Mobility and Careers

  • Kerr Inkson
  • Kaye Thorn
Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)


A career has been defined as “the evolving sequence of a person’s work experiences over time”. In this chapter we argue that the time-based nature of careers, and their longevity, make mobility inevitable, and a key characteristic of careers. Careers are most commonly metaphorized as “journeys”, which have both physical and psychological elements. Careers make transitions between jobs, organizations, occupations, industries and locations, thus defining multiple dimensions through which careers move. This mobility is typically the result of the interplay, and often conflict, between institutional and individual forces. Attention has been focused in recent times on “boundary-less careers” unfolding across multiple settings due to more open, flexible institutional structures and increased personal agency, particularly among professional workers with in-demand skills. One way of understanding career mobility is through the concept of “career capital”, the motivation, expertise and network connections that individuals accumulate through their career engagements, which make the career a repository of knowledge that can be used to cross-pollinate the organizations that receive these mobile careerists. The issue of geographical career mobility is neglected in career studies, and we note some of the dynamics involved in temporary self-expatriation, permanent new settlement, and career “globe-trotting”, illustrating with case examples, and noting particularly the benefits and drawbacks of mobile careers to those involved. Focusing on the issue of “talent flow”, in which individual mobile careers coalesce into international currents of expertise and economic potential, we consider evidence from the country of New Zealand as a case in point. Finally, we note likely future economic and social stimuli for, and constraints on, career mobility, and argue for more and better research.


Careers Mobility Career capital 



Overseas Experience


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Massey UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand

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