Sub-theme 21: Bricolaging Careers – (Re)Imagining Meaningful Careers for ‘the Good Life’ -> HYBRID!

Katharina Chudzikowski
University of Bath, United Kingdom
Alexandra Bristow
The Open University, United Kingdom
Angelika Schmidt
WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

Call for Papers

This sub-theme aims to explore the constructions of careers as contributors to wellbeing, meaningfulness and ‘the good life’. Around the world, careers are becoming increasingly normative and prescribed, arguably developing into a source of suffering in the form of unsustainable expectations and workloads in the name of relentless productivity, excellence and merit. Moreover, individualised audit and incentive systems encourage individual careerism (Clarke & Knights, 2015), which not only stifles collective sense of vocation, doing good, innovation and diversity but also makes working lives increasingly unhealthy over time (Ratle et al., 2020). Approaching careers as a way of organizing and, specifically, bricolaging is a useful metaphor that provides insights and helps us to reconsider the way in which people assign meaning to their careers. We want to (re)imagine the potential of bricolaging careers for the good life, unpicking what the good life means over time, in diverse contexts, circumstances, and configurations of power/resistance and structure/agency relations.
In career research there is a long tradition in investigating career impact on working lives, such as work/life balance (Greenhaus & Foley, 2007), wellbeing (Potgieter, Ferreira, & Coetzee, 2019), sustainable careers (Van der Heijden & De Vos, 2015) and individual career outcomes (Heslin, 2005). However, careers have been conceptualised overly individualistic and there is a growing interest in investigating careers beyond the individual construct. Few approaches propose wider concepts of careers encompassing societal impact such as responsible careers, ‘in which people seek to have an impact on societal challenges such as environmental sustainability and social justice through their employment and role choices, strategic approaches to work, and other actions’ (Tams & Marshall, 2011: 110). Additionally, recent studies have investigated the relationship of wider societal engagement and careers. According to Bode and colleagues (2021), individuals engaging in CSR initiatives experience poorer career prospects as social engagement is seen as a female task and less valuable than commercial work. Iatridis and colleagues (2022) emphasise the gendered nature of meaningfulness in relation to the constitution of professional identity for emerging professional groups. As careers align with contexts (Mayrhofer et al., 2007), meaning creation is not experienced without tensions (Chudzikowski et al., 2020).
We invite contributions that explore the good life beyond individual career perspectives. We want to explore collective, sociological and relational aspects of careers contributing to the good life that can encompass community resilience and progress, social equality and inclusion, addressing themes of public concern, such as climate change and preservation of biodiversity. We aim to collectively (re)imagine the diversity of creative and meaningful careers by exploring narratives of careers that appear relevant beyond individual objectives. We do this through the concept of bricolage, an individual and collective process of making, improvisation, and sensemaking that combine the pregiven and the spontaneous to produce an arrangement that works for the purpose at hand (Duymedian & Rüling, 2010). Bricolage involves combining resources for a new purpose and can therefore also be seen as a methodological approach (Pratt et al., 2020).
We welcome papers that come from different theoretical, philosophical traditions, methodological approaches, and diverse contexts. Contributions may address, but are not limited to the following themes and questions:
1) Critiques of dominant career narratives: how are careers getting in the way of ‘the good life’?

  • Who decides what are ‘good careers’ and ‘the good life’? What exclusions and inequalities are produced by such dominant conceptualizations?

  • What contradictions and tensions are experienced by individuals in their careers in contributing to purpose-driven initiatives in organizations?

  • How are the dominant narratives of career success resisted? Which strategies of resistance are effective?

2) Organizing ‘good careers’: how can we bricolage careers for ‘the good life’?

  • What might ‘good life’ careers look like? What types of bricolaging and conditions might they need? How do narratives of ‘good careers’ vary across cultures?

  • What are the alternatives to the dominant narratives of career success? How can these alternatives be enacted and sustained? How might failure underpin career bricolage?

  • How can careers contribute to emotional wellbeing and overcome tensions? How can the practice of caring and the ethics of care transform the narratives of ‘good careers’?

