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Abstract

In modern society individuals are becoming responsible for their own work allocation. In order to overcome an increasing social and work-related insecurity, they not only have to acquire specific career skills but also a so-called "career identity". A career identity is a structure of meanings in which the individual links his own motiviation, interests and competencies with acceptable career roles. In the article the concept of meaning is explored and further elaborated as a social learning process. The article concludes with some remarks about the need for a strong learning environment.
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British Journal of Guidance &
Counselling
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Narratives at work: the development of
career identity
Frans Meijers a & Reinekke Lengelle b
a School of Education, University of The Hague, The Netherlands
b Centre for Integrated Studies, Athabasca University, Alberta,
Canada
Available online: 15 Mar 2012
To cite this article: Frans Meijers & Reinekke Lengelle (2012): Narratives at work: the development
of career identity, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, DOI:10.1080/03069885.2012.665159
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Narratives at work: the development of career identity
Frans Meijers
a
* and Reinekke Lengelle
b
a
School of Education, University of The Hague, The Netherlands;
b
Centre for Integrated Studies,
Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada
(Received 8 September 2011; final version received 18 January 2012)
Well-developed career stories are becoming increasingly important for individuals
as they navigate an unstable and unpredictable labour market. Existing narrative
approaches in career guidance do not yet clearly identify the learning process by
which career stories are created. In this article, a model of transformation-
through-writing will be introduced to help explain the learning process that
occurs when narratives are used for constructing career stories. We propose that
this learning process occurs stepwise in four cognitive stages: sensing, sifting,
focusing, and understanding. To progress through these stages, an internal (with
oneself) as well as an external (with relevant others) dialogue is needed. The case
study used to illustrate the process is a story of unemployment and effectively
shows how narratives can be created through expressive and reflective writing and
how such a process may foster career learning in response to a boundary
experience.
Keywords: career development; narrative approaches; identity
Introduction
In a complex and dynamic world in which careers are largely contingent (Pryor &
Bright, 2011), a career story helps a person define who s/he is and how s/he should
act within a career context. It does so by creating and providing meaning and
direction (Wijers & Meijers, 1996) and by constructing a sense of causality and
continuity about one’s career path (Linde, 1993). In this article we clarify
and demonstrate how a narrative approach can be used in career guidance, using
an example of a career crisis. Central to our argument is the concept of ‘career
identity’ because it is this concept that is considered essential in helping individuals
to deal with the emergence of a boundaryless career (Arthur, Khapova, & Wilderom,
2005), the growing emotionalisation of work (Hochschild, 1983; Sennett, 1998) and
the individualisation of society as a whole (Fugate, Kinicki, & Ashforth, 2004). A
career identity is part of the self, which according to Dialogical Self Theory
(Hermans & Hermans-Konopka, 2010) can be defined as a dynamic multiplicity of
positions or voices in the landscape of the mind, with the possibility of dialogical
relationships between these positions or voices. A career identity can be defined as a
dynamic multiplicity of personal (in contrast to social and cultural) positions or
voices regarding work. Assuming that narratives are the key schemes by which
human beings make their experiences meaningful (Bruner, 1990; Polkinghorne, 1988)
*Corresponding author. Email: fj.meijers@xmsnet.nl
British Journal of Guidance & Counselling,
2012, 120, iFirst
ISSN 0306-9885 print/ISSN 1469-3534 online
#2012 Taylor & Francis
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and understand temporality (Abbott, 2002), a career identity expresses itself in (i.e.,
takes the shape of) a story told by a person, expressing his/her life theme(s) (Savickas,
2005, 2011) and the way s/he identifies her/himself based on these life theme(s) with a
specific occupation or career (Ashforth, Harrison, & Corley, 2008). We posit that if a
person has the tools to be able to re-storyhis/her identifications around work, that
s/he will be more able to navigate the changing world of work, make meaning and
sense of career changes, and deal more effectively with disorientating dilemmas
(Mezirow & Associates, 1990) in the world of work, even seeing them as
opportunities instead of setbacks and/or failures.
1. The development of a career identity
In narrative approaches to career counselling, the point of departure is that
narration can be used to form a subjective construction of meaning that emplots
self as a main character in a career-defining story(Cochran, 1997, p. 55). According
to Cochran, a career story is composed of episodes, i.e., unified sets of events that
stand out from others and have particular significance. He distinguishes seven
episodes: elaborating a career problem; composing a life history; founding a future
narrative; constructing reality; changing a life structure; enacting a role; and
crystallising a decision. In Savickass Theory of Career Construction (2002, 2005)
three areas are emphasised: vocational personality; career adaptability; and life
themes. Savickas, like Cochran, advances the idea of life themes at the level of
personal narrative and subjective career; he positions life stories in a way that show
they are the crucial threads of continuity that make meaningful the elements of
vocational personality and career adaptability. Career-related stories express the
uniqueness of an individual and explain why he or she makes choices and explicates
the meanings that guide those choices. Career stories tell how the self of yesterday
became the self of today and will become the self of tomorrow(Savickas, 2005,
p. 58). Savickas also purports that individuals generate their own career life themes.
A career story develops via four micro-narratives (Savickas, 2010, 2011; see also
Savickas et al., 2010) that are activatedby specific questions a counsellor asks: a
story of self-making; a story of preferred work theatres; a story regarding a career
script; and a story of performance advice. Lastly, he says students should be
encouraged by the instructor or counselor to assemble these micro-narratives into a
life portrait, that is, a higher level macro-narrative that incorporates all the partial
stories(Savickas, 2010, p. 16).
The problem is that it remains unclear how the different episodes (Cochran) or
micro-narratives (Savickas) fuseto become a coherent macro-narrative or career
story. Cochran seems to assume that the career narrative is already present in the
individual on an unconscious level and that if the career counsellor presents the
proper questions or assignments, a person will be able to take the various elements,
become conscious of them and (re)construct his or her narrative. Savickas (2011)
states that counsellor and client together go through the process of constructing
vocational stories, deconstructing the stories, reconstructing them into a macro-
narrative and then co-constructing the next scene in the occupational plot. Central to
this process is a poetic creativity (of the counsellor, FM/RL) that turns scattered
stories and emotions into experiential vignettes that reflects the studentsefforts to
get a life(Savickas, 2010, p. 16). However, it remains unclear what the essence of this
poetic creativity is and why it is needed.
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In line with the significant emphasis Savickas places on the role of the
experienced counsellor, LaPointe (2010) argues that a career identity is not
constructed by the individual alone (a constructivist approach) but can only emerge
and exist as a result of an interaction with others (a constructionist approach).
