A social identity approach to career development: possible selves and prototypical occupational identities.

PhD Thesis

Yates, J. 2017. A social identity approach to career development: possible selves and prototypical occupational identities. PhD Thesis University of East London Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.6815
AuthorsYates, J.
TypePhD Thesis

The notion of identity lies at the heart of many career theories, yet the concept is not well or consistently defined within the literature. This programme of doctoral research aimed to explore two specific variants of career related identity: occupational prototypes and possible selves. The first study gathered data from psychology students (n=24) through focus groups. Participants described their prototypical representations of members of four occupations (social worker, primary teacher, clinical and occupational psychologists). A content analysis revealed that these were detailed and multidimensional. Additionally, the data provided forty items for a self-report measure to assess the degree of match between an individual’s possible self and an occupational prototype (PS to OP Match), used in Study 2. The second study examined the associations between possible self salience, PS to OP Match, and career goals and motivation for female psychology students (n=87). The results revealed significant, moderate correlations between possible self salience and both career goals and career motivation, and a significant weak correlation between PS to OP Match and career motivation. No evidence was found for an association between PS to OP Match and career goals. In Study 3, the data collected in the first study were subject to a second analysis (classic grounded theory) to identify the characteristics symbolised by the features of the occupational prototypes described. A framework of occupational identities was developed which reflected participants’ conceptualisations of these occupational identities. The framework incorporated four intrapsychic dimensions (successful, cool, cultured and intellectual) and four intrapsychic dimensions (warm, energetic, fun and conventional). In the fourth and final study, the responses of four career practitioners to the framework were explored using grounded theory. The semi-structured interviews revealed that the participants drew on stereotypes and preconscious cognition when thinking about careers. The practitioners found it uncomfortable to engage with conceptualisations of occupations which were constructed through stereotypes and preconscious cognitive processing, but despite this discomfort, felt that career conversations based on the framework could add value to clients. The results of the research programme make a contribution to the theoretical understanding of the nature of perceptions of occupational identities, provide empirical evidence about the impact that possible selves may have on career development, and offer a new framework of occupational identities which can be used to raise awareness of preconscious thoughts in career practice.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.6815
Publication dates
PrintJun 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited18 Jan 2018
Publisher's version
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