The experience of career success : an exploratory study among South African executives
Career success has become one of the most central issues in the 21st century as the nature of careers has undergone major changes over the past two decades. The change in perception that has taken place in terms of the nature of work has led to increased uncertainty about career development as a construct and as a practice. Career success has therefore become not only of interest and concern for individuals, but also a priority to organisations as the realisation of employees’ personal goals and success can eventually contribute to the realisation of the organisation’s goals and successes. Therefore the general objective of this study was to explore the experience and conceptualisation of career success among South African executives. This study utilised a qualitative research design with an exploratory approach to investigate executives’ conceptualisation and experience of career success. A non-probability purposive, voluntary sample of 24 participants was drawn from two seperate international financial organisations with offices located in Johannesburg. The data collection process was performed through semi-structured individual interviews and the verbatim transcriptions that were captured from these interviews, were analysed using content analysis. The twelve main themes that were extracted from the interviews are set out as follow: general conceptualisation of career success; executives’ personal meaning associated with career success; transformation of perceptions; future goals of executives; factor’s influencing executives’ career success; personality attributes related to career success; contributing factors to the career success of executives; hindering factors in career success; potential for experiencing turnover intention; consequences of career success; role of the organisation; and prerequisites for career success. It is crucial that organisations be made more aware of the significance of executives’ conceptualisation and experience of career success (as highlighted within this research). This is especially the case when considering future career and succession planning and mapping. Organisations should be familiar with the potential influencing and hindering factors (e.g. lack of opportunities, lack of support, organisational culture, etc.). They should be prepared to address the adverse impact that these factors could have as obstacles to employees and particularly for executives to attain career success. If these hindrances are not addressed it could lead to increased job dissatisfaction and consequently increased turnover intention. They should also be alert to the contributing factors and other factors conducive to career development (e.g. support and buy-in from organisation, or being given challenges and opportunities) that facilitate career success. By providing an environment that helps career development along, the experiece of career success is increased. This can lead to various positive outcomes, such as increased job performance, organisational commitment, employee engagement, career satisfaction and talent retention. Talent retention is particularly important as one can gather from the data collected among the executives. Thus, in order to retain them as valuable employees, it is crucial to address and fulfill their career needs accordingly.
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