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Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career
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Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  449 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
How Successful Career Changers Turn Fantasy into Reality

Whether as a daydream or a spoken desire, nearly all of us have entertained the notion of reinventing ourselves. Feeling unfulfilled, burned out, or just plain unhappy with what we're doing, we long to make that leap into the unknown. But we also hold on, white-knuckled, to the years of time and effort we've invested
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ebook, 224 pages
Published January 5th 2004 by Harvard Business School Press (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Roxanne
This book wants to be a self-help book. In actuality it's more of a theory book, with little in the way of practical solutions or strategies.

Ibarra states in the Preface that this book is not for everyone--it's aimed specifically at "the mid-career professional who questions his or her career path after having made a long-term investment of time, energy, and education in that path." Great, right? Actually, probably half the case studies that Ibarra presents describe people who were to my eye qu
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Adam
Jun 16, 2012 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rings true, very interesting, slightly academic tone.

Author has interviewed a lot of people who made career changes, mostly around the age of 40. It's basically a critique of the classic "top down" approach, where you start by picking a long term goal, and move from there. She argues that the way career changes happen in the real world is through a series of small steps and experiments, and that people mostly learn through experimentation, not through introspection about "what was I meant to do?
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Lori Grant
Mar 29, 2013 Lori Grant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: career-change
A must-read book on career change.
Michael
Mar 21, 2017 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Explore! Try! Action!
These are the key words that shake up the paradigm that I've been taught to thoughtfully, logically and methodologically figure out next career steps.

The author focuses on how to go about acting and trying your plans first and learning oneself that way. She "reverses the conventional 'thinking before doing' logic to successfully change careers".

It's refreshing. Similar to the way the education system is flipping how to learn. Instead of going to class for a lecture and doi
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Amanda
Jun 21, 2017 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love her approach to flip conventional career exploration on its head. Instead of constantly reflecting first, we're advised to start acting. Only after periods of experimenting and doing can you look back. It makes total sense-how can you know what you do/don't want if you've never taken actions to test ideas out.
Giovanna D'Esposito
it could have been summarised in half a page
No particular insight gained
Giovanna D'Esposito
It could have been summarised in half a page in my view and I didn't find any breakthrough-type insight
Mary Karpel-Jergic
Apr 24, 2014 Mary Karpel-Jergic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help, work
An interesting and useful book for anyone interested in the dilemmas of changing their career. I value it for two reasons: one, for myself as I undergo yet another personal and professional re-invention; and two, for my work in helping others who wish to create a more meaningful career. This book is not about changing jobs it is about creating a career that encapsulates you, your experience, your values and your lifestyle. The difference between the change of job and the career creation is 'the ...more
Jessie Young
Jul 05, 2011 Jessie Young rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first started this book, I didn't think it was for me because it is about changing careers, but then I read "What Color Is Your Parachute?" and realized that I didn't want a book that gave general career advice (like that one).

This book is superior for the person who is looking for ways to figure out what to do with their life. It shows how messy figuring out your career can be and that sitting around and thinking about it is not the way to come to any conclusions. I recommend this book
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Liz
Jun 06, 2010 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a really helpful book as I begin to commit to the career change process. There were so many insights that before returning the book to the library, I took a page of notes to keep with me. The author argues that most professional development/career change frameworks revolve around the idea that we have a single "core identity," and if we spend enough time in self-reflection, we can get in touch with that identity and then quickly select and implement a new path around it. In co ...more
Francis Norton
Sep 06, 2010 Francis Norton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Working Identity uses 39 stories - case studies involving professionals who have made a radical mid-career switch - to advocate an iterative, constructivist approach of feeling your way into a new career by means of new connections, exploratory involvement and experimental projects.

