Synergy and conflict in visions of the future: A network-based approach to future work selves

Strauss, Karoline; Mell, Julija N; Anseel, Frederik and Loermans, Annemijn C.. 2021. Synergy and conflict in visions of the future: A network-based approach to future work selves. Academy of Management Proceedings, ISSN 0065-0668 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

When thinking about their future career, not all individuals have a coherent vision of the desired future. Instead, some may imagine incompatible attributes for their future self and feel torn between them. We introduce the interconnectedness between future-oriented self-attributes as a previously overlooked quality of the way individuals think about their future by proposing a network-based approach to future work selves. We distinguish between future work self networks’ positive density, the proportion of mutually facilitative ties between the attributes they contain, and their negative density, the proportion of ties that indicate conflict between attributes. We developed a methodology to capture future work self networks and across a series of studies showed that positive and negative density of future work self networks are distinct from related concepts such as career aspirations and vocational identity, as well as from the elaboration of future work self narratives. Positive density of future work self networks was related to career adaptability in a sample of 120 MBA students, and predicted career adaptability and proactive career behavior in a lagged study of 141 online panel respondents. In a lagged study of 517 employees from 11 companies, vitality mediated the relationship between positive density and proactive career behavior, suggesting that a more efficient use of resources may be one of the benefits of dense networks. An internal meta-analysis provided support for the positive relationship of positive density with career adaptability and proactive career behavior, and the negative relationship of negative density with proactive career behavior.

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Managerial and Organizational Cognition Division Best Paper 2021

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute of Management Studies


26 July 2021Published Online
1 April 2021Accepted

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Date Deposited:

10 Jan 2022 16:33

Last Modified:

26 Jul 2022 01:26

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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