ACCOUNTING FOR THE IMPACT OF THE FIRST EXPERIENCE OF WORK ON THE FORMATION OF AN INDIVIDUAL'S WORK IDENTITY AND FUTURE WORK ATTITUDES
Sutton, C. and Davey, K.M., London University, UK
Does an individual's first experience of work have an impact on the development of their work identity and future work attitudes? While theoretical speculation suggests that this might indeed be the case, the evidence is limited. In the event that the first experience does have an impact there are consequences. It would, for example, require organizations to consider more carefully the structure and content of newcomers' first experiences and the impact these have on individuals. The subject also has a commercial significance in terms of the investment organizations make, or don't make, in the induction programmes for 'new starters' and in relation to the increasing focus on experienced-based learning about work within educational programmes. It also has wider implications for policy considering the value many western governments put on any work experience as more positive than none. This paper provides a theoretical exploration of the impact of first experience of work and also examines data gathered in an initial qualitative study. Two groups of participants were interviewed. Those who are currently in their first work experience, and a second group who are mid-career and reflect upon the impact of their introduction to work. Retrospective accounts emphasise the importance of first work experiences and their impact on identity, concurrent accounts are more confused and tend to resist any suggestion of influence on identity. The implications of these findings for career and identity theory are discussed.