I am currently working on three research projects that examine the relationship between identity and career behavior.
Accidental careers. In this study, Cheryl Carr (Belmont University) and I collected data from 12 professionals to understand more about career construction. First, the study respondents wrote narratives detailing their career experiences. Next, we conducted semi-structured interviews with each respondent to elicit more information concerning their interpretations of life events and subsequent career behavior. We discovered that careers are constructed as a result of incidental learning, often due to unplanned or unexpected events, and intentional career decision making and movement throughout the lifespan. We discovered that as incidental learning occurs, people frame their career experiences in a variety of ways including as a period of darkness, an opportunity to live out a childhood fantasy and as the "best of times, the worst of times." Career frames guide future career decisions.
Age and career. I entered this study with two main assumptions that focused my data collection and analysis. First, my goal is to construct theory about the relationship between career behavior and aging to answer recent calls for more emphasis on career transitions in midlife and beyond (Hall & Mirvis, 1995). Therefore, I chose to collect and analyze qualitative data to construct a theory grounded in the data I am (will continue) collecting from workforce participants at and over the age of 55. Historically, in the United States, most people who retired did so in their late 50’s. Moreover, 55 is the age at which many companies allow early retirement with pension benefits (Money Magazine, 2013). Thus, the mid to late 50’s appear to represent a range of ages when the need for decision making regarding the career future is often expected.
Second, existing research has focused primarily on retirement and bridge jobs, defined as “the pattern of labor force participation exhibited by older workers as they leave their career jobs and move toward complete labor force withdrawal” (Wang, Yujie, Liu, & Shulz, 2008, p. 818). However, this definition presupposes that people who retire view this action as antecedent to permanent labor force withdrawal. The assumption appears to be that career choices past a certain age are headed toward inevitable permanent labor force withdrawal. My research seeks to explore this assumption by examining lived experience.
Career (HRM) systems in family businesses. Few human resource management (HRM) studies have leveraged knowledge from family business research to examine the nature of human resource activities within family firms and how these activities influence organization outcomes. Yet, according to some estimates, family businesses account for 50% of the United States Gross Domestic Product and conservatively represent 60% of all U.S. businesses. In this paper, I argue that undertaking an examination of the family business literature, with an eye to human resource activities, is an important step in advancing HR and family business theory and practice. Specifically, theory and research concerning family businesses has grown dramatically over the last 25 years and the results of many studies suggest that some taken for granted assumptions about effective human resources practices are invalid within the context of family business. To encourage critical conversations between the fields, I reexamine prior empirical and conceptual family business research through the lens of three employment activities - formation, adaptation, and termination – and challenge dominant assumptions in the existing HRM literature. The article concludes with directions for integrating family business research into our study of HRM activities and outcomes.