Table of Contents

Perspectives on Contemporary Professional Work

Perspectives on Contemporary Professional Work

Challenges and Experiences

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Donald Hislop and Christine Coupland

How is the world of professions and professional work changing? This book offers both an overview of current debates surrounding the nature of professional work, and the implications for change brought about by the managerialist agenda. The relationships professionals have with their organizations are variable, indeterminate and uncertain, and there is still debate over the ways in which these should be characterized and theorized. The contributors discuss these implications with topics including hybrid organizations and hybrid professionalism; the changing nature of professional and managerial work; profession and identity; and the emergence of HRM as a new managerial profession.

Chapter 13: The construction of professional identity

Brianna Barker Caza and Stephanie Creary

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


The classification of ‘professions’ has been a debated topic (Abbott, 1988; Friedson 2001), with several researchers putting forth varying criteria which distinguish a profession from other occupations. Previously, an individual would be considered a professional only once they had completed and attained all of the training, certifications and credentials of a professional occupation and, of course, internalized this profession’s values and norms (Wilensky, 1964). Recently, researchers have begun to relax the criteria for classifying professional occupations, insisting only that the occupation be skill- or education-based (Benveniste, 1987; Ibarra, 1999). Furthermore, in today’s workplace, which is burgeoning with independent knowledge workers, the term ‘profession’ is often used as an adjective rather than a noun, describing how individuals carry out their work with knowledge and skill rather than the specific kind of work they do (see Chapter 9 in this book). Related to these changes has been the increasing complexity and plurality of professional work roles. Many professions are becoming multifaceted in nature, bridging several formerly distinct occupational roles (for example, nurse-midwife), and as such, the boundaries separating professions have blurred. Additionally, some professional workers are finding themselves drawn to multiple professions and refusing to settle for just one (for example, ‘I am a lawyer and musician’). Highly educated, agentic knowledge workers often pursue multiple forms of work sequentially or simultaneously (Sliter & Boyd, 2014). Hence, the broadening of the term ‘profession’ has enlarged the potential population of workers who have professional identities.

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