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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/9302

Title: Nomadic careers in the Flemish IT-sector: fact or fiction?
Authors: VALGAEREN, Elke
Issue Date: 2008
Citation: First ISA Forum of sociology, 1, Barcelona.
Abstract: Because of macro-economic changes, organizations are now functioning differently than the classic bureaucracies with their career ladders: rapid technological changes and globalization have their impact on the way a company should ideally work. The work organization is being increasingly characterized by a less hierarchically organized structure with more autonomy and responsibility for each employee but also by ever greater demands on the employee, who has to be able to work flexibly in an everchanging organization. As a result careers are changing. Several new concepts have been formulated that attempt to grasp the complexity of modern, flexible careers as a response to the changed organization of companies and the demands that employees have to meet. One of the pioneers of the non-linear career models is Douglas T. Hall. In 1976, he discussed the ‘protean’ career. Other concepts that were used are: the ‘transitory’ and ‘spiral’ career, the ‘career-resilient’ workforce or the ‘portfolio’ career. Another concept is that of the ‘boundaryless career’ first used by Arthur and Rousseau, which emphasizes the boundary crossings that employees make during their careers: boundaries between functional areas and between organizations. The following of a career ladder within one single organization or company is replaced by an apparently goal-less pattern of career steps that extend over various organizations. However, the concept of a boundaryless career is misleading for, in the flexible career form that it describes, boundaries have not disappeared. The boundaries between organizations and between functional domains have become less rigid; crossroads have developed across boundaries that previously were well sealed. Therefore, we will use the concept of ‘nomadic career’ as a synonym for the boundaryless career. This paper focuses on the empirical validation of the concept of the ‘nomadic career’. The paper answers the following research questions: (1) to what extent does the nomadic career exist in the Flemish IT-sector and (2) what are the determinants of the nomadic career? Special attention is given to the gender-aspects of the nomadic career. To analyse the nomadic career, the research is situated in the Flemish IT-sector. The organizational changes that lead to flexible career formation are intensified in the IT sector. This sector was not chosen by chance. Moreover, we were looking for a setting to study nomadic career trajectories. A number of characteristics of the IT sector have led us, from the outset of the project, to suppose that the nomadic career would be easy to find. Research in Silicon Valley confirms this hypothesis for the American IT sector. Indeed, the organizational changes that lead to nomadic careers are intensified in the IT sector. The IT sector is characterized by rapid technological changes that force companies to organize themselves in such a way that they can respond flexibly to them: the companies have a flatter organizational structure with more teamwork in projects. The projects in the IT sector have a short life span of at most two or three years. The completion of a project is a typical moment for changing jobs. Gunz, Evans, and Jalland, moreover, stress that the IT sector is an open community: we see in the IT sector a great deal of cross-pollination between companies. Companies work together in a network on different projects. In this way, employees get to know different companies, which facilitate transition from one company to another. Because of the rapidity with which technologies come and go, employees, finally, have to constantly retrain themselves: in the IT, life-long learning is not an empty concept but an essential component of each job. The data were compiled in 2002-2003 in the Flemish IT sector. We used both qualitative biographical career interviews and a quantitative retrospective survey.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/9302
Category: C2
Type: Conference Material
Appears in Collections: Research publications

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