Rather than residing in the individual, identity manifests in discourse. Narratives as
the site for identity construction are not free-standing, self-contained units but are
always embedded in the local conditions and emerge as a result of interaction,says
LaPointe (2010, p. 3). A career identity is therefore the result of a co-construction
(Cohen, 2006). From this cultural-historical point of view identities emerge as a
result of interaction and negotiation on the basis of a reflective capacity vis-a`-vis the
available positions and the particularities of a given time and place. Continuity in
identity stems from a history of having been continuously positioned in particular
ways as well as having invested in and becoming emotionally attached to certain
positions. The possibility of individual agency, choice and change is made possible
by the multiple and contradictory positions in a given situation and the reflective
capability of the person as an embodied being to adopt alternative positions to
imagine otherwise(LaPointe, 2010, pp. 34). Career identity, therefore, is a practice
(doing identity rather than having one) of articulating, performing and negotiating
identity positions in narrating career experiences.
The construction of a career narrative corresponds strongly with the reflective
abilities of the individual. LaPointe seems to conceptualise these abilities as self-
contained characteristics of the individual; capabilities that he or she can apply when
and where necessary. However, research shows that direct introspective access to
higher-order cognitive processes is limited. Simon (1955) states that human beings
rarely have all of the relevant information they need to make a rational decision and
that, even if they did, they do not individually possess the cognitive capacity to use it.
The matter is compounded by the fact that empirical evidence suggests that intuition
plays an important role in decision making (Dijksterhuis, Bos, Nordgren, & van
Baaren, 2006; Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006) and that conscious rational thought
tends to overreach its bounds in addressing problems for which it is less well suited
(Krieshok, Black, & McKay, 2009). Students who must come to a career decision by
thinking often make choices they are less satisfied with than students who make those
decisions intuitively. The reason for this is that individuals change their minds about
how they feelas a result of reflecting, according to Wilson and Schooler (1991,
p. 191). Furthermore, neurobiological and neuropsychological research shows that
human emotional responses occur before cognitive responses (Damasio, 2000;
Pinker, 1997; Stuss & Anderson, 2003). The result is, as Schwartz (2004) suggests,
that in complex situations individuals simply jump to conclusions. Humans
normally choose the first option that works, i.e., that they believe works (Coleman,
1989; Klein, 1998). In a non-dialogical situation, the judgements thus formulated are
mostly based on pre-programmed ways of thinking and belief and therefore
perpetuate a tendency to get stuck in already existing stories (Hermans &
Hermans-Konopka, 2010). What has previously worked by trial and error becomes
aheuristicthat is used, not reflexively, but as a reflex even when it is not suitable
for coping with the new situation. Tversky and Kahneman (2000) interpret this type
of irrational behavioras a systematic error or shortcoming in the cognitive system;
a form of irrationality, in which people use a number of heuristics to come to a
decision or judgement that may not take into account the complexity of the current
situation. In summary, in a situation that overwhelms, people are inclined to base
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their decisions on pre-programmed ways of thinking; prejudices and outmoded
coping strategies make their already existing stories a default narrative.
That people in uncertain situations have the tendency to demonstrate irrational
behaviour is a dilemma for career counsellors that can be remedied by using an
approach that focuses on career exploration (i.e., concrete experiences in work
settings) in the development of a career identity. Supporters of this approach, such as
Flum and Blustein (2000) and Bloch (2005), advocate a lifelong adaptive process of
career exploration that is as unplanned and fortuitous as it is planned and
systematic. They maintain that the exploratory process provides the individual
with both cognitive and affective feedback that can be used in the appraisal of an
experience. Central is an attitudinal component, characterised by openness to the
natural vicissitudes of life experiences(Flum & Blustein, 2000, p. 382). These
authors, however, do not clarify the way in which individuals can use career
exploration to create career identities (Kuijpers, Meijers, & Gundy, 2011). Indeed,
the learning processes that would be required and the conditions necessary for such
learning are not discussed by them. They seem to assume that experiences will lead to
career learning as a matter of course. However, individuals do not automatically
learn from what they experience; they are naturally not open to new experiences
because they respond primarily from emotional centres and may even attempt to flee
from the situation instead of formulating an intention to learn (Hensel, 2010).
Research into the moral development of individuals (Kegan, 1994; Kegan,
Broderick, Drago-Severson, Helsing & Portnow, 2001) shows that only a minority
of respondents have or develop the required openness that Flum and Blustein
identify as important for learning.
Krieshok et al. (2009) also emphasise the importance of exploration in the
formation of a career identity. Based on extensive brain research in particular
studies focused on the neuroanatomy of decision making they argue that both
reason and intuition are essential to the development of an adaptive rationality.
Adaptive rationality emphasizes experiential learning in the interest of engendering
a state of affairs in which decision making is optimal as a result of the accumulation
of experience and information(Krieshok et al., 2009, p. 284). Adaptive rationality
takes shape via occupational engagement. It develops via an ongoing focused contact
with people and the world with the goal to accumulate relevant information and
experiences. Through occupational engagement, vocational and self-schemas evolve.
Important here is not only the exploration of career possibilities, but also
enrichment. Enrichment implies a process of increasing awareness via experiential
activities that increase the decision-makers fund of information about his or her self
in the world(Krieshok et al., 2009, p. 284). Its goal is to allow for experientially
informed decision making at many and various points in the future (i.e., the
development of intuition). In other words, the basic mechanism by which rationality
and intuition become richer is experience acquired via engagement. As we consider
intervening in this system, the model suggests we would do well to teach people to
think and feel about experiential information in a more intentional way. While the
bank inevitably becomes richer passively, it becomes much richer via intentionality
(Krieshok et al., 2009, p. 285).
Naturally, the bankwill be filled by each experience, but the question remains as
to whether individuals actually become richer, i.e., are able to demonstrate new
behaviours. If experiences in both work and with others are qualitatively similar, an
individual might not learn much either cognitively or intuitively. Dewey (1933)
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warned educators that mere doingor activity was not enough to produce learning.
Research by Merriam (2004), Hoare (2006) and Manners, Durkin, and Nesdale
(2004) shows that most adults, who have a lot of experience behind them, barely have
a developed self-image. And yet Krieshok et al. (2009, p. 285) formulate a long list of
requirements that the adaptive career decision maker must live up to: they must be
persistently engaged, not rely exclusively on innate talents, be wary of narrowing
vocational options, be lifelong learners, cultivate a sense of foresight in respect to
trends, never completely foreclose, remain flexible and willing to act despite fears, be
reflective, have an awareness of the limits of reason and intuition and last but not
least have a zen outlook (i.e., an ability to view a situation with detachment). Most
students (Holt, 1995; Prawat, 1998) and adults (Kegan, 1994; Kegan et al., 2001)
possess few or none of these traits, which begs the question: which learning processes
lead to the development of both the rational and the intuitive components of the
career identity? Based on the previous arguments, a learning theory is needed that
should not see identity as self-contained, should see reflective abilities as a concept
that needs explaining, and should not assume that experiential learning automati-
cally results in completion of cognitive learning phases which would result in a better
intuition and better insight into the self.
