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

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  710 ratings  ·  79 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
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
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
André Henriques
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As the author so clearly mentions, if you are expecting a 10-point plan for career transaction, this might not be the book you want.

However, in what might be missing in practicality, in my view, the author clearly hits the nail in the head with an incredible framework based more in experimentation that introspection, that might help the reader make sense of some of the confusion of the transaction he might be going.

The examples and stories the author showcase in the book, are great and
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
Farid Azar
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you are like me going through a career/identity phase, you need to read this book. Very unbiased analysis of people who have been going through the career change laying out their doubts and the dilemmas. what I enjoyed about this book was Herminia Ibarra's tone and the use of research and data to prove a point and not just support her point of view. I took notes all through the books and have been going back to my notes again and again, Very useful, very easy to read and not a ...more
Fiona Forthe
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Someone I met recently recommended this book to me. I would have liked more concrete tips, though I do understand the basic message of the book. Rather than spending time figuring ourselves out, we should just start doing things - taking action, and making little experiments. She also talked about portfolio careers, where you have a few different things you work on at the same time. I liked that concept. It's good for those of us who don't know what we want to be when we grow up!
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Boring and a little unrelateable. All the examples seemed to be of extremely successful people with an excellent network to exploit. There wasn't much for Joe the Plumber to learn about changing his career. It was occasionally interesting to learn how these kinds of changes usually progress and pick out those behaviors in myself - testing the waters, finding a new network, exploring different identities. Still, it felt like it could have been a HBR article instead of a whole book.
Stephanie Bradshaw
unconventional book about mid-life or career changes, thought provoking

this book give real life examples of transition and provokes one to think about how to apply it to self.... less structure than other similar genres, however a great read to get ideas and also identifying oneself.
Paul Menezes
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very well written and based on the premise that finding your "true self" should come at the end of your journey, and not at the very beginning. Finding non-committal opportunities to flirt those different selves will assist in identifying a new desired working identity.

Would have given it 5 stars if the interviewees varied more.
Morgan Leafe
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I rarely reread books, but I will likely reread this one, it's fantastic. Obviously not for everyone, but if you are a professional considering a career change this is by far the best book I've read on the topic.
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the first career change book I’ve read that’s resonated with me. And it has the added benefit of being based on actual research.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: lbs
A good book for those who like to read stories. It cricles around a few advises all the time that are summarized at the very end.
Anchal Sharma
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very methodical approach to reinventing careers. Definitely recommend to people thinking in the transition phase between careers or jobs.
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good information if you are considering changing careers.
Giovanna D'Esposito
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
it could have been summarised in half a page
No particular insight gained
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.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not a how-to guide, but very helpful in understanding the long and often confusing period that precedes a career change.
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 ...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
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 ...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 ...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
Practical Bookreader
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
A celebration of the people who, given that they couldn't keep up with the stress anymore, choose to give up high paying jobs for lower paying jobs, less prestige and responsibilities. The figures are portrayed as the heroes that dared to stop. Personally I found the title ambitious and the description unidirectional, e.g. going from high-paying job to lower paying job, high-work hours to less work hours, high responsibility to low responsibility. I do not think that is such a difficult step to ...more
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 ...more
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