South African Vendor

Crossing boundaries to determine career success around the world

Have you ever wondered if career success looks the same across the world?  The answer is both yes and no.  NIU Professor of Management, Jon Briscoe, who teaches several courses in management has spent considerable time finding out these answers.  The international research consortium 5C Group, which Professor Briscoe leads, interviewed over 200 people across 12 countries to find out how they defined career success and how they managed their careers.  Professor Briscoe participated in the interview process in the U.S., Malaysia, Mexico and South Africa.  Based upon the interviews, dozens of definitions of career success were then used to survey a wide variety of employees across 30 countries.  It turned out that there are seven meanings of career success that are shared in each of these countries:  financial achievement, financial security, learning and development, work-life balance, positive relationships, positive impact and entrepreneurship.

While these seven meanings of career success are shared across the world, it does not mean they have the same impact.  In a recent symposium at the Academy of Management meetings which was recognized as the best international symposium of the meetings, Briscoe and colleagues presented evidence that in individualistic countries like the U.S. work engagement was more dependent upon a sense of fulfilling learning and development needs, whereas in more collectivist countries (e.g. Argentina, Japan) work engagement resulted more from fulfilling work-life balance.

Early in the research process on careers around the world, Professor Briscoe and his research assistant Julie Unite found that in spite of drastic contextual differences, people who managed career transitions well in South Africa and the United States had certain things in common.  First, they often had a mentor or outsider help them see their routine in a new way and challenge the process.  Second, they took a proactive versus reactive or passive approach to their new role.  And, finally, the demonstrated a learning orientation rather than a performance orientation to their job.  These collective features allowed them to not only perform better, but to harvest lessons better from one role into the next.

Professor Briscoe was able to directly utilize much of his research into leadership education at NIU, teaching students ways to be proactive, learning-driven, and relational in their career and leadership development.

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