Call for Papers: Special Issue on Conceptualizing Flexible Careers Across the Life Course

Human Relations

Special Issue Call for Papers: Conceptualising flexible careers across the life course

Guest Editors: Jennifer Tomlinson (University of Leeds, UK; Marian Baird (University of Sydney, Australia); Peter Berg (Michigan State University, USA); Rae Cooper (University of Sydney, Australia)

Read the full call for papers here: humanrelations/special_issues/ Flexible%20careers.html

Submission deadline: 1st March 2016; please do not submit papers before 1st February 2016

In recent years, much literature and research on the quality of working lives focuses on jobs as the unit of analysis, emphasizing job quality and flexibility. Through this call, we seek to shift the focus to careers and, in particular, develop the construct of a ‘flexible career’ drawing attention to the fact that work occurs over time in sequence and trajectory. We are interested in the conditions under which flexible and sustainable careers can develop and flourish. Given this perspective, the overarching objective of this special issue is to encourage new analytical approaches to studying the concepts and intersection of flexibility and careers. More specifically, it is to provide a space to examine the meaning of flexible careers from different disciplinary perspectives and to question the extent to which careers can be forged and maintained at different points across the life course in the current social and economic context. In doing so, we focus on what is perhaps the one of the greatest tensions in contemporary labour markets and societies: how to combine the social and economic need for individual life-long work opportunity, accomplishment and development (careers) with the need for a workforce able to continuously adjustment to the supply and demand for labour in space, time and function (flexibility).

We seek submissions from a range of social science disciplines connected to two overarching themes and six research questions:


1. The roles that governments, occupations, industries, organisations and individuals play in attempts to enable, or undermine, the flexibility and sustainability of careers at different points across the life course.

2. Innovations in work practice and policy solutions designed to structure careers in ways that provide individuals with more flexible and sustainable careers at different points across the life course.

Research questions

1. In what ways can interdisciplinary social science perspectives sharpen our understanding, both theoretically and empirically, of the dynamics of flexible careers?

2. In economic contexts of increased flexibilization and precarity, what are the career orientations and realities for individuals located at different points across the life course (e.g. young, mid-career and older workers)?

3. What roles do institutions play and what resources do individuals draw upon in attempts to forge career paths that are more sustainable across the life course?

4. What sorts of novel ways do individuals look to redefine their careers and adapt to changing labour market conditions in more flexible ways?

5. How do different aspects of labour market flexibilization impact on the potential to create sustainable careers – does flexibility sustain or undermine career trajectories at different points across the life course?

6. What innovative policy and practice solutions might be developed to create sustainable and/or flexible careers?

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