evaluated by the guest editors and expert reviewers. Authors should prepare their manuscripts for blind review.
Authors are encouraged to submit a structured abstract (objective, method, results, and conclusion) by June 1st 2018 to receive feedback from the guest editors. The deadline for submissions of full papers is December 1st 2018. If you would have any questions about possible fit of your ideas with the special issue, you are very welcome to contact Jos Akkermans (
Submissions should be made through ScholarOne Manuscripts:
Specific details on the format for submitted manuscripts can be found at the journal’s website: Please direct any general questions about the journal or any administrative matters to the Editor, Professor Jim Jawahar (



Akkermans, J. and Kubasch, S. (2017) '#Trending topics in careers: A review and future research agenda', Career Development International, 22(6), pp. 586-627.
Akkermans, J., Seibert, S. E. and Mol, S. T. (in press) ‘Tales of the unexpected. Integrating career shocks in the contemporary career literature', South African Journal of Industrial Psychology.
Bright, J. E. H., Pryor, R. G. L. and Harpham, L. (2005) 'The role of chance events in career decision making', Journal of Vocational Behavior, 66(3), pp. 561-576.
Briscoe, J. P. and Hall, D. T. (2006) 'The interplay of boundaryless and protean careers: Combinations and implications', Journal of Vocational Behavior, 69(1), pp. 4-18.
De Vos, A., De Clippeleer, I. and Dewilde, T. (2009) 'Proactive career behaviours and career success during the early career', Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82(4), pp. 761-777.
De Vos, A. and Van der Heijden, B. I. J. M. (2015) Handbook of research on sustainable careers. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Greco, L. M., Kraimer, M., Seibert, S. and Sargent, L. D. (2015) 'Career shocks, obstacles, and professional identification among academics', Academy of Management Proceedings, 2015(1).
Hirschi, A. (2010) 'The role of chance events in the school-to-work transition: The influence of demographic, personality and career development variables', Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77(1), pp. 39-49.
Hirschi, A. and Valero, D. (2017) 'Chance events and career decidedness: Latent profiles in relation to work motivation', The Career Development Quarterly, 65(1), pp. 2-15.
Inkson, K., Gunz, H., Ganesh, S. and Roper, J. (2012) 'Boundaryless careers: Bringing back boundaries', Organization Studies, 33(3), pp. 323-340.
Kalleberg, A. L. and Marsden, P. V. (2015) 'Transformation of the employment relationship', Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
King, Z. (2004) 'Career self-management: Its nature, causes and consequences', Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65(1), pp. 112-133.
Morgeson, F. P., Mitchell, T. R., & Liu, D. (2015). Event system theory: An event-oriented approach to the organizational sciences. Academy of Management Review, 40(4), 515-537.
Rodrigues, R. A. and Guest, D. (2010) 'Have careers become boundaryless?', Human Relations, 63(8), pp. 1157-1175.
Roe, A. and Baruch, R. (1967) 'Occupational changes in the adult years', Personnel Administration, 30(4), pp. 26-32.
Rojewski, J. W. (1999) 'The role of chance in the career development of individuals with learning disabilities', Learning Disability Quarterly, 22(4), pp. 267-278.
Seibert, S. E., Kraimer, M. L., Holtom, B. C. and Pierotti, A. J. (2013) 'Even the best laid plans sometimes go askew: Career self-management processes, career shocks, and the decision to pursue graduate education', Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(1), pp. 169-182.
Van Maanen, J. (1977). ‘Organizational careers: Some new perspectives’. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Vuori, J., Toppinen-Tanner, S. and Mutanen, P. (2012) 'Effects of resource-building group intervention on career management and mental health in work organizations: Randomized controlled field trial', Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(2), pp. 273-286.
Williams, E. N., Soeprapto, E., Like, K., Touradji, P., Hess, S. and Hill, C. E. (1998) 'Perceptions of serendipity: Career paths of prominent academic women in counseling psychology', Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45(4), pp. 379-389.