Developmental networks and professional identity: a longitudinal study

Shoshana R. Dobrow (Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Monica C. Higgins (Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Publication date: 1 October 2005


Purpose – This paper seeks to examine the relationship between individuals' developmental mentoring networks and a subjective career outcome, clarity of professional identity. How developmental network characteristics are related to professional identity over time is explored. Design/methodology/approach – This is a three‐wave, longitudinal survey study, covering a five‐year span (1996‐2001). The participants (n=136), full‐time MBA students at the inception of the study, provided complete developmental network data on each survey. The relationships between clarity of professional identity and three different measures of developmental network density were explored: early‐career density; general density; and density dynamics (e.g. the change in density over time). Findings – Developmental network density, which reflects the professional identity exploration process, is negatively related to clarity of professional identity. Research limitations/implications – The study is limited by the use of graduating MBA students from a single, top‐20 business school as participants. Practical implications – The findings suggest that people might be able to improve their careers through changing their developmental networks, particularly during their early‐career years. Originality/value – This paper provides novel insights to the mentoring, identity, and careers literatures. Given the previously uncharted territory of understanding the dynamics of developmental networks and its relationship to career outcomes, this study opens avenues for future research, while also answering questions about developmental networks and the ways they function over time.



Dobrow, S. and