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

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  534 Ratings  ·  65 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
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published 2002)
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Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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?
Robert Lundquist
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Good book. But like others have written, all the examples were from upper-level executives; this seems to be the world that the author resides in. Despite this focus on upper executive positions, the author gave good insight and guidelines that can be applied to any situation.
Lori Grant
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: career-change
A must-read book on career change.
Giovanna D'Esposito
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
It could have been summarised in half a page in my view and I didn't find any breakthrough-type insight
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book is about changing your career from one industry to another. One of the key takeaways is that you should act your way into a new way of thinking and being. You cannot discover yourself by introspection. I really liked this idea because usually it's advised that you sit and think about your future, then create a plan and follow it - which often leads to the situation when you are stuck at this thinking process. Action is character. You need to test your possible selves and it's the only w ...more
Kate Arms
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Considering a career change - read this first

One of the best books on career change I have read. Ibarra does not set out a neat and tidy, step-by-step to do list because everybody's path will be different. Instead, the reader is through the process of change with a variety of research subjects and given a theoretical model that explains why some of these subjects were satisfied after the change and why others failed to make a fulfilling shift.

And then, the book ends with a few principles that wi
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
it could have been summarised in half a page
No particular insight gained
Mary Karpel-Jergic
Apr 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Marian Deegan
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: career, a2-library
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
Anna Jones
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.

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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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