Occupational Identity



Occupational identity refers to the conscious awareness of oneself as a worker. The process of occupational identity formation in modern societies can be difficult and stressful. However, establishing a strong, self-chosen, positive, and flexible occupational identity appears to be an important contributor to occupational success, social adaptation, and psychological well-being. Whereas previous research has demonstrated that the strength and clarity of occupational identity are major determinants of career decision-making and psychosocial adjustment, more attention needs to be paid to its structure and contents. We describe the structure of occupational identity using an extended identity status model, which includes the traditional constructs of moratorium and foreclosure, but also differentiates between identity diffusion and identity confusion as well as between static and dynamic identity achievement. Dynamic identity achievement appears to be the most adaptive occupational identity status, whereas confusion may be particularly problematic. We represent the contents of occupational identity via a theoretical taxonomy of general orientations toward work (Job, Social Ladder, Calling, and Career) determined by the prevailing work motivation (extrinsic vs. intrinsic) and preferred career dynamics (stability vs. growth). There is evidence that perception of work as a calling is associated with positive mental health, whereas perception of work as a career can be highly beneficial in terms of occupational success and satisfaction. We conclude that further research is needed on the structure and contents of occupational identity and we note that there is also an urgent need to address the issues of cross-cultural differences and intervention that have not received sufficient attention in previous research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HawaiiHiloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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