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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The pattern of career transition Ladd, W. Gary


A multiple case study approach was used to investigate the pattern of experience in a career transition. The participants were five men and five women who had completed a career change. The participants were selected to represent a variety of occupations. The study produced ten rich, detailed narrative accounts of career transition. Each one is told from the perspective of the individual who went through the experience. The accounts were based on in depth descriptions of the experience, and a charting of the transition using terms drawn from relevant transition models. Each account was reviewed and validated by the case study participant, who was the subject of the narrative, and by an independent reviewer. A comparison of the individual accounts revealed a pattern of experience that was common to all ten cases of career transition. It can be best represented as a three phase process, with each phase involving a distinctive character and each subsequent phase building on the preceding one. Furthermore, in each case the career transition reflected a process that was cyclical rather than linear in nature. Several theoretical implications arise from this study. First, it supports those models that describe career transition as a three stage process. The common pattern bears a remarkable resemblance to the rites of passage process described by Van Gennep (1908/1960). Second, the accounts suggest that the meaning of one’s work can change over the course of one’s life and that a career change be considered a change in a person’s life path. Third, the accounts support rejecting the notion of career transition having to be a crisis or traumatic event. From a practical standpoint, the pattern of transition can serve as a guide for those who are going through a career transition and for those who counsel them.

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