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The Incredibles: Investigating what it is like to be a portfolio worker

Wilcox, Jan (2019) The Incredibles: Investigating what it is like to be a portfolio worker. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This study provides insights into the experiences of portfolio workers and contributes to the growing body of work on non-standard working arrangements. The empirical material was gathered from 36 semi-structured interviews, a focus group and a lived experience diary. The research was carried out by a portfolio worker and this position, as portfolio worker-researcher, has helped to obtain an in-depth understanding of participants’ views and interpretations of how they experience, negotiate and make sense of their portfolio working careers. This qualitative Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis-informed study draws on the concepts of new careers, identity, and identity work to generate insights into portfolio workers’ perspectives on their position within the world of work. The findings suggest that portfolio work does not reflect the polarised views presented in existing research. Rather than entailing either autonomy, flexibility, novelty and fulfilment; or precarity, a lack of job security, and restricted freedom and growth; the understandings of portfolio work are more nuanced and highly dependent on previous experiences. Following the analysis, the thesis puts forward a new definition of portfolio work and an empirically-based typology of portfolio workers. The analysis also highlights the extensive identity work carried out by portfolio workers, whereby aspects of identity are concealed, or revealed, depending on the circumstances. This ability to manipulate identity, conceptualised as a Rubik’s cube identity, facilitates the presentation of a legitimate social identity and concomitant self-identity. The process of identity manipulation, increases identity capacity, developing social and cultural capital and creating value by helping to develop the adaptability, resilience and transferable skills required to navigate today’s changing world of work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: portfolio work, portfolio careers, multiple identities
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School > Centre for Work, Organisation and Society
Depositing User: Jan Wilcox
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2019 15:44
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 15:44
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24924

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