Identity work: A Phenomenological Study of Three Colleagues' Vocational and Occupational Identity Work

Natascha Schmidt

Student thesis: Master thesis


Within the following master thesis a phenomenological approach towards creating a qualitative analysis of three colleagues named Mikkel, Sarah and Karin is taken. In their daily life, they work at Moves, a department at the Elsass Institute, where they seek to better the lives of people with cerebral palsy, an umbrella term for various effects of damage to the brain causing cognitive and physical disability.
The three colleagues are continuously engaged in identity work processes and because of the amount of time spent at work it often represents a substantial part of people’s self-identities, i.e. who a person takes themselves to be. In this thesis identity is viewed as a dynamic phenomena in which the continuously and multiple identity work processes are constituted by both internal self-reflection and external engagement. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the three colleagues’, Mikkel’s, Sarah’s and Karins’s, own experience of two work related phenomena: Their vocational and occupational identity work. Through this investigation, it is the aim of the thesis to analyze said experiences and how they involve (dis-)identification, (mis)alignment and inputs from external ‘others’ defined as everything and everyone external to the individual, e.g. objects, subjects, phenomena etc. To further the insight in the dynamic character of identity work, this empirical study is based on two rounds of interviews separated by 4-8 weeks: Two interviews with each of the three colleagues.
Inspired by Tony Watsons identity work theory it was found that all three colleagues identified with their vocations and had an experience of having a vocational identity, although Mikkel’s experience of such first appeared to him during the time between his two interviews. Moreover Mikkel and Karin experienced identification with and alignment between their vocation and work, whereas Sarah experienced dis-identification and misalignment. The three colleagues experienced inputs from external ‘other’ objects as well as subjects to their vocational and occupational identity work. Therefore and in light of the above Mikkel, Sarah and Karin are not autonomous agents in their vocational and occupational identity work.

EducationsMSc in Psychology, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages69
SupervisorsAnne Reff Pedersen