Social Representations of Career – Anchored in the Past, Conflicting with the Future
Various issues surrounding career are part of people's everyday lives, so people have a kind of common sense knowledge of career. Although the meaning of ‘career’ is often taken for granted, mixed messages and the lack of a conceptual definition blur our understanding of career, especially in times of societal and contextual change. Social representation theory (SRT) responds well to the theoretical and methodological needs of this study, which explores social representations of career among a group of people in a context of changing working life conditions. Free association was the method used for collecting the empirical data for this study. The content of social representations is inductively and thematically explored to then disclose within which scientifically shaped thoughts on career the empirical findings are reflected and seems to be anchored, and how these representations relate to thoughts currently dominating on the structural level in today’s changing society. The exploration resulted in two stable and two more dynamic social representations concerning career: career as individual project and self-realization; career as social/hierarchical climbing; career as a game of exchange; and career as an uncertain outcome. The respondents’ common sense knowledge of career appears to be reflected and anchored in past working life conditions and in scientific perspectives that no longer correspond to those now dominating at the structural level. This indicates a discrepancy between that which is socially represented among people and that which is communicated within the new conditions of working life.