Entangled strands: A process perspective on the evolution of careers in the context of personal, family, work, and community life


Published: 15Dec2011

Authors: Lee, Mary Dean; Kossek, Ellen Ernst; Hall, Douglas T.; Litrico, Jean Baptiste


The goal of this study is to develop a theoretical framework to illuminate the process of careers unfolding over time in an overall life context. We draw on data from a qualitative field study of the career paths of 81 professionals who pursued working on a reduced-load basis as a strategy for sustaining commitment to both their careers and family lives. Using multiple methods to analyze what happened between two interviews approximately six years apart, we identify five distinct career narratives and present a model of the evolution of careers. The model suggests that individuals construct careers over time through their own sensemaking of constantly shifting entangled strands of their personal, family, work, and community lives and three key dynamics that are ongoing: external events, gradual developments, and individual actions. © The Tavistock Institute 2011.

Human Relations, December 2011