Fast Tracks and Inner Journeys: Crafting Portable Selves for Contemporary Careers

Gianpiero Petriglieri (First Author), Jack Denfeld Wood (Participant Author), Jennifer Louise Petriglieri (Participant Author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal

    49 Citations (Web of Science)


    Through a longitudinal, qualitative study of 55 managers engaged in mobile careers across organizations, industries, and countries, and pursuing a one-year international master’s of business administration (MBA), we build a process model of the crafting of portable selves in temporary identity workspaces. Our findings reveal that contemporary careers in general, and temporary membership in an institution, fuel people’s efforts to craft portable selves: selves endowed with definitions, motives, and abilities that can be deployed across roles and organizations over time. Two pathways for crafting a portable self—one adaptive, the other exploratory—emerged from the interaction of individuals’ aims and concerns with institutional resources and demands. Each pathway involved developing a coherent understanding of the self in relation to others and to the institution that anchored participants to their current organization while preparing them for future ones. The study shows how institutions that host members temporarily can help them craft selves that afford a sense of agentic direction and enduring connection, tempering anxieties and bolstering hopes associated with mobile working lives. It also suggests that institutions serving as identity workspaces for portable selves may remain attractive and extend their cultural influence in an age of workforce mobility.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)479-525
    JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Corresponding author email


    • business schools
    • contemporary careers
    • identity work; portable selves
    • identity workspaces; systems psychodynamics

    Indexed by

    • FT
    • ABDC-A*
    • Scopus
    • SSCI


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