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Rites, right? The value of rites de passage for dealing with today's career transitions

Wolfgang Mayrhofer (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Vienna, Austria)
Alexandre Iellatchitch (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien and 5p Consulting, Vienna, Austria)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 January 2005




Modern careers have become increasingly non‐predictable, characterized by many occupational changes and transitions. Given this background, this paper analyses the potential contributions of the anthropological concept of rites of passage in scientific as well as practical terms. It is argued that, while this concept is not a fully developed theory, it qualifies as a useful model for specific aspects of career transitions.


After a general introduction of the concept of rites of passage, the paper examines how it has already been applied to career research, and proposes some fresh developments in order to interpret the role of transitions in modern careers.


Although the concept of rites de passage has mostly been applied to very traditional career paths, this paper argues for its validity for modern careers. In particular, the emphasis on a particular rite de passage, namely the rite de marge, allows one to focus on the non‐stability of careers today and its consequences for individuals.

Practical implications

Even if the effects of their application are neither mechanical nor calculable, nevertheless rites de passage present interesting possibilities for management purposes.


Introducing the concept of rites de passage shows that modern careers especially, because of their lack of stability, need transitional rites for occupational identity and the entering of new groups. To be aware of this is of great relevance for individuals and for career management.



Mayrhofer, W. and Iellatchitch, A. (2005), "Rites, right? The value of rites de passage for dealing with today's career transitions", Career Development International, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 52-66.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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