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The Selves we could have been: how our alternative professional identities shape our present and future

Author: Obodaru, Otilia INSEAD Area: Organisational Behaviour Series: Working Paper ; 2008/41/OB Publisher: Fontainebleau : INSEAD, 2008.Language: EnglishDescription: 34 p.Type of document: INSEAD Working PaperAbstract: This paper introduces the concept of “alternative professional identity”, our cognitive representation of who we could have been if something in our career past had turned out differently. Alternative professional identities are generated through processes of self-variation and selection. Self-variation refers to the creation of self-relevant professionally related counterfactual thoughts through self-reflection on our past experiences, especially on the consequences of important turning points, moments in which we made important decisions, or when such decisions were made for us, but also through interactions with others who can provide us with their ideas and opinions about who we could have been, as well as from social comparison with others who personify who we could have been. From this repertoire of self-relevant, professionally related, counterfactual thoughts, we select those which are most feasible, as well as most desirable or most undesirable; these will become part of our identity in the form of alternative professional identities. By providing an evaluative and interpretive context for the current self, alternative professional identities color our perception of the present; by providing material for the creation of possible selves, alternative professional identities also have a role in shaping our future.
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INSEAD Working Paper Asia Campus
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Print Available BC008333
INSEAD Working Paper Europe Campus
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Print Available BC008332
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This paper introduces the concept of “alternative professional identity”, our cognitive representation of who we could have been if something in our career past had turned out differently. Alternative professional identities are generated through processes of self-variation and selection. Self-variation refers to the creation of self-relevant professionally related counterfactual thoughts through self-reflection on our past experiences, especially on the consequences of important turning points, moments in which we made important decisions, or when such decisions were made for us, but also through interactions with others who can provide us with their ideas and opinions about who we could have been, as well as from social comparison with others who personify who we could have been. From this repertoire of self-relevant, professionally related, counterfactual thoughts, we select those which are most feasible, as well as most desirable or most undesirable; these will become part of our identity in the form of alternative professional identities. By providing an evaluative and interpretive context for the current self, alternative professional identities color our perception of the present; by providing material for the creation of possible selves, alternative professional identities also have a role in shaping our future.

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