An Ethnographic Approach to the School-to-Work Transition: Constructing Identities in the Workplace

Felicia Wolontis 1 *

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp. 251-268

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Transitions, such as the school-to-work transition, are of particular interest to developmental science research because they mark different periods in life where a person moves from one period to the next. Using data from an ethnographic study with young women who recently moved from school to work, the researcher examines how the women construct identities through narratives and position themselves vis-à-vis others and vis-à-vis dominant discourses in both ethnographic interviews and participant observation. Making use of a fine-grained analytic approach referred to as the narrative practice approach, the researcher showcases how the women position themselves as having transitioned from the individual identities they had before moving into the workplace to more of a collaborative identity after having connected with others in their new work environment. With the analysis, the researcher also delves deeper into the uncertainties and the ambivalence of identity changes that the women claim having experienced. By investigating how the women actually experienced their school-to-work transition in situ and in vivo, and by studying the nuances and complexity of their experiences, the article makes contributions to both narrative research and psychology. It also informs organizations how they can train their employees and improve individual, team, and organizational performance by infusing collaboration into the organizational culture.

Keywords: ethnographic approach, identity construction, narrative practice approach, positioning, school-to-work transition.