An exploration of the relationship between personal and career identity in the stories of three women: a counter narrative for career development

PhD Thesis


Chant, A. 2017. An exploration of the relationship between personal and career identity in the stories of three women: a counter narrative for career development. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Education
AuthorsChant, A.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD
Abstract

This thesis explores the stories of three women. They are different stories connected by experiences of first or second generation migration, ambiguous identities, belonging and otherness. I also connect the stories as I am one of the women, my cousin is another and the third is my friend. My interest is both personal and professional as this research serves both my personal interest in our lives and careers, and my professional concern as a practitioner about the development of career counselling practice to meet the needs of clients.

The search for and interpretation of meaning (Bruner,1990) informed the methodology and analysis of this work. I do not seek a ‘truthful account’ of our stories, accurate in their telling, but a ‘truth seeking’ narrative, what memories and stories mean to the teller.

The methodology is auto/biographical. I began the research where my thoughts and questions began, with my own story. This is neither autobiographical nor biographical research, it is an interplay between the two. The ‘/’ both connects and divides my story and those of my participants (Merrill and West, 2009). I reflected upon images, memories, collage and discussion about my own life and career. The stories of my co-participants, gathered through loosely structured interview and using artefacts, poems and family histories, are rich in themselves but their intersection with my own story is also part of the heuristic nature of the methodology. The interviews, lasting one to two hours, were recorded and fully transcribed, and those transcripts shared with my co-participants for accuracy. A second interview, after a period of reflection on the transcription was conducted with one participant. In this follow-up interview, questions were shaped by events and elements in the story that were of particular interest and were then able to be explored further. With the other participant a full weekend of discussion followed the interview, which brought in other family members, reflections and stories.

The analysis of the material is holistic and considers the ethnography, process and Gestalt of our interactions (Merrill and West, 2009). The meaning in these lives and careers is a co-construction from themes within each story and also the shared meaning between them. The three stories present windows into very different lives and careers, but also into recognisable and shared struggles and resolutions. Although personal agency is at the heart of each story, this is set within and shaped by the family, history and communities in which each of us grew.

The work of Jung (1938), Adler (1923), Frosh (1991) and later of Savickas (2011) provided some theoretical ‘heavy lifting’ in understanding the relationship between personal identities and career. Each is invited into the thesis to comment upon and to illuminate the processes at work in this shared space. They help to understand the relationship between the threads and themes in these stories and how they create a tapestry of meaning for the teller.

Insights into the three stories offer a critique of the dominant models of professional practice in career counselling. Such critique follows a now well established paradigm shift in career theory in response to the changing nature of work and of social structures (Bauman, 2000; 2005: Frosh, 1991) and an increased interest in contextualism in career counselling (Richardson, 2002). Social constructionist theories and models include Savickas’ (2011) Career Construction Theory in which he identified the significance of pre-occupations as threads that accompany us through career and life, connecting the plots, characters and scripts into a story that in the telling has meaning and purpose. Pre-occupations in our three stories were identified from themes in the interviews and in other material and the pre-occupation that united us was the clarification and construction of our identities. Sometimes it was a clear and painful roar and sometimes a quiet question hidden within micronarratives that were re-membered in our conversations. Career provided us with a stage whereon identity was more or less resolved and reconstructed.

The significance of the relationship between personal and career identity emerges as the key argument of this thesis and a counter narrative for career counselling. It provides an alternative to neoliberal, individualistic, outcome driven practice (Irving, 2013), and has at its heart an acknowledgement of the relationship between who we believe ourselves to be and what we do in our lives. I conclude that such a counter narrative must be illustrated first within the development of the curriculum for the training and education of careers practitioners. It must also be reflected in the development of models of career theory and counselling. In this way it will be secured within the practice of careers professionals for future generations.
On a broader level there is much that the exploration into the relationship between personal and career identity can illuminate outside the specific context of career counselling. Social and political concerns about radicalisation and the construction of identity in migrant communities may be illuminated by the insights offered by this thesis. Moreover as identities become more mixed and complex in ‘liquid modern’ worlds (Bauman, 2000) this thesis offers a further understanding of the scaffolding that is needed for identity construction and life planning, when traditional structures are hard to find.

KeywordsMigration; belonging; identity
Year2017
File
File Access Level
Restricted
Publication process dates
Deposited26 Sep 2017
Completed2017
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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