It’s not my intention to give full information or an extensive discussion on every theory. This website is intended to be a starting point and the main difference with other websites is the visual representation of the theory, which I hope will help get to grips with the theory. There are also links it the bottom to get your further research started.

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Boundaryless Career

Arthur & Rousseau 1996

Strange tip that helps you remember Boundaryless Careers:

The career ladder is dead – scatter, duck and dive and each for themselves…

Career theories on marcr and Boundaryless Career theory by Arthur & Rousseau.



A boundaryless career differs from a traditional career in that individuals are deemed to not be limited to working for one employer, in one job, in one organisation or even in one field of expertise.

This concept stems from the financial crisis in the 1990s when careers and jobs were not seen as stable and individuals who were able to change organisations and jobs external to the company, rather than climbing the proverbial career ladder, would thrive. Even more so if they would be able to change professions and fields of expertise. In order to do this successfully, individuals had to learn new skills and develop themselves, making them even more employable and valuable for employers in turn.

The longer term relationship with the employer is gone and every individual is responsible for themselves and their own development, rather than being trained by an employer who invests in individuals that work for them longer term. Because of the fleeting nature of jobs and employment, employers see less value in training their staff. This has some similarities to the situation the world of work and the economy is in now, in the second decade of the 21st century, after the financial crash in 2007/2008.

Traditional Career Boundaryless Career
  • Progression within one or only a couple of companies
  • Company has long term staff – invests in training
  • Progression within one profession and field of expertise
  • Relative job security
  • Company is in control of training – potentially limited development opportunities
  • Progression between a number of companies – limited or no loyalty
  • Company can’t see the point of training short term staff
    • staff is responsible for own development
  • Frequent change of profession, retraining and change of fields of expertise
  • No job security – increased freedom
  • Individual is in charge of training – potential for accumulated development and job opportunities.


This is all nice and well, but what can we do with this information and theory to help our clients? We can get a hint by looking how this theory ties in with other theories.

Boundaryless Careers: where and how does it fit in?

When we look at the workings and elements of this theory, and if you are familiar with some of the other theories of career guidance, this theory will bring up associations with both Happenstance and Chaos theory in that they don’t necessarily ascribe a more or less recognisable or discernible structure to career planning either. According to all three of these theories, career planning is very fluid and dependent on  what happens outside of your control. This means:

  • Planning your long term future is hard to do – who knows what is going to happen
  • There is a lot of flexibility in ‘the system’ or the world of work – it is up to the client to be able to adapt and take advantage of that fluidity
  • Clients need certain skills to cope with this uncertainty and fluidity
  • Within difficult economic circumstances, clients need to see opportunities and be able to take full advantage of opportunities presented to them

Specific for the theory of the Boundaryless Career’ is:

  • Within this fluidity, the client is responsible for their own progression and training. This doesn’t mean that the other theories allow for this, but a boundaryless career requires
    • self-motivation,
    • time-management and
    • workload-management skills as well as
    • a strong sense of responsibility to do this effectively
  • This is very much a theory linked to employability


Boundaryless Careers in practice.

There are strong hints of how we can use this theory in our practice in the paragraph above. Our role, when applying this theory, could be to help clients:

  • Take full advantage of the flexibility and opportunities the job market offers according to this theory
  • Handle the situation as best as possible if they are forced into a boundaryless career because the positions they find don’t allow for a ‘full time, one job with one employer’ situation

Techniques could be:

  • Helping clients build up self confidence and resilience – there are a variety of techniques depending on the client’s situation and needs
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Helping clients build up the tools to network effectively and to gain entry to different areas of the world of work. This could be through helping the client building their self-marketing skills, especially directly with employers.
  • Helping clients build up their time management skills
  • Advice and support on skills development so clients can take full advantage of the increased opportunities available to them


Strengths and weaknesses of the Boundaryless Career Theory

Consider the answers to the following questions to build up some ideas of where this theory is a bit weak and where it can offer real insight and a foundation for working with clients.

  • How does the concept of the Boundaryless career fit in with your life?
  • Is the flexibility that the theory proposes really there? Or are there things making this difficult to realise?
  • In this respect, what would other theories say about the flexibility on offer? What about social structure, cultural elements, gender, age/stage of life, what you have picked up throughout life?
  • How does this theory fit in with the reality of the world of work at present?

Also, have a look at the links below but also think about how you feel, what you notice as a strength or a weakness?


Useful links: