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Executive Summary

Change in managerial careers? A longitudinal analysis

Careers are a central phenomenon of individual, organisational and societal reality in a practical as well as theoretical sense. Although career research is sometimes labelled as already mature, publications grew exponentially in the 1990s. Changes of career contexts and patterns as well as new forms of careers are named as major reasons for that. The project addresses the prominence of change in career research and raises three major issues for the future development of the field with regard to content, theory, and method. First, in terms of content, a better understanding if change occurs and what change in careers actually means is required. This is especially needed since the claim of change itself, its uniqueness and its extent can be challenged. Second, in terms of theory, there is a constant call for a better theoretical foundation of career research through identifying and linking important influencing factors into coherent frameworks. Third, in terms of method, often called for longitudinal research including multi-cohort designs allows the separation of intra- and inter-cohort changes in order to enable a differentiated analysis of changes and their causes.

In dealing with these issues, the study pursues three major goals:

  1. In terms of content, this study contributes to a better understanding of potential changes in careers by generating further descriptive evidence about the existence of change in careers in a twofold way. On the one hand, the study looks at changes between different cohorts with regard to the attractiveness of specific career goals and paths, the assumed increasing complexity of careers, and the outcomes of specific career transitions. On the other hand, it explores changes within cohorts, and individual career trajectories by taking an in-depth look at career transitions and their constituting characteristics and processes.

  2. In terms of theory, this study strengthens the theoretical and explanatory component of career research. Using a field and habitus based approach to careers as a background concept, a qualitative in-depth analysis for career transitions leads to a better understanding of career habitus and its mutual relationship with career capitals and career fields.

  3. In terms of method, this study enhances the descriptive and explanatory quality of the analysis of managerial career patterns and its changes through continuously building an adqate longitudinal database. The continuation of an ongoing study about the 1970, 1990, and 2000 cohorts of Austrian business school graduates and its expansion through the introduction of a new 2009 cohort permits two crucial steps: First, the enlargement allows “real time” analysis of three “active” graduate cohorts, thus providing an ongoing stream of data for identifying career patterns and their changes. Second, an established 3-cohort-design with continuous “real time” analysis can differentiate between age, cohort, and period effects

Empirically, the study builds on the Vienna Career Panel Project - managerial careers in postindustrial contexts, using quantitative survey data from four graduate cohorts (1970; 1990; 2000; 2010) with approximately 1,800 individuals as well as qualitative interview data from roughly 80 members of these cohorts. On top of this and in order to prevent local Austrian artefacts, the research goals are also pursued in an international research cooperation with data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).