2. Identity learning: a model
In this article, we present a model that tries to explain how a transformative learning
process (Bateson, 1979) occurs when written narratives are used for constructing a
career identity. We illustrate this with a story of job loss. The model (see below)
developed from observations we made about students and the learning process they
embark on as they write and rewrite their life stories. Additionally we continue to
expand it based on existing learning theories. In that sense, the model has developed
in both inductive and deductive ways. The case study
The story we use to illustrate our model was written by Edith Robb, who was
enrolled in a graduate course called Narrative Possibilities: The Transformative
Power of Writing, Story, and Poetry for Personal and Professional Developmentat
Athabasca University, developed and taught by one of the authors. Ediths story
focuses on her response to sudden unemployment and illustrates effectively how
career learning takes place. Although the story is not applicable in all career change
contexts, the example of a boundary experience(i.e., life-altering situation or
event), a persons constructive response to it, the inherent challenge to a persons
identity, and the subsequent need to develop a new career story, applies in a variety of
career contexts. This case study was chosen, in part, because it is a particularly vivid
and compelling account of how narratives can unearth life themes as well as various
voices and positions and may allow individuals to become more effective actors in
the world of work. The story also shows that educational institutes can offer
practical narrative approaches, supported by developing models on the use of writing
in personal and professional development. The case study does not prove and has no
pretention to prove our theoretical model in a scientific way, but demonstrates
possibilities for career enrichment and indeed shows how the decision makers fund
of information about his or her self in the world increases.
The course Narrative Possibilities(MAIS 621) and the foundational course
Writing the Self(MAIS 616) are courses within the Master of Arts Integrated
Studies programme at Athabasca University (http://mais.athabascau.ca). Topics
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covered in the courses are: journal writing: the history, reflections, and methods;
poetry: approaches to writing it as well as reflections on its therapeutic potential;
fiction: instructions how; analysis of the fiction, in particular how life themes
emerged inadvertently in the pieces written; problem solving with writing (a variety
of methods for working with writing and life issues). In addition to the genres and
actual writing, students read and reflect on subjects and questions such as: what
writing and research is being done; what methodological issues researchers face; what
is the self(does it even exist; how is it constructed?); uses of writing in teaching
and therapy; the downsides of writing; and final reflections on how a studentsown
writing has changed during the course of the previous weeks. Three final assignments
are required to complete the course. They include a portrait of self, a practical
writing application (e.g., writing with prisoners in a penitentiary; writing for mothers
who are suffering the empty-nestsyndrome; writing for PTSD sufferers), and a
position paper. During the entire course students are required to keep a journal using
the proprioceptive writing method (Trichter-Metcalf & Simon, 2002), an approach
that includes the prompting question, What do I mean by ... (word or phrase)?and
four concluding questions that prompt further reflection, in particular about topics
they might have thought about but did not write down. This method is designed to
welcome the expression of thoughts and feelings and also provides instructions for
reflection.
In an ongoing dialogue, the course facilitator/instructor provides feedback on the
poetry and fiction, helps keep discussions going, and encourages students to explore
various exercises, ideas and directions they might not have seen or thought to try. She
also specifically guides participants through The Work(Katie, 2002), a particular
writing exercise which at its foundation asks, Who would you be without your
story?The courses process seen as a whole is in that sense paradoxical it focuses
on writing narratives that build a sense of self and identity, but also employs methods
that stripnotions of selfand require students to question their identifications. The
facilitator, in addition to providing technical feedback (e.g., here you could use more
descriptions show, dont tell the reader what you experienced), also provides more
intuitive or poetic suggestions for developing the work and developing reflexivity
(e.g., the themes that I felt emerged here were: questions of shame and voicelessness,
and in the story you wrote ‘‘USELESS’’ with capitals, did you notice that?,orthe
poem seems to be asking a question and you may find writing another one with
possible answers will serve as a kind of complement to what youve already written).
The group discussions also contribute to the insights those taking the course
develop and influence the ways in which they choose to construct their narratives.
They gain additional ideas from reading each others work and also point out things
to each other that shed insight (e.g., I had not dared to write about mental illness,
until you did. It took the stigma off for me). Additionally the final assignments,
which are the academic productsof the course, require students to construct
picturesof who they are. As previously mentioned, one of the final assignments is to
write a portrait of self, though students have also learned during the course that a
consistent or comprehensive view of who they are is not possible. They become aware
that their identities are constructedwithin a social, cultural and psychological
framework and that how they view and present themselves is influenced by social
forces, for instance shame and esteem (Stuart, 1998), and that they are, as postulated
above, indeed a dynamic multiplicity of voices and positions.
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Boundary experiences
At the heart of the model is the idea that life themes, which provide the unity in life
(hi)stories (Savickas, 2002, 2005), can be defined as the affective and cognitive
representation of a problem or set of problems, perceived or experienced either
consciously or unconsciously, which constituted a fundamental source of psychic
stress for a person during childhood, for which that person wished resolution above
all else, and which thereby triggered adaptive efforts, resulting in an attempted
identification of the perceived problem, which in turn formed the basis for a
fundamental interpretation of reality and ways of dealing with that reality
(Csikszentmihalyi & Beattie, 1979, p. 48). Therefore, the beginning of the learning
process we describe usually starts with a response to pain or suffering or to what
Bu
¨hler (1935); Bu
¨hler & Allen, 1972) refers to as a boundary experiencean
experience whereby an individual encounters the boundaries of his or her existing
self-concept and cannot cope with the situation and its exigencies (Lengelle &
Meijers, 2009; Meijers & Wardekker, 2002). One hits the proverbial wall and ones
sense of identity is challenged, diminished or even lost and this results in the inability
to act with confidence. This may be a cognitive problem (e.g., not understanding the
situation or not having the required knowledge and skills) but more often it is of an
emotional nature. Prior identifications and bonds block an adequate response
(Gonza´lez Rey, 1999; Van Woerkom, 2010). Robbs story illustrates her encounter
with such a crisis:
The work took 38 years. The woman remembers her first hesitant steps into the grey-
walled newsroom, the endless clickety-clack rhythm of the old Olivettis, the sea of head
and shoulders visible over the paper-strewn desks ... . The lay-off took 38 seconds.
