How do self-direction and personal values influence career outcomes? Such questions have been central in research on the protean career—a career process characterized by the exercise of self-direction and an intrinsic values orientation in the pursuit of psychological success. This article provides an integrative review, with a focus on three empirically supported protean processes—identity awareness, adaptability, and agency. In addition, we discuss the role of protean careers in the contemporary work environment, clarify definitional and measurement issues, recommend research directions, and provide practical implications for organizations. Our underlying assumption throughout this discussion is that the elements of a protean career orientation (PCO) are basic elements of human needs for growth and meaning. In addition, we discuss how protean careers can be beneficial for organizations. In particular, we identify the “Protean Paradox” as a phenomenon that merits further investigation. More specifically, the protean paradox is a process by which greater levels of individual self-direction and values orientation, thus serving the purpose and interests of the individual, can also have a positive influence on the groups and organizations in which they work. Our recommendations for future research and practice promote these qualities in the contemporary world of work.


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