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

Jos Akkermans*, Scott E. Seibert, Stefan T. Mol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera1503
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSA Journal of Industrial Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Career development
  • Career shocks
  • Chance events
  • Sustainable career


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