Protean Career Orientation and Work Outcomes: An Action Theory and Social Exchange Theory Perspective



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Career scholars have concluded that both employees and organizations need to embrace modern career attitudes aligned with the changing nature of work, such as the Protean Career Orientation (PCO). PCO emphasizes continuous learning, autonomy, and self-directed behaviors and has been linked to both subjective and objective career success. However, findings have been somewhat equivocal indicating the need to explore potential conditional and/or contingent factors that could explain some of these ambiguities. In this study, I address these needs by employing action regulation theory to examine the mediating effect of feedback orientation on the relationship between PCO and career success outcomes. I also examine the potential boundary conditions imposed by perceived supervisor support and perceived organizational support on these relationships using social exchange theory. Utilizing a sample of 298 tenured and tenure-track faculty members across 24 US Tier-1 public universities, I found that PCO exhibits strong positive relationships with objective outcomes, namely cumulative productivity and salary. In addition, there is evidence of an indirect effect of feedback orientation as well as boundary effects of perceived organization and supervisor support in the relationship between PCO and subjective outcomes (work engagement and job satisfaction). These findings highlight the utility of a protean orientation both for employees and organizations. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.



Protean Career Orientation, Feedback Orientation, Career Self-Management, Action Theory, Social Exchange Theory, Perceived Organizational Support, Perceived Supervisor Support