Future work selves as dynamic networks of future-oriented self-representations


Speaker:Prof Karoline Strauss, Management Department - ESSEC Business School
Date: Thursday 9 January 2020
Time: 14:30 - 15:30
Location: Streatham Court C

Further details

As they navigate increasingly complex careers characterized by frequent transitions, individuals rely on their future work selves, their representations of themselves in the future which capture their hopes and aspirations in relation to work (Strauss et al., 2012), to provide a sense of direction and motivation. However, individuals also need be able to adapt their plans to remain flexible, suggesting that future work selves need to be adjusted over time in order not to lead individuals to rigidly pursue a future that can no longer be achieved. At the same time, future work selves need to show a level of stability to provide a sense of coherence and to foster persistence and resilience in pursuit of one’s hopes and aspirations. In addition, rather than having a coherent future work self, individuals may imagine multiple paths for their future which may cause them to feel torn between different possibilities, but also shelter them from setbacks. To address these issues and explore when and how future work selves are most functional during career transitions we present a novel conceptualization and operationalization of future work selves as networks of future-oriented self-representations. We propose that the density and modularity of future work self networks will influence adjustment patterns in career transitions, and that patterns of change in future work self networks enable individuals to maintain a sense of consistency and stability while also allowing them to adjust to change. Our paper contributes to research on identity processes in career transitions by providing a novel perspective on how future work selves may shape career transitions, and how they are in turn adapted during these transitions. Our novel conceptualization of future work selves has further implications for fields of inquiries concerned with how individuals’ views of themselves change over time, such as leadership development, retirement transitions, or migration.



Karoline Strauss is Professor of Organizational Behavior at ESSEC Business School, France. Her research broadly focuses on how individuals attempt to shape the future through proactive behavior, and on the role of identity, specifically future work selves, in this process. Her work has been published in journals such as the Journal of Management, the Journal of Applied Psychology, and the Journal of Organizational Behavior. Her research has been funded by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation, the French National Research Agency, and the Paris Seine Excellence Initiative. She serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Applied Psychology, the Journal of Management, the British Journal of Management, and the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, and served as a representative-at-large at the Academy of Management’s Managerial and Organizational Cognition division.