Not lost in translation: Managerial career narratives and the construction of protean identities


How can managers remain in charge of their own careers based on personal values and motivations, rather than surrendering to the vulnerabilities of modern day corporate bureaucracies? This question represents a core issue for managers whose careers have been significantly affected by changing business environments, new organizational forms and the related changes of work organization in modern day corporations. Managers can no longer rely on the traditional linear models of organizational careers. It is increasingly demanded that they be more flexible and direct their own careers, which is captured in new career concepts, such as the ‘protean career’. Drawing on narrative identity theory, this study sets out to investigate how managers construct a protean identity and how specific narrative practices support individuals in shaping, implementing and defending this identity. The life stories of 29 individuals, all of whom have experienced significant career changes, are analysed. Based on these stories, four core narrative building blocks at the heart of protean identity construction and related narrative practices are identified, including (i) the discovery of conflicting expectations, (ii) the exploration of one’s own values and capabilities, (iii) the commitment to one’s own path and (iv) defending that path.

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Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Marketing & Strategy
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
Additional Information: © Sage 2018. The final publication is available via Sage at
Uncontrolled Keywords: life story,management careers,managerial work,narrative identity,protean career,Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous),Social Sciences(all),Strategy and Management,Management of Technology and Innovation
Publication ISSN: 1741-282X
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 08:19
Date Deposited: 29 May 2018 08:15
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Related URLs: http://journals ... 018726718778094 (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2019-03-01
Published Online Date: 2018-07-19
Accepted Date: 2018-03-20
Authors: Wolf, Carola (ORCID Profile 0000-0001-7565-6977)



Version: Accepted Version

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