Herminia Ibarra contrasts this approach to the "conventional" approach of introspection and self-classification followed by detailed planning and finally execution - I am happy to take her word on the conventional mod
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Charlice
Research-based insight into the actual paths that people take in reinventing their careers. The book is not long on advice, so I'm not sure to what extent people looking for a roadmap to change careers would find it to be useful. But I imagine that the descriptions of the career changers in the book, along with the author's analysis of their journeys, would provide some reassurance to people who are in the process of changing careers and finding, more likely than not, that it is not a linear pro ...more
Barry Davis
Feb 16, 2016 Barry Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Subtitled “Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career.” Ibarra was with Harvard Business School and now teaches organizational behavior at Insead in France. She interviewed 39 professionals extensively as they were transitioning or had transitioned into new fields (some very radical changes, like therapist to Buddhist monk!) and came up with an outline of active processes that she feels make for success. The plan-implement model does not work for career change – it’s too restrictive a ...more
Ingrid Wassenaar
Apr 16, 2012 Ingrid Wassenaar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I like in this is the way the author, clearly an academic with a rigorous training behind her, has thrown off the self-consciousness of academe. She doesn't sound as though she is justifying herself to an institution any more. Instead she seems to have actually listened to her subjects.

I like the chronicling approach that is taken to the interviews: the stories are instructive precisely because of the twists and turns, not because these have been analysed out. You can't help but feel that
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Marian Deegan
Aug 29, 2014 Marian Deegan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over a lovely lunch at Palomino early in 2006, Robyn Waters graciously suggested that I pick up Ibarra’s Working Identity.

I was in the thick of my BiUrban explorations at the time, and this was exactly the career-changing compass I needed. Ibarra interviewed dozens of professionals in the States and abroad who’d made startlingly drastic mid-career changes. She discovered that the techniques used to effect successful transitions flew in the face of traditional wisdom regarding career change.

I w
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Nikolina
Jan 08, 2017 Nikolina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were many impulses in this book that helped me make sense of my own career transformation - the idea of experimenting with different personalities, the idea of potentially making a portfolio career, not depending on present professional and social circles to support the change, and simply reading the cases of other peoples' transitions. It was written in a way that the academic theories were hidden behind the concepts so there was a certain readability. I was thankful to Ms. Ibarra to stat ...more
Katherine Clark
Sep 07, 2015 Katherine Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is, hands down, the best book I've read on career transition. Virtually every other book I've looked at wants me to examine my earlier life for my passions and hates etc., to help me come up with my next career. This books says, sure, use that knowledge, but mainly what you need to do is stop planning. Rather, you need to experiment, and make new contacts. Take leaps. Wow is this book incredible. She also says, for people that are blanking on what to do next (that's me!) that it will probab ...more
Katie
Sep 17, 2012 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting and worthwhile perspective on making a ‘mid-career’ change. The proposition is that we try out possible roles; investigate ideas that appeal to us – “test and learn” and find out about our new career by trying on for size. This requires that we have a ‘stomach’ for uncertainty and allow ourselves the time to rule in and rule out possibilities. The author outlines her 9 “unconventional strategies”: change what we do to test out alternatives; reflect, but only after testing star ...more
Eliza
Nov 22, 2016 Eliza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, unusual and helpful read. The book advocates change through experimentation - to try on our different selves - as a way of exploring what suits us best through practice rather than theory. A kind of lean start up for career development.

The case studies did all seem to center around successful transitions and I did wonder what happened to the couple of participants that were peremptorily dismissed as dreamers. I would also have liked more information on how people arrived at thei
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Matt
Dec 30, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had recently read Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective, so the advice to experiment first rather than sit down and figure out a specific goal was not new to me. But this book is ten years older, a little less theoretical/scientific, and offers more practical thoughts as it relates to one's personal life and career. The idea of multiple, possible selves is interesting and will likely change the way I think about identity. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone in a transiti ...more
Rhonda
Jan 11, 2017 Rhonda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A refreshing change from other career change books I've read. Most say...figure out your true calling or your one true self and do that. This book discusses the many changes internally a person goes through and how they grow and change and discover their many selves. A very good read if you are considering a career change but are feeling stuck. The one thing I didn't like all that much is the case studies used were all people around 40 and already in a fairly successful white collar career. This ...more
Jeremy
Apr 16, 2012 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: career
Inspirational book for those looking to make a larger career shift and not just a logical extension from what they were currently doing. As others have mentioned, the authors details a process with practical suggestions and a variety of anecdotes drawn from others who were navigating the difficult change.

