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Becoming a professional: A longitudinal study of graduates'  professional trajectories from higher education to working life
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Studies in Adult, Popular and Higher Education. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Att bli professionell : En longitudinell studie om akademikers professionella bana från högre utbildning till arbetsliv (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Syftet med avhandlingen är att beskriva akademikers bana mot att bli professionella då de kommer ut i arbetslivet med en magisterexamen i psykologi eller statsvetenskap.

The study has a longitudinal design where Political Science and Psychology graduates’ have been interviewed on three consecutive occasions; the last semester before graduation, the first year and then, in the third year of professional work. The theoretical frame of reference comprises a situated and social learning theory and a gender perspective. These theories were chosen since they elaborate on concepts such as identity, practice, participation and learning.

The results indicate that becoming a professional is not an isolated phenomenon merely learned and nurtured in higher education and/or in working life. It is emphasised as a dynamic learning process between a reflective individual, the interaction with a professional practice as well as a relationship between other spheres of life, e.g. the personal and the private. The graduates’ professional trajectories can be characterised by a movement from appropriating new knowledge to a need to change direction, e.g. new work tasks or professional fields. This is also a process of professional identity formation. The graduates’ professional identity is emphasised as being both closely related to a gender identity and influenced by the individuals’ belonging to and participation in other practices. The results thus indicate that professional identity formation is an interplay between different spheres of life that changes over time. By using a longitudinal design, it can be claimed that becoming a professional requires balancing one’s whole life situation.

Abstract [sv]

Syftet med avhandlingen är att beskriva akademikers bana mot att bli professionella då de kommer ut i arbetslivet med en magisterexamen i psykologi eller statsvetenskap.

Avhandlingen baserar sig på en longitudinell studie där statsvetare och psykologer har blivit intervjuade vid tre olika tillfällen; sista terminen innan examen samt efter första och tredje året i arbetslivet.

Den teoretiska referensramen utgörs av begrepp från situerat och social lärteori samt från ett genusperspektiv. Dessa teorier valdes då de fokuserar på begreppen identitet, praktik, deltagande och lärande.Resultaten visar att utvecklingen mot att bli professionell inte är ett isolerat fenomen förvärvat och underhållet i högre utbildning och/eller arbetslivet. Det uttrycks snarare som en dynamisk lärprocess mellan en reflekterande individ, interaktion med en professionell praktik samt med olika sfärer i livet, den professionella, den personliga och den privata. Akademikernas professionella bana kan karakteriseras som en rörelse mellan att utveckla ny kunskap och göra den till sin, till ett behov av förändring i form av nya arbetsuppgifter eller byte av professionellt fält. Att bli professionell innebär även en utveckling av en professionell identitet. Statsvetarnas och psykologernas professionella identitet skapas i relation till en genusidentitet och är influerad av individernas tillhörighet och medverkan i olika praktiker. Resultatet visar därför utveckling av professionell identitet som ett samspel mellan olika sfärer i livet som är föränderligt över tid. Utifrån den utförda longitudinella studien är det möjligt att hävda att utvecklingen mot att bli professionell är ett sätt att skapa ett samspel och balans i individens livssituation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press , 2009. , 89 + papers 1-4 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Behavioural Science, ISSN 1654-2029 ; 140
Keyword [en]
longitudinal study, qualitative analysis, profesional development, identity, employability, higher education, work life, community of practice, gender
Keyword [sv]
Longitudinell studie, kvalitativ analys, professionell utveckling, identitet, anställningsbarhet, högre utbildning, arbetsliv, praktikgemenskap, genus
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-16940ISBN: 978-91-7393-691-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-16940DiVA: diva2:174874
Public defence
2009-03-27, Eklundska salen (I:101), Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:30 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-02-25 Created: 2009-02-25 Last updated: 2014-09-30Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. A winding road - professional trajectories from higher education to working life: a case study of political science and psychology graduates
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A winding road - professional trajectories from higher education to working life: a case study of political science and psychology graduates
2008 (English)In: Studies in Continuing Education, ISSN 0158-037X, E-ISSN 1470-126X, Vol. 30, no 3, 215-229 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This qualitative and longitudinal study focuses on graduate employment and the development of graduate employment paths. The aim of this article is to explore the present professional trajectory from higher education to working life, with particular reference to graduates from two different study programmes at Linko¨ping University in Sweden: Political Science and Psychology. More specifically, the article focuses on how graduates construe their professional trajectories in terms of their envisaged future work as senior students, and later as novice and early-career professionals with 18 and 34 months of work life experience. The results indicate that graduates’ professional identities and vision of their future work change over time. The set of categories, depicting the graduates’ vision and experiences of their professional trajectories, do not seem to follow a specific temporal and logical progression in their career. Rather, they appear in different order and at different points in time after graduation. The results, instead, endorse the discourse of lifelong learning and the need for flexibility and employability on the labour market.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routhledge, Taylor & Francis, 2008
Keyword
Longitudinal study, graduate employment, professional trajectory, higher education, work life
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-16933 (URN)10.1080/01580370802439896 (DOI)
Available from: 2009-02-25 Created: 2009-02-25 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
2. The Dynamics of Professional Identity Formation: Graduates’ Transitions from Higher Education to Working Life
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Dynamics of Professional Identity Formation: Graduates’ Transitions from Higher Education to Working Life
2009 (English)In: Vocations and Learning, ISSN 1874-785X, Vol. 2, no 1, 1-18 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the development of professional identity as arelationship between professional and personal aspects of life. The focus is onstudent and novice professional psychologists’ and political scientists’ processes ofprofessional identity formation in their transition from higher education to workinglife. Drawing on Wenger’s theory of nexus of multimembership (1998), the findingsindicate that professional identity is a dynamic relationship between different lifespheres rather than an isolated phenomenon only taking place at the university or inthe work context. The analysis yielded three different forms of professional identity,non-differentiated identity, compartmentalised identity and integrated identity, whichexemplify different negotiated relationships between professional, personal andprivate life spheres. The findings show that these three forms of professionalidentities are sequential, from an individual focus to more relational and integratedways of reasoning about one’s profession. It is through the negotiations betweenpersonal and socially derived imperatives that identity formation progressesthroughout working lives.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2009
Keyword
Professional identity formation, Higher education, Working life, Longitudinal study
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-16810 (URN)10.1007/s12186-008-9014-1 (DOI)
Available from: 2009-02-19 Created: 2009-02-19 Last updated: 2009-05-11
3. Graduates 'Doing Gender' as early Career Professionals
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Graduates 'Doing Gender' as early Career Professionals
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Purpose: This qualitative study focuses on how early career professionals ‘do gender’ in their new professional context. The article explores how two different groups of graduates, psychologists and political scientists, ‘do gender’ as early career professionals with particular emphasis on how graduates acquire legitimacy in relation to their colleagues and clients.

