Title: Professionals who quit: their changing perceptions of careers and the meaning of work

Authors: Melinda L. Costello

Addresses: University of North Carolina at Asheville, Department of Management, and Accountancy, One University Heights, Asheville, NC 28804, USA

Abstract: This paper describes the changed perceptions of a unique group of career changers - those who voluntarily left established professional, technical, or managerial careers to become working proprietors of their own small businesses in non-professional, non-technical, or non-managerial areas (for example, one manager became an organic farmer). They left what appear to have been highly valued and desired positions - careers in organisations - to start small businesses. An unstructured interview with six men and four women was used to discover how the subjects understood their changes. The popularly held notion of career as an upward progression of moves through an organisational hierarchy fitted this group as they described their past positions. The concept did not fit their jobs as working proprietors. They rejected their previous focus on income, status, and power, and seemed to change their ideas of what gave meaning to their work lives. They discussed five characteristics of their jobs that were important to them pride in the finished product or service; enjoyment of the process of creating the product or service; social connections with family, customers, and their communities; autonomy; and personal change and growth. This study brings into question the effectiveness of the traditional career path as a means to influence and motivate employees in organisations.

Keywords: career change; career dropouts; voluntary career change.

DOI: 10.1504/IJHRDM.2001.001009

International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, 2001 Vol.1 No.2/3/4, pp.251-267

Available online: 18 Aug 2003 *

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