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Abstract

This dissertation describes a set of three original studies that collectively explore when and how individuals in their twenties change jobs. This paper views a career as an identity project, a personal striving that is grounded in and responsive to core internal standards or identifications. Within this framework, decisions concerning job change represent inclinations toward maintaining continuity or making change while pursuing a life course goal. Building on the insights of Regulatory Focus Theory (Higgins 1997), I propose that change decisions regarding work are partly a function of the regulatory character of identity-based internal standards. I first demonstrate that standards characterized by a promotion focus lead to greater frequency of job change (Study One). Next, I argue that the mechanism for a promotion focus to achieve its effect is via interpersonal reputation (Study Two). Finally, I provide evidence that the assertive, approach tactics typical of a promotion orientation are the key mechanism by which said orientation affects reputation (Study Three). The paper concludes with a consideration of the ways this set of studies contribute to our understanding of career development, regulatory focus theory, and identity as a foundation for life course goal pursuit.

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