(Robb, pp. 12)
A career narrative is created in a process of transaction (Rosenblatt, 2005) or
interaction (LaPointe, 2010) between an individual who tries to understand a
boundary experience via a story and his/her audience. If this story is repeated or
merely retold in slightly different permutations, the result is a short circuitin which
a vicious cycle of fear, complacency, anger or hopelessness ensues and a person
becomes trapped in his/her first story, leaving him/her sufferingor stuck. In the
model a short circuit means that a person becomes trapped in the fight, flight or
freeze mode characteristic of a first story (see below), unable to move forwards.
In the three weeks that followed, I became physically sick and mentally distraught. Sleep
eluded me, crying jags left me weak, and the practicalities of rebuilding a life in
shambles seemed overwhelming .... Nothing eased the pain except nightly visits to the
journal. Looking back, I became a master of the woe-is-me discourse. (Robb, pp. 12)
The aim of writing is to work towards a more empowering perspective or second
story. This may include a shift in perspective, acceptance or meaning constructed.
Second stories may serve for a time (i.e., until the next boundary experience) and
then eventually feel like first storiesagain. Indeed, they are stepping stones in a
narrative that is ever-evolving. The difference between the first and second stories is
not absolute the second story does not represent the creation of a completely
different identity, but is rather the expression of an evolving identity. In order to
break the identification a writer has with a first story, the writer must first develop
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a degree of detachment(Griffin & Tyrrell, 2002, p. 40). Students specifically report
the benefits of having someone function as an observerof their work:
What I needed in addition to the writing was a witness. Someone to read what I wrote
and acknowledge it. (McGinnis, 2008)
It is as if those writing their stories strengthen their own inner observer simply by
knowing they will be read (which is part of a dialogue). Many students also describe
a sense of relief when reading other course participantsstories and in finding a
learning environment that does not, in the first place, focus on grammar and proper
ways of writing, but allows for personal exploration.
Between the first and second story, there is a transformational spacein which
many different writing exercises can be employed. But even being a seasoned
journalist did not mean that Edith could use writing immediately to gain new
perspectives. In fact, rushing to gain new perspectives without experiencing her
feelings would not have resulted in a felt-theoryor second story that would hold
true, feel authentic and be real balm for her anyway. The emotional pain just as
other emotions (Frijda, 1989) was a necessary signal that something was amiss and
that a quick solution would not be forthcoming.
There was a blur of practical, well-meaning advice, some from people, and some from
books. Get a resume. File for unemployment insurance. Search Workopolis and
Monster.com. Consider doing something different. Start networking with a vengeance.
That all worked on the surface... .(Robb,p.3)
Ediths sensed that there was no point in covering over or trying to change what had
happened from the outside. She could not put her life back together in the way it had
worked for the past 38 years. Because she was enrolled in the Master of Arts
Integrated Studies programme at Athabasca University, she had been in the habit of
keeping a personal and work journal and had already noticed that writing helped
alleviate angst(Lieberman et al., 2007). On a further search, she enrolled on the
Narrative Possibilitiescourse and was introduced to the idea that writing could
indeed be a healing art. It is worth mentioning that although Edith was an
experienced writer in the professional realm, she did not think to use writing as a
transformational tool until the course introduced her to these possibilities and she
could begin, with guidance, to explore and express her feelings and experiences.
... as I read provocative works by interesting authors ... I looked at things I had never
previously considered, embraced viewpoints I had once dismissed, and listened to voices
that once only whispered in the background. (Robb, p. 4)
Learning stages
A career narrative develops in the interplay between the conscious, the
unconscious and experiences (Krieshok et al., 2009), whereby experiences first
result in tacit knowledge(Jiang & Chun, 2001; Reber, Gitelman, Parrish, &
Mesulam, 2003) that has to be made explicit by cognitive learning in order to
stimulate self-directedness (Brookfield, 2000; Mezirow & Associates, 1990). The
Piagetan model of cognitive career learning used here was developed by Law
(1996, 2010). It distinguishes four stages in cognitive development in which the
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episodes of Cochran (1997) and the micro-narratives of Savickas (2010) may be
recognised: sensing, sifting, focusing, and understanding. Sensing is the stage in
which information is gathered (from various sources, in particular those that are
emotionally compelling), but no explanation or perspective is yet developed.
Sifting is a sorting process which moves a person towards the issue of causality
(Law, 1996, p. 55). One compares ones circumstances with those of others and
starts to develop analogies and, from those analogies, constructs and concepts
start to emerge. In the focusing stage actual viewpoints are formulated. These
viewpoints are still fragmented, but they are an attempt to string together feelings
and ideas that arose during the sensing and sifting stages. The focusing stage
ideally segues into the understanding stage and the insights and fragments start to
become a second story. This process is referred to as episodic learning, which
means the learner puts the events into sequence and clarifies the who, what,
where, when, how and whyof what has happened (Law, 2008). This process is
usually a combination of ordering the material, articulating the big picture, and
drawing conclusions. It should be noted that the learning model described by Law
does not clarify how the macro-narrative takes shape. The model assumes that
processing an experience leads necessarily to clarity (i.e., understanding) and the
development of a coherent reflective narrative of lived experience.
Sensing
As mentioned earlier, sensing is the stage in which information is gathered (from
various sources, in particular those that are emotionally compelling), but no
explanation or perspective is yet developed.
That night it happened to me, I tried to write in my journal something optimistic or
hopeful, but the tear-stained pages just show a series of starts, starts, and scribbles. I
abandoned prose for poetry to express my despair... .(Robb,p.3)
In this first stage, emotions are explored and described. Gaining an awareness of
ones feelings as they happen in the body is important (Cochran, 1997, p. 61).
This way of learning relates to the concept of mindfulness, which can be described
as bringing ones complete attention to the present experience, deliberately
observing ones internal experiences in an accepting, non-elaborative and non-
judgemental way (Baer, 2003). Feelings (i.e., emotions) drive attention (Frijda,
1989; Gross, Sheppes, & Urry, 2011), which drives learning. Understanding
should, therefore, be conceptualised as an experience linking reason and feeling
instead of an experience of controlling emotions(Van Woerkom, 2010, p. 348).
Based on empirical research on the success factorsof psychotherapy, Gendlin
(1981, 1996) proposed that attention should be paid to the physical experience
emotions brings about and then translate these into symbols and metaphors. In a
Dutch study on effective psychotherapy, Van Loon (1996) showed that clients used
sensory symbols that have an inherent power for restructuring the life story. In
this stage one may even discover a powerful or sustaining metaphor, but the main
focus is on becoming aware of feelings, thoughts and memories so that the writer
might give them a voice.
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On being redundant
Pin-striped and pressed,
Ramrod straight and unblinking
I firmly clutch the neatly-typed sheet marked
Severance.
