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Identity transitions: possible selves, liminality and the dynamics of career change (RV of 2004/98/OB)

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This article develops a theory of identity transition in voluntary career change. The proposed motor for the transition process is change in a person's set of possible selves. The theory is based on three arguments. First, it identifies three vehicles for elaborating possible selves: activities, networks and events. People construct and reconstruct their work identities by altering what they do, with whom they engage in social interaction and how they make sense of what happens to them. Second, the theory argues that the transition process features a liminal, in-between period, in which people are actively trying out new identities while detaching themselves from older or less desirable ones. Time, space and guiding figures regulate the experience and outcomes of the transition process by creating a boundary zone that encourages identity play. Third, in the absence of an institutionalized role passage, such as promotion or lay-off, the person making a career change must decide whether and when to exit the old career. The theory proposes that continuous processes of generating and testing possible selves are punctuated by turning points that allow people to craft coherent transition narratives. Turning points are not antecedents of change but rather occasions for retrospective sense making that is informed by direct experience with possible selves.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://flora.insead.edu/fichiersti_wp/inseadwp2005/2005-24.pdf

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Copyright INSEAD. All rights reserved