The aim of the paper is to investigate those social conditions and experiences which impact on the possibilities of building a career path in the Italian Universities. The paper will focus on adjunct professors as paradigmatic example of some pivotal transformations which affected the (inter)national academic system in the last decades. We especially point out two interlaced processes which play a crucial role in redefining the formal and informal criteria for pursuing an academic career: the increasing centrality of research activities and output for evaluating the efficiency of academic actors and institutes, and the growth and differentiation of temporary positions. The analysis of the case study is based on the findings of a survey (5,556 respondents) carried out in 2018 and semi-structured interviews (35 interviewees) carried out between 2018 and 2020. For supporting our analysis we relate the concept of career as developed by Hughes (1958) with the concepts of (academic) field, habitus and capitals as developed by Bourdieu (1984; 1986), in order to highlight how the different amount and composition of their set of capitals influence their trajectory within the academic field.