The clock stops, the sun blinks off,
My world closes pending renovations. (Robb, p. 3)
Edith uses both concrete images, which evoke emotion, as well as the powerful
ramrodmetaphor as if she has literally been punched in the stomach. Her line, The
clock stops, the sun blinks offshows the depth of despair that her job loss brought
about. The final line of the poem, My world closes pending renovationscould be
seen as a sign that Edith somehow knew that the transformational spacewould be a
place where she would have to remain a bit longer before a shift in perspective or
sense of well-being would be possible. In this stage the caterpillar cocooning is an oft
used metaphor, but renovationsis fresh and more original. The reason that using
concrete images and metaphors works better than talking about the event or
interpreting their meanings too soon is that the brain receives and processes trauma
primarily in a non-verbal way (Stuss & Anderson, 2003). It requires courage or the
kind of awareness that Edith has when she says:
... I understood that the road stretched two ways, backwards and forwards, and going
back was not an option ... mine was to branch out into a series of byways that would
change my life forever. (Robb, p. 4)
Sifting
Sifting is a sorting process which moves a person towards the issue of causality. A
person starts to see connections between his/her experiences and those of others,
perhaps even identifying patterns. These insights are still fragmentary, but they
become the building blocks of a newly constructed narrative. A kind of sorting
process takes place and the individual is no longer overwhelmed and bombarded by
all the thoughts and feelings that are inherent to the boundary experience and the
sensing phase. Note that the stages do overlap and that regressions are normal, as
well as leaps that lift the veil on what the second story may eventually look like.
On cold winter nights that followed my lay-off, I wrote and wrote, for the first time not
on a deadline, not determined to get from point A to point B, but to simply express my
thoughts and penetrate those others I was exposed to in the course. (Robb, p. 10)
Poetrys form and structure make it a good sensing and sifting exercise, as it limits
word use and thereby focuses attention on what is most salient. And because it often
relies heavily on image and metaphor, analogies can be readily born from it. With it
the writer can construct what may be referred to as an antenarrative(Boje, 2001).
Anteor beforerelates to the complex, multi-voiced, fragmented, incoherent and
ambiguous state before a well-aligned narrative can be said to exist. A narrative has
10 F. Meijers and R. Lengelle
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the qualities of plot and coherence, and ‘‘antenarrative’’ is the previous state of
affairs(Van Lente, 2003).
Laid off
Born in the winter of my fifty-sixth year,
I am delivered from my four-decade world of routine
Into the no-visibility blizzard of uncertainty.
I wail.
I weep.
Slowly the renewed of springtime arrives
And I follow the sun-brightened road
Seeking signposts for real truth to replace false ones
I write.
I read.
Like the bird flying without knowing the skys dimensions
I dare to be creative without a contracted point of sale. (Robb, p. 12)
In the quote and poem above, we see Edith sorting her thoughts, as if lining them up
to understand what she is doing and where she might be going. We might say she is
creating an outline or skeleton of elements she will need on which to grow a new
embodied life and perspective. And although her poem is about her job loss, the
reader senses an archetypal progression in the poem. It could have just as easily been
written about a serious diagnosis, the death of a loved one or mid-life divorce. When
we move from sensing to sifting, we see ourselves gathering and sorting through our
initial angst and the possibilities we uncovered upon entering the transformational
space. There are also hints of focusing and understanding stages in her poem,
particularly in the lines where she speaks of springtimeand sun-brightened road.
Here we catch a glimpse of what her second story might feel like, though she has still
not constructed a new or full understanding of her circumstances, which would
include a shift in perspective, acceptance or meaning found. What is also noteworthy
about this poem is her willingness to live with uncertainty. This is paradoxically a
prerequisite to moving forward. Her reference to the bird that does not know the
skys dimensionsalmost sounds as if she is inviting herself to be courageous. If a bird
can fly in the vast unknown, why cant I, she seems to say.
Focusing
In the focusing stage actual viewpoints are formulated. These viewpoints are still
fragmented, but they are an attempt to string together feelings and ideas that arose
during the sensing and sifting stages. Here are a few snippets from Ediths work that
show focusing:
I willed myself to let go of one assumption a week and to do that for the duration of the
course.
I started to listen, really listen, to conversations and I heard things in new ways. I read
new books and magazines, and discarded old ones, including the newspapers that had
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dominated my life for most of four decades. I dared to let my imagination go in
directions it had never travelled. I began to understand that some stories needed to be
told, even if they werent saleable.
At this point in my resurrection, I encountered the work of Charles M. Anderson and
Marion MacCurdy in their book Writing and Healing. When they described trauma
survivors, I could immediately identify, We feel powerless, taken over by alien
experiences we could not anticipate and did not choose. Healing depends upon gaining
control over that which has engulfed us. We cannot go back and change the past.
I felt the relief of letting go of a living lie, and daring to explore the real worth of once
impenetrable corporate institutions. I questioned persistently why I had let my life fill up
with busy without seeing its emptiness. (Robb, pp. 89)
Here we see Edith describing her own process, in which sensing and sifting starts to
blossom into focusing, which brings her to the exciting brink where her new
perspectives and ideas reach towards understanding. She is re-storying her life in a
way that brings new meaning and ultimately choice.
Each night my journal was full of questions about faith, and how I could have any, and
how it can be betrayed. My quest became as spiritual as it was practical; I wasnt
just looking for a replacement job now; I was looking for work that really mattered.
(Robb, p. 9)
It is as if she is collecting the puzzle pieces to construct her new perceptions the
development she will ultimately sum up as job lossto life gain. This leap, made
only through the hard work of staying with the difficulty and feeling the emotions,
becomes an almost delightfully concise way to capture both the first and second
stories.
Understanding
The focusing stage segues ideally into the understanding stage and the insights and
fragments start to become a second story. This is an illustration of the process of
episodic learning as described above. The writer puts the events into sequence and
clarifies the who, what, where, when, how and whyof what has happened. This
process is usually a combination of ordering the material, articulating the big
picture, and drawing conclusions.
I began to heal. As they [Anderson & McCurdy, FM/RL] defined it, I changed from a
singular self, frozen in time by a moment of unspeakable experience, to a more fluid,
more narratively-able, more socially-integrated self.(Robb,p.9)
In the final stage, the writer may describe feelings of wholeness and relief, but this is
not merely a restitution narrative. The story that Edith tells herself is a quest-
narrative(Smith & Sparkes, 2004). She is the heroine of her own tale, which started
off with being ramroddedand in need of renovationsto at times suddenly awed
and describing her situation as a pilgrimage of reflection and renewal(p. 15). She
now even dares ask herself, How few of us get to rebuild our lives to our liking?(p.
8). Note that the second story may not be any truer than the first. What is really
important is the creation of an internally persuasivestory (Bakhtin, 1986).
