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How Work Role Transition Influences Professional Identity: The Career Path from Corporate Manager to University Professor Open Access

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This phenomenological research study examines the individual experiences of midcareer corporate managers (practitioners) with professional identity change, while undergoing work role transition to become college or university professors (scholars). Using a conceptual framework of culture, work role, and professional identity, this study focused on a group of twelve men and women who made an intentional decision to leave an objectively defined management role to enter a different subjectively defined teaching role. The findings generated four conclusions. First, change in identity and work-role transition manifests with different affective responses in men and women. Second, cognitive decision making and intentionality are different for men and women in work role transitions. Third, career transitions are easier when autonomous decision making, continuing education opportunities, experimentation with provisional selves, and equal levels of social status, are present. Fourth, career transitions are more difficult when loss of social status and financial stability, liminality, and identity conflict or lack of career anchor, are observed. Due to recent economic conditions related to the recession of 2008, and attendant fall-out related to the current career landscape, Mid-life Career Changers from Industry to Academia was the focus of a Professional Development Workshop during both the 73rd and 74th annual meetings of the Academy of Management (AoM). Because of growing interest in the topic, it has been included on the agenda of the AoM 75th annual meeting scheduled for Vancouver, Canada in 2015.

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