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Work and identity

April 30, 2012

The work we do as adults organizes our lives and determines our socio-economic standard of living. Work is what adolescents spend years preparing for and what allows men and women to be contributing members of society. In addition, work significantly shapes each person’s self-concept. One’s work may even be the primary factor in answering the question, Who am I?” p235

Work means different things to different people. For some it is merely a means of making a living and financing leisure hours. For others, work is a source of self-esteem, power, or prestige. Still others use work to be of service to people, for companionship, or as an outlet for creative self-expression.” P235

“…most adults follow a relatively predictable pattern of work experience. In adolescence one becomes aware of the options available and the preparation needed for various occupations. Young adulthood is traditionally a time of extended training or settling into a particular job or career. In the first years on the job one explores the possibilities within the chosen setting or finds that the work is unsuitable and makes a change. The thirties and early forties are characterized by a settling into a particular work pattern. Mid-life, however, may bring with it an assessment of work achievements. Some set new directions, even undertake mid-career change; others resign themselves to more realistic goals; still others feel satisfied with their accomplishments. Finally, retirement is the significant work-related event of late life. Again, there are numerous adjustments to this developmental task ranging from refusing to retire to gracefully withdrawing from the work role.” P236

“While young adulthood can be viewed as a period of career establishment, middle age is a time when one senses a plateau has been reached. Work-related accomplishments are reviewed, and goals are reevaluated. Each individual subjectively determines whether he or she is on time or behind time in career development. Many question the extent to which they are responsible for their success or lack of it.” P237

Retirement is the culminating event in the work cycle. It can be viewed as one of life’s developmental tasks, as a position in the work cycle, or as a process involving adjustments at each step of the way.” p238

“…the centrality of work in an adult’s life is equal only to establishing meaningful relationships with others. ‘Reduced to the simplest level, both work and love are governed by the search for the same goal: more lasting, realistic, and socially responsible pleasure’ (Hale, 1980, p.30).” p239

Ref: (emphases added) Sharan B. Merriam, Ed. (1983) Themes of Adulthood through literature. Teachers College Press, New York


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