Edith is aware not only of her healing but also of the fact that it is a storyingand
re-storying process. In her final paragraph she writes:
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Being laid off is fodder for a story. A tale told twice still yields insight into both the teller
and the listener. Writing the story, telling the story, creating poems about the story, are
all means of bringing forth resurrection of the worker with a stronger self and a soul
that guides them to new directions with fewer boundaries than before. (Robb, p. 18)
It is rather poignant here that Edith ends with the idea of boundaries, as our model
also begins with a boundary experience where a real limitation or stricture is felt.
That a boundary experience well digested should lead to a sense of fewer
boundariesis a sign, one might say, that the transformational space has been
successfully traversed.
The importance of dialogue
As mentioned earlier, the learning model described by Law assumes that processing a
boundary experienceleads necessarily to clarity and the development of a coherent
reflective narrative based on lived experience. In the first section of this article we
referred to empirical evidence that shows that developing a coherent reflective
narrative is anything but an automatic process. Because emotional responses occur
before thoughts (Damasio, 2000; Pinker, 1997; Stuss & Anderson, 2003), in the
processing of a boundary experience feelings of fear, sadness and anger dominate
(Hermans & Hermans-Jansen, 1995), resulting in avoidance and irrational behaviour
(Tversky & Kahneman, 2000).
What, then, makes successful career learning (i.e., a learning process resulting in a
second story) possible? To understand this, the development of a career story must be
understood not only as a cognitive learning process but as a dialogical learning
process as well (Figure 1). A story can only be developed when its episodes are tested
by reality constantly and the only way to do this is by telling the story to relevant
others (Cochran, 1997). As Bakhtin (1981, p. 345) puts it succinctly, the internally
persuasive word is half-ours and half-someone elses. The motivational enginethat
drives career learning is dialogical in nature because the Iis actually a kind of
polyphonic novel, a combination of various voices embodied as one person
(Hermans & Kempen, 1993). Although written by one person, the polyphonic novel
is spoken by many sub-personalities(i.e., inner authors of the story), characters or
I-positions. As different voices these characters exchange information about their
respective Mes and their world, resulting in a complex, narratively structured self
(Hermans, Kempen, & Van Loon, 1992, pp. 2829). The dialogical self is not static
and is inherently transformed by the exchanges amongst I-positions (the internal
dialogue with ourselves) or with other individuals (the external dialogue). A career
identity, therefore, is co-constructed, socially situated, and performed in interactions.
According to Hermans and Hermans-Konopka (2010), this co-construction is a
practice of positioning, whereby master narratives(Davies & Harre´, 1990) and
discourses as LaPointe (2010, p. 2) puts it position individuals and construct
their identities in the interaction between narrator and audience. [...] Positioning
refers to the process through which people can adopt, resist and offer the subject
positions made available in discourses and master narratives.
It is noteworthy that the internal and external dialogue are only separate in the
way we conceptualise them. In practice, they inform each other in an ongoing way;
they are in fact merged. How we interpret our lives is very much a psycho-social
phenomenon (Damasio, 2005; Gross, 2006). People are motivated to engage in an
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internal and an external dialogue because each dialogue satisfies one of two core
human needs: a sense of autonomy and controland being part of a wider
community(Hermans & DiMaggio, 2007). To be happy we must feel in balance with
ourselves and be connected with others.
From the perspective of Dialogical Self Theory, the trajectory from a first to a
second story ideally starts with the formulation of an I-position, the subsequent
broadening of this I-position by means of a dialogue to other relevant I-positions,
and runs, via consecutive dialogical shifts, from these I-positions to a meta-position
and from this meta-position to the formulation of a promoter-position (Hermans &
Hermans-Konopka, 2010; Winters, Meijers, Lengelle, & Baert, 2012). By inviting I
positions, we mean that an individual is asked to enter the dialogue in a multi-voiced
way. Life experiences may even be discussed in ambiguous and contradictory ways.
Then a meta-position becomes valuable. It allows the individual to look at ones
I-positions from a distance. In the model the observer or witness in the centre
represents this position. This allows for a usefully detached overview of a situation.
In the process of this meta-fuelled awareness, a person says, I am this multi-voiced
self, but also more than that. In career learning this means that we develop and
express various perspectives without becoming marriedto them from the outset.
The integrative understanding gained through a meta-position is intended to lead us
to action or at least the intention to act with respect for the complexity or
changeability of our work environment. The positionthat is capable of such action
is called a promoter position and allows an individual to make a choice or take an
action.
As she was working through her distress, literally using writing to get out of
herself, Edith created both imagined and literal dialogues with others. Here is a
poem she wrote from the point of view of a junior staff person she helped train. The
Boundary Experience
First story
Stuck or Suffering
Second story
Shift perspective
Acceptance
Meaning
Observer
Transformational Space
Sensing
Sifting
Focusing
Understanding
Dialogue with self Dialogue with others
Dialogical learning
Figure 1. Transformation Through Writing: A dialogical model in four steps
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poem is a kind of internal dialogue, but also shows a need to connectoutside
oneself. It also shows Ediths growing ability to allow the observer or witness to be
present in the midst of the drama.
The mentor
She cries for me, her make-up in rivers down her cheeks
As I am marched out in the impersonal grip of the executioner.
When she arrived, on shaky steps of self-doubt
I had seen her worth and welcomed her under my wing.
She read my survival manual
And thought she could last a storm.
Now the survivor is vanquished
And her world needs reconstructing,
Since the game has changed forever.
I cry now as I remember her tears;
She cries now too,
Remembering my lack of them. (Robb, p. 16)
During her resurrectionEdith also reached out to five other long-term employees
who endured devastating lay-offs. This was not only a sign of her progress in healing
(to get beyond or out of the selfand first story) but it was also a way to motivate
herself and create a richer and safer environment to continue her dialogue.
A safe and enriching context
From educational psychology we know that a learning environment that allows
transformative learning processes, besides being dialogical, must be safe and
enriching (Simons, Van der Linden, & Duffy, 2000). One of the things we mean by
safe is that it must help break through the sense of isolation that those who are
dealing with difficult issues often feel. A boundary experience not only gives a person
the feeling one is no longer capable of acting confidently, but often leaves him/her
feeling like an outsider. By safe, we also mean that the relationship between learner
and facilitator must be based on respect, openness and trust. Those facilitating
writing aimed at empowerment or identity formation must recognise the importance
of creating in the classroom a ‘‘holding environment’’ [...] within which participants
can feel safe enough to engage more closely with their inner worlds(Hunt, 1998,
p. 33). Such an environment is created by putting guidelines in place with regards to
confidentiality and ensuring that the feedback provided is supportive and insightful.
Afirst reader(e.g., a teacher or counsellor) must be compassionate and the texts
and examples that are offered must help students to contextualise their experiences.