3) Conceptualizing ‘career bricolage’: how can we develop this theoretically and methodologically?

  • How can careers be imagined beyond individual outcome orientations within organizations? How can relational ontology help develop thinking about career bricolage?

  • What new methodologies/methods can help research into ‘good careers’/career bricolage?

  • How can different career perspectives contribute to emotional wellbeing? How might the concept of individual and/or collective vocation be useful in developing good careers?



  • Bode, C., Rogan, M., & Singh, J. (2022): “Up to No Good? Gender, Social Impact Work, and Employee Promotions.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 67 (1), 82–130.
  • Chudzikowski, K., Gustafsson, S., & Tams, S. (2020): “Constructing alignment for sustainable careers: Insights from the career narratives of management consultants.” Journal of Vocational Behavior, 117, 103312,
  • Clarke, C.A., & Knights, D. (2015): “Careering through academia: securing identities or engaging ethical subjectivities?” Human Relations, 68 (12), 1865–1888.
  • Duymedian, R., & Rüling, C. (2010): “Towards a foundation of bricolage in organization and management theory.” Organization Studies, 31 (2), 133–151.
  • Greenhaus, J.H. & Foley, S. (2007): “The intersection of work and family lives.” In: H. Gunz & M. Peiperl (eds): Handbook of Career Studies. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 131–152.
  • Heslin, P.A. (2005): “Conceptualizing and evaluating career success.” Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26 (2), 113–136.
  • Iatridis, K., Gond, J.-P., & Kesidou, E. (2022): “How Meaningfulness and Professional Identity Interact in Emerging Professions: The Case of Corporate Social Responsibility Consultants.” Organization Studies, 43 (9), 1401–1423.
  • Mayrhofer, W., Meyer, M., & Steyrer, J. (2007): “Contextual issues in the study of careers.” In: H. Gunz & M. Peiperl (eds.): Handbook of Career Studies. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 215–240.
  • Potgieter, I.L., Ferreira, N., & Coetzee, M. (eds.) (2019): Theory, Research and Dynamics of Career Wellbeing. Becoming Fit for the Future. Cham: Springer.
  • Pratt, M.G., Sonenshein, S., & Feldman, M.S. (2022): “Moving Beyond Templates: A Bricolage Approach to Conducting Trustworthy Qualitative Research.” Organizational Research Methods, 25 (2), 211–238.
  • Ratle, O., Robinson, S., Bristow, A., & Kerr, R. (2020): “Mechanisms of micro-terror? Early career CMS academics’ experiences of ‘targets and terror’ in contemporary business schools.” Management Learning, 51 (4), 452–471.
  • Tams, S., & Marshall, J. (2011): “Responsible careers: Systemic reflexivity in shifting landscapes.” Human Relations, 64 (1), 109–131.
  • Van der Heijden, B.I.J.M., & De Vos, A. (2015): “Sustainable careers: Introductory chapter.” In: A. De Vos & B.I.J.M. Van der Heijden (eds.): Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1–19.
Katharina Chudzikowski works as Associated Professor at the School of Management, University of Bath, UK. Her research focuses on changing work practices and working careers across cultures. Particularly, she is interested in the interrelatedness of individual actors and forms of organizing. Katharina has several scientific and practical publications, including articles in the ‘Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Journal of Vocational Behaviour’, ‘Human Resource Management Journal’, and ‘International Journal of Human Resource Management’.
Alexandra Bristow is Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the Open University, UK. Her interests are in the field of critical management studies and education and include academic work, identities and careers; business schools and universities and their role in society; and issues of power, politics, resistance, and learning. Alexandra has published in a range of journals including ‘Academy of Management Learning and Education’, ‘Ephemera’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Leadership’, ‘Management Learning’, ‘Organization’, and ‘Organization Studies’.
Angelika Schmidt works as an Associate Professor at the Department Management at WU Vienna, Austria. Her work focuses on issues of organization studies, employment relations, HR strategies, diversity and gender issues. Angelika has published in numerous international journals, such as ‘Journal of Managerial Psychology’, ‘Gender Work and Organization’, ‘British Journal of Management’, and ‘Organization’.