Crisis at Work: Identity and the End of Career by Jesse Potter (auth.)

By Jesse Potter (auth.)

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This more comprehensive understanding of the self, and of what it means to have a working-life – where identity and self-understanding are inclusive of the social, interpersonal, and intrapersonal – lies at the heart of this book. The people I spoke with articulated the disparate areas of their working-lives as connected and interdependent. They understood who they were as taking place at the epicentre of these various contingencies. I argue that this amalgamation challenges the work–self paradigm, and it is of crucial importance that we begin paying attention to it going forward.

The self–work relationship is best exemplified through the idea that our work is more than just a job or a means to an end, but has value in itself. Work therefore represents something of who we are while providing a medium through which we express what we value. 16). Key to this understanding is that work is experienced and articulated not only as a physical activity but also as an expression of the things we value (Ransome 2005). The idea that our work should fit us, that the importance and significance of work lies in its intra-personal meaning, is derived from the classic depiction of the work ethic and ‘the calling’.

This might help explain the resilience of the traditional ‘career’ form as perceived and pursued, that ‘career’ means much more than a ‘job-for-life’ or intra-organizational narrative with a connected beginning, middle, and end, but is embedded in countless other areas of biographical significance – from marriage and home ownership to familial roles and child rearing. The auspice of traditional ‘career’ therefore has ordered and continues to order narrative time, the unfolding of a working-life being inseparable from the notions of progress, promotion, and linearity associated with traditional ‘career’.

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