The terms "protean career" and "boundaryless career" are metaphors. This paper outlines the nature of metaphor and its use in contemporary social science, particularly in the study of careers. It identifies five characteristics of metaphors, which serve as a guide to analyzing and evaluating them. These are (1) literal and figurative meaning; (2) elaboration in theory; (3) external understanding; (4) relationship to other metaphors; and (5) accuracy and constructiveness. The protean and boundaryless career metaphors are examined in relation to each characteristic. Both concepts have developed in understanding outside their literal and figurative meaning. Both however appear functional in the current shifting careers environment. Suggestions are made for the further development of the concepts. © 2005.
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