Working Paper Details

Our Many Possible Selves: Re-working our Identities to Reinvent our Careers
Herminia Ibarra


“Am I doing what is right for me and should I change direction?” is a question we all ask ourselves at mid-career. But, for an overwhelming number of mid-career professional and businesswomen today this question attains an even greater urgency. Having achieved great successes in traditional careers and often inflexible organizations, at mid-career the desire to give rein to unexpressed facets of ourselves only becomes pressing. In this article, the author describes the “unconventional strategies” that both men and women use to successfully reinvent their careers. While these strategies are by no means gender-specific, the women the author studied shared characteristic challenges and dilemmas that extended far beyond the familiar work-life balances issues. As they strove to define who they wanted to become and what they wanted to do next, they discovered how they really felt about money and status. They faced their own pre-conceived notions about “good jobs” versus “women’s work.” They confronted traditional wisdom about the obvious “tradeoffs:” fame versus satisfaction; money versus fun; impact versus flexibility. Their experiences hold valuable lessons for all professional women striving to create choices beyond the binary (and rigid) thinking that pits the high-powered corporate life against the “mommy track.”

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