What happens when you can't be who you are: Professional identity at the institutional periphery
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This article examines the impact of large scale, ‘macro’ role transitions on professional identity. Drawing on in-depth interviews with two different groups of immigrant professionals, it theorizes how organizational outsiders with established professional identities respond to the institutional requirements and specifically to professional pre-entry scripts in their new host country. The study demonstrates how identity work evolves among each group as they navigate the permeable and impermeable pre-entry scripts in their respective professions. It identifies both barriers and facilitators to engagement with, and fulfillment of, local pre-entry scripts. These findings demonstrate how different professional domains and power structures create different opportunities for re-entry and as a result give rise to different forms of identity work – involving, for example, identity customization, identity shadowing, struggle and enrichment. Implications for policy makers in the field will be discussed, focusing on how different groups of professionals respond to unique forms of identity threat emerging from their respective professional institutions and structural barriers.
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