Work Transitions as Biographical Learning Exploring the Dynamics of Job Loss
Sammanfattning: In recent years, researchers have pointed out that individuals understand their lives to a great extent through narratives and narration. In the field of adult education this idea has been taken up for instance in the concept of biographical learning. This thesis discusses the concept of biographical learning in relation to a research project on job loss in mid-life, as it is experienced and handled by whitecollar workers in a Swedish context. While much of the previous research on job loss and unemployment has focused on causes and effects, coping strategies and job search behaviour, this study suggests that an enforced work transition can be thought of as a biographical learning process.It also suggests that a greater diversity in the learning concept can be attained by reconsidering the concept in the framework of a pragmatist’s view of action. Analysing narrative interviews with white-collar workers (n=23), the study finds diversity in biographical learning with respect to the relative weights and characters of creative action and reflexive identity work. Individual’s variety of engagement in a work transition has also been understood by theoretically describing the process as structured by particular choice junctures. The study finds that a job loss during particular circumstances furthers reconsiderations, novel career decisions and ‘horizontal’ career moves.Being a central part of biographical learning, reflexivity is used in moments of evaluation, when people tell stories about the transition. It should be discussed in the plural, as the variety of evaluations implies a variety of reflexive efforts. Furthermore, it emphasizes that a work transition is a relational project, pointing out the significance of strong ties and formal ties to people who consider ‘horizontal’ career moves during a work transition. Altogether, this suggests that practical, existential, rhetorical as well as relational issues are involved in work transitions and biographical learning. Keywords: biographical learning, work transition, job loss, adult learning, adult education, outplacement counselling.
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