Design/methodology/approach: Graduates from two different Master’s programmes in Sweden, Political Science and Psychology, were interviewed after 30-34 months of professional work. The theoretical approach is based on a ‘doing gender’ perspective with special reference to Acker’s theoretical framework viewing employment and organizations as gendered processes influencing both individuals’ actions and activities.

Findings: The analysis identified two different ways the early career professionals ‘do gender’ in their professional practice in order to acquire legitimacy, one of a kind or the same as others and construction or selfpossession. The results indicate that female and male early career professionals acquire different kinds of legitimacy, which could be derived from the gendered processes in the organization where behaviour and interaction play a decisive role. When they ‘do gender’ they also produce and reproduce a gendered notion of a professional project that influences their professional practice as well as how they position themselves as a professional person with knowledge and competence.

Originality/value: The perspective of ‘doing gender’ opens up an interesting approach in exploring graduate employment and the encounter with working life. The perspective makes it possible to capture gender as everyday activities of people in organizations; an approach that has been largely ignored.

Keyword
Graduate Employment, Doing Gender, Professionalism, Legitimacy, Qualitative analysis
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-16935 (URN)
Available from: 2009-02-25 Created: 2009-02-25 Last updated: 2010-01-14Bibliographically approved
4. Beyond Higher ducation: Critical Transformations in Becoming a Professional
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Beyond Higher ducation: Critical Transformations in Becoming a Professional
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This article focuses on student and novice professional psychologists’ and political scientists’ critical transformations in their transition from higher education to working life. The empirical evidence is derived from a longitudinal study of students’ understanding of learning and work. The findings indicate that the participants’ critical transformations comprise complex and reflective processes involving both an inner reflection and a more overt reflection on the circumstances in which they find themselves. The first component concerns the transformation the participants experience as a development of themselves and how they see that they have changed. The second are the influences the participants have received from the people and communities of practices in which they participate. However, besides the identification of these two orientations, critical transformation is foremost an interplay between these two as a continuous reflected experience that involves both formal and informal learning opportunities.

Keyword
Higher education, working life, critical transformation, professional formation
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-16936 (URN)
Available from: 2009-02-25 Created: 2009-02-25 Last updated: 2010-01-14Bibliographically approved

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