Institutionalizing People: Professional Identity Development of Postdoctoral Scientists
Pyo, Sonya Sunyoung
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Professional identity development has been traditionally studied from a cognitive and discursive perspective that has overlooked how emotional, fragile and unstable identification can potentially be. Building on recent theorizations on emotions and ethos, the institution’s highest ideals, that enrich our understanding of professional identity, I explore the interlevel mechanisms of ongoing management of professional identification in this qualitative study on postdoctoral scientists. Postdocs represent the “in-between” professional, having completed their education but not yet independent scientists, who are continuously revising, expanding and negotiating their identity. Results show that while ethos becomes deeply embedded in identity, it also becomes decoupled from experience. Postdocs manage ongoing identification by resolving this tension between ideals and experience, however, failure to resolve such tensions can lead to disillusionment and exit. This work contributes to the literature by centralizing professional identity around values and emotions and also theorizes on the role of significant others for professional identity and the synergy between the institutions of family and profession.