Struggling with a career change of my own, I found the book inspiring, yet practical. I would highly recommend this book to my peers who are simultaneously convicted about making a significant
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Ang
Jun 22, 2015 Ang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a2-library, career
One of the best books on career that I have read. Most other books take the approach that you should think about everything you like to do and then narrow it down and then put a plan into action. Ibarra uses recent research to flip that notion on its head. Adults learn by doing. There are a myriad of possible selves to consider when we look at career change. Crafting careful experiments, associating with a group of like-minded people, and trying out possible futures, is a more realistic path to ...more
Michelle Despres
I'm not rating this book because I had to read it quickly to return it to the library. I took some notes, but I'd rather come back to it in order to read it for the purpose of reviewing it.

I like the mix of guidance and academics. It's not some silly self-help book.

I like the appendix in which Ibarra details her methodology. She's also clear about her audience, and it may not be you (or me).

Even with ideas that I found familiar, I appreciated the way they were framed here. They encouraged me no
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Anna Jones
Jul 17, 2014 Anna Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely a business book rather than a self help book. It focuses on the "how" of major career transitions, with a bias to professionals and academics - the kind if people you meet in the world of MBAs. What I love about it is that it identifies that people make career changes by actively exploring multiple possible working identities not sitting back and doing lots of thinking and internal analysis to find your "one true path". I coach MBA students and have found this an invaluable in ...more
Cameron Bernard
Good book about relationships.....errrr I mean work. The majority of the book is anecdotal. You could skip to the end and read the 9 points and get the gist of the book. Overall good advice. However, the one qualm I had with it was there was not much about the goodness of the freedom that comes with submitting to a situation and seeing good come out of it. Much of it had a "be true to yourself" feeling, which within a certain context is absolutely right.
Katleen
Sep 26, 2012 Katleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Het boek inspireert wel. Al is het soms wel wat droog.

Het gaat erom dat je in je carrière vooral veel verschillende dingen moet "proberen" ipv te lang na te denken en niets te doen.
Eventuele tussenstappen zijn ook goed. Op die manier zal je eindigen met een carrière die het beste bij je persoonlijkheid en competenties ligt.

Dingen die je eigenlijk met je gezondverstand al wel weet, maar toch nog wel leuk om eens te lezen.

Filip
Dec 25, 2011 Filip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hugely insightful work for people in their 40's who are switching careers. It consoles, advises, encourages and inspires. Its main lessons are that you 'learn by doing' instead of doing lengthy analyses on oneself, and that any career change is the result of an iterative process. Maybe less practical than Bolles's 'What Colour is My Parachute', but much more incisive. I'll be re-reading its highlights many times.
Tim
Feb 23, 2015 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too many personal stories for me. I need to have the new idea presented and then link it to a real-life case. That works well for me. In this book, the author made use of her interviews and filled the book with little practical advice but lots of examples. It is unlikely that anyone will find an example here that matches them exactly, or even close when you consider age, experience, goals and desires, and that being the case - why so many stories?
Tiffany
Dec 17, 2015 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book about changing jobs, rather a book about some possible strategies to change your career. I found many useful tidbits, particularly around the strategies for reworking identity. It was full of dozens of real life case studies, and very readable. However, it got very academic at times. I'd definitely recommend this book for anyone considering a career change, or for those who coach.
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“The end of all our exploring,” as T. S. Eliot reminds us, “will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” 1 likes
“Gary’s seemingly random, circuitous method actually has an underlying logic. But this test-and-learn approach flies in the face of the more traditional method, the” 0 likes
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