New Article: Career Self-Management among Agency Workers

June 8, 2023

We published a new article in the Journal of Vocational Behavior entitled "Seeking stability in unstable employment: An exploratory study of temporary agency workers' career self-management." In this article, we present the findings of a qualitative project based on 27 interviews with temporary agency workers. We found that these agency workers typically deploy career self-management activities focused on survival and establishing some form of employment security. These findings add to our existing knowledge in this area, as most career self-management research has focused on proactive behaviors related to establishing career success. In study shows that the limited agency that these workers experience may significantly hinder them in their career management opportunities.

This article is part of Jana Retkowsky's doctoral research and was published together with her, Sanne Nijs, Svetlana Khapova, and Paul Jansen. You can read the full article HERE. It is openly accessible to anyone. An abstract of the study is displayed below.


Increasingly dynamic labor markets have caused a steep increase in nonstandard workers. This study focuses on agency temps who work via labor market intermediaries at client organizations. The short-term and frequently changing nature of their jobs creates uncertainty about their employment and personal stability. Based on an explorative qualitative interview study among 27 agency temps, we studied how agency temps self-manage their careers. Our study reveals that the precarious career environment and financial dependence on agency work make agency temps' career self-management different from existing depictions of career self-management in the literature. Specifically, we reveal that agency temps' career self-management engagement is relatively short-term and primarily reactive. We find that they focus on survival and stability as career goals, and they engage in four career behaviors: (1) moonlighting, (2) self-profiling, (3) compensatory career behavior, and (4) job search behavior. Subsequently, we identify two negative long-term outcomes of these career behaviors: (1) being locked-in and (2) experiencing resource loss during unemployment. Accordingly, this study contributes to the nascent literature on temporary agency work and career self-management by identifying career behaviors and consequences in a precarious and volatile context. Our findings can help career counselors and policy-makers safeguard the career self-management of agency temps.

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