A safe and enriching environment also means that the focus is not, in the first
place, on understanding a boundary experience or explaining it, but on
the relationship that allows individuals to find their own way of articulating
experiences. Re-storying often starts with helping students to find the right
metaphors. From metaphors a person can move towards finding analogies,
developing personal constructs and finally shaping coherent secondstories. This
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idea is closely related to the notions of generative metaphor and frame restructuring
proposed by Scho
¨n (1993), the concept of generative processes by analogical transfer
expounded by Finke (1994), and Blacks (1993) argument that metaphors can
generate new knowledge and insight by changing relationships between the things
designated (see also Kearney & Hyle, 2004; Leitch, 2006). Writing serves the
function of organizing complex emotional experiences(Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999,
p. 1234).
Edith has the last word on this:
We decide to write our way well. Through personal essays and poems, we labour to
remember sensory details of the day it all happened, and speak in amazement at how
fast our healing mind has already started to shut it out. (Robb, p. 17)
3. Reflections on the model and narratives
It should be clear from the above that narrative approaches can foster the
development of a career narrative and provide ways in which a dialogue the key
element in career learning (Kuijpers et al., 2011) is encouraged about the personal
and societal meaning of work. In Ediths case it is noteworthy that she went on to
develop a new career for herself as consultant and writer. Her initial feelings of being
a victim were transformed as she (re)wrote her story of being laid off. She uncovered
in the writing process other aspects of her career identity that dynamic multiplicity
of personal positions or voices regarding work and through her evolving narrative
created new work for herself that would have been unthinkable at the beginning of
her boundary experience. New positions were identified as part of an evolving career
identity in which aspects of Ediths earlier work (i.e., writing) continued to serve her
but she expanded her activities in providing business advice. In a more recent note,
she wrote to tell us that her communications firm is prospering. She clearly made the
shift from secure employeeto entrepreneur, but perhaps more importantly the shift
from victim to capable actor in the world of the boundaryless career.
Additionally the model presented offers concrete and practical, but hitherto not
evidence-based ways in which university instructors might work with students
and facilitate their learning with these creative and expressive approaches. We
acknowledge that our case study does not prove the validity of our theoretical model
or prove that the MAIS courses promote career learning. Whether narrative
approaches make such learning processes possible would have to be explored in
further research in the same way that further research would be needed to determine
whether learning environments based on this theoretical model are more effective
regarding the development of a career identity than learning environments based on
other theoretical foundations.
The dialogical learning process and phases described can be applied to a variety
of boundary experiences which, if transformed successfully, contribute fundamen-
tally to career learning. Ultimately we all learn in response to practical experiences
which challenge our concepts and identities and require us to feel, observe, converse
about and reflect on those experiences while we co-construct our identities, reframe
our experiences and in turn learn to navigate the world of work responsively and
flexibly.
16 F. Meijers and R. Lengelle
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Acknowledgements
We very much appreciate Ediths willingness to have us use parts of her final paper entitled
Redundancy to Resurrection, which we also used in a piece entitled Narratives at Work(http://
www.hihohiho.com/newthinking/cafclwrtng.pdf). We also thank various anonymous reviewers
and interested colleagues who commented on earlier drafts, in particular Nanda Lodders, Wim
Wardekker, Kariene Mittendorff, Femke Geijsel and Annemie Winters.
Notes on contributors
Dr. Frans Meijers is a professor at The Hague University for Applied Sciences. He is head of
the research group Pedagogics of Vocational Development.
Reinekke Lengelle, MA, is a visiting graduate professor at Athabasca University, teaching for
the Masters of Arts, Integrated Studies programme and for the University of Albertas
extension department in Liberal Studies.
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... career development but also to the stability of the entire enterprise and society [1]. Since this century, the whole world's attention to the field of career identity is increasing year by year. ...
... With the help of the information visualization method, this study obtains the analysis results of the author-institution cooperation map, keyword co-occurrence network, and keyword evolution map, which can systematically understand the research status of career identity, and comprehensively interpret the development of career identity through clustering and emergent analysis. Therefore, this study finally draws the following conclusions: (1) The research on journal papers on career identity began in 2002, and the research on career identity was in its infancy from 2002 to 2004. During the period from 2005 to 2017, the research on career identity is in a period of rapid development, with the rapid growth of literature research and diversified research topics. ...
... Sorting out the current development of career identity in China and predicting the future trend will help international scholars to enhance their attention and understanding of this field in China. Based on the current research status and achievements, this study predicts the future research trends of career identity mainly in the following aspects: (1) The elaboration of the concept and connotation of career identity will become more diversified. Due to the continuous expansion of research fields, career identity will be combined with a variety of theories. ...
... Individuals undeniably differ from each other regarding the degree to which they actively carry out explorations, and make their own choices, regarding the values and norms that decide their behavior (Meijers, 1998). As such, familycentric individuals may prioritize families over their careers, while career-centric individuals may focus more on advancing their careers (Frear et al., 2019). ...
... This arrangement did however, come at a cost for his career, as he was not always around for late afternoon meetings nor able to display the kind of visibility that led to maximum career mobility. Despite the impact on his career prospects, he was satisfied with his decision as he and his wife were driven by a strong value orientation (Meijers, 1998;Greenhaus and Powell, 2012) in respect of the parenting style they wanted for their daughter. ...
... In this sense, our description of the family roles of working fathers provides a more nuanced explanation of how they, not only profess the need to be more involved, but have a strong desire to play a more active part in their family's lives. Participants suggest a strong valueorientation and strategic life design, in relation to their familyrelated career sensemaking (Meijers, 1998;Savickas et al., 2009). Furthermore, our findings support the idea that, the more strongly fathers identify with their family relationships, the more concerned they will be that work decisions benefit their families (Greenhaus and Powell, 2012). ...
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Introduction Taking on an identity lens, we explore how young working fathers (in the establishment phase of their careers), experience their careers in the context of their changing family roles (shifting ideologies of fathering). We propose that working fathers’ work experiences, work decisions, and career identity are the product of social and cognitive processes in a dual-earner relationship. Materials and methods This qualitative study was conducted using an interpretive, and qualitative survey. The data was collected amongst a purposive sample of 45 young South African, well-educated, working fathers, using semi-structured interviews, until data saturation was reached. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic analysis. Results The three main themes extracted from the data were: “the meaning of family identity,” “the impact of family identity on career identity,” and finally, “the types of negotiation scenarios” used by working fathers in dual-earner relationships, and how they balance the work-family challenges they face. Conclusion This study provides strong empirical support for the family-relatedness of the work decisions perspective, as we highlight the roles of working fathers as indicative of their family identities, and how these then influence their career decisions. Furthermore, our findings shed light on how dual-earner couples negotiate their work-family needs to foster positive work-family outcomes.
... Reference [9] first started from the perspective of identity theory and pointed out that occupational identity is the stability and clarity of an individual's understanding of the goals, values, and meanings of occupations, but they emphasize that occupational identity is a relatively stable state. Subsequently, reference [10] pointed out that occupational identity is a concept that is gradually constructed and matured in the process of psychological development and will change with continuous social learning and interaction. Reference [11] defines it from the perspective of the form adopted by professional identity. ...
... where i is the number of neurons in the input layer, k is the number of neurons in the output layer, and c is a constant in the range [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]. According to the above empirical formula, the number of neurons in the hidden layer of the network model in this paper ranges from [4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14], In the BPNN, the learning rate remains unchanged. ...
... where i is the number of neurons in the input layer, k is the number of neurons in the output layer, and c is a constant in the range [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]. According to the above empirical formula, the number of neurons in the hidden layer of the network model in this paper ranges from [4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14], In the BPNN, the learning rate remains unchanged. If the learning rate is too large, the network weights will be adjusted to a larger extent each time they are updated, which may cause the NN to jump back and forth around the minimum error value during the update iteration process. ...
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Occupational identity is an individual’s view, recognition, and approval of his long-term occupation, and its importance to every professional is self-evident. Only when a professional person agrees with the profession he is engaged in from the bottom of his heart can he devote himself wholeheartedly to it and unreservedly exert his greatest potential. On the basis of sorting out and analyzing the prevailing theoretical and empirical research results, this paper deliberates the empirical research on the influence mechanism between employees’ occupational identity and occupational well-being. In this study, through big data analysis, literature search, questionnaire survey, and other methods, this paper obtained the professional identity data of employees in different companies and used a method of big data analysis, namely, BP neural network (BPNN) to design in this paper to verify the data, and finally obtain an effective theoretical model of the influence mechanism of occupational identity and occupational well-being. The main work of this paper is as follows: (1) it introduces the interpretation of the concept of “professional identity” by different scholars at home and abroad and makes a brief review of the researches on professional identity and professional well-being made by foreign scholars in recent years. (2) The basic knowledge and algorithm process of artificial neural network (ANN) are introduced, and the design of the evaluation model of the influence mechanism of occupational identity on occupational well-being based on BPNN is proposed. (3) The simulation software validates the neural network (NN) assessment system developed in this paper. Experiments reveal that the BPNN system is a reasonable and feasible evaluation approach for analyzing the impact of occupational identity on occupational well-being.
... Engagement in workplace learning activities that develop job competencies has an important role in the formation of CI (Meijers and Lengelle, 2012). More specifically, CI is reinforced by learning processes and its formation facilitated by learning situations in which socially constructed new knowledge is integrated with existing knowledge structures (Meijers, 1998). Thus, an individual's identity is in large part formed by new knowledge that has been acquired from the socially collaborative work context to which the individual belongs (Nazar and van der Heijden, 2012). ...
... Thus, an individual's identity is in large part formed by new knowledge that has been acquired from the socially collaborative work context to which the individual belongs (Nazar and van der Heijden, 2012). Central to this process is the role of an expansive learning environment (Meijers, 1998) that affords opportunities for individuals to pursue learning paths that facilitate their career growth (Nazar and van der Heijden, 2012), which is ultimately "aimed at the acquisition of a CI" (Meijers, 1998, p. 202). As noted, a paucity of research examines the role of PILA in CI formation. ...
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Purpose The aim of the study is to extend prior research on career identity formation by investigating whether individuals' participation in informal workplace learning activities positively relates to career identity. The study also examines whether work engagement significantly mediates the participation in informal learning and career identity relationship. Design/methodology/approach Using data from a survey of 313 individuals in Iran, the study developed and tested measurement and structural models and employed partial least squares structural equation modelling to test the hypotheses. Findings The findings suggest that work engagement substantially mediates the positive relationship between participation in informal learning and career identity. Furthermore, the learning potential of the workplace and the propensities of individuals to actively approach situations that provide them with opportunities to learn and seek feedback on their performance have positive although varying relations with levels of participation in informal learning. Practical implications Human resource management and career management specialists must be cognisant of the central role that employee participation in informal learning plays in strengthening their work engagement and career identity. Learning and development specialists should seek to create conditions in the work environment that are favourable to informal learning and work engagement. Originality/value Although the role of formal development programmes in career identity formation is well documented, studies that examine links between participation in informal learning activities and career identity are very rare. Furthermore, there are no known studies that examine the potential mediating role of work engagement in the relationship between participation in informal learning activities and career identity.
... Anchoring refers to the stabilizing nature of the self-concept that informs individual preferences around what individuals value and what is most meaningful in their career relative to their social context (Rodrigues et al., 2013;Schein, 1978). An anchored career identity stems from an individual's work history and serves as a cognitive compass when making career choices (Fugate, Kinicki, & Ashforth, 2004;Meijers, 1998). Evolving refers to the more dynamic nature of career identity as something that is actively created and transformed, which is both fueled by, and in turn, influences cognitive processes of understanding one's career experiences (Ashforth et al., 2008;Vough & Caza, 2017). ...
... Vocational identity represents how an individual defines her or his occupational abilities, interests, goals, values, and roles (Skorikov & Vondracek, 2012) and how an individual can interpret these competences and goals and link them to acceptable career roles (Meijers, 1998). Vocational identity is a multi-layered construct in that it not only refers to possible content of careers, it also includes elements of structure and processes, such as the exploration, commitment and reconsideration of careers (Porfeli, Lee, Vondracek, & Weigold, 2011). ...
... Vocational identity represents how an individual defines her or his occupational abilities, interests, goals, values, and roles (Skorikov & Vondracek, 2012) and how an individual can interpret these competences and goals and link them to acceptable career roles (Meijers, 1998). Vocational identity is a multi-layered construct in that it not only refers to possible content of careers, it also includes elements of structure and processes, such as the exploration, commitment and reconsideration of careers (Porfeli, Lee, Vondracek, & Weigold, 2011). ...
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This dissertation addresses the question to what extent several individual characteristics of youth with vulnerable school careers relate to their vocational identity, that is, how they define themselves as a worker. Malleable characteristics get special attention in this respect, in order to provide practitioners in education and social work with suggestions to improve their actions. In the context of special curricula aimed at these youth, mentors and social workers have individual meetings with their students and pupils. That is why this dissertation also addresses the question to which mentor qualities the at-risk students and their mentors attach most value.
... Career identity refers to individual workers' personal motivations, interests, and competencies within their career roles (Meijers 1998). In their study of remote work and career identity in the United Kingdom, Tietze and Musson (2010) found that the meaning that individuals attach to work, their homes, and their personal lives all influence how workers feel about their individual remote work situation. ...
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