PhD Graduate Lawrence Williams on “How Career Identity Shapes the Meaning of Work for Referred Employees”

Recent PhD graduate Lawrence Williams has published an article in Frontiers in Sociology entitled, “How Career Identity Shapes the Meaning of Work for Referred Employees.” The article dismantles previous sociological explanations surrounding the phenomenon of referred employees having longer tenures than non-referred employees. Within the study, the author demonstrates how career plans or career identity shaped how information and peer support led to respondents either staying in or leaving their jobs.

Lawrence Williams recently defended his dissertation in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. His research interests lie within sociological theory, sociology of culture, and deviance. His current research focuses on how individuals working in the field of customer service understand their careers and find meaning at work. It also examines the role of intuition in major life decisions.

We have posted the citation and the abstract below. The full text is available through Frontiers in Sociology, here.

Williams, Lawrence H. 2019. “How Career Identity Shapes the Meaning of Work for Referred Employees.” Frontiers in Sociology 3.

Sociological explanations for why referred employees typically have longer tenures than non-referred employees tend to be either that referred employees enter their jobs possessing a clearer sense of employer expectations or that they often receive support from their referrers while on the job. However, through analysis of work-history interviews conducted with salespersons in Toronto, Canada, I find that the significance of each of these factors for a person’s tenure depends on their career plans. For individuals with clear career plans, information mattered but support was less important. Conversely, for individuals with unclear career plans, support mattered but information was less important. I find that this divergence was based on the fact that individuals who had clearer career plans cared more about the fit they had with the tasks they performed in jobs which they were referred into while those with unclear plans tended to be more concerned about their overall fit with the job’s culture. I examine this difference in job satisfaction by demonstrating how the combination of information and support respondents had at any given job led them to either support, interrogate, or re-route their career plans differently based on the initial clarity of these plans. Based on these findings, I argue that the role that referrals play in shaping turnover intentions should be nested within individuals’ career identities. Doing so prevents researchers from seeing turnover intentions as being solely based on expectations at the time of hire or on connections made, strengthened, or weakened on-the-job and, instead, necessitates a more grounded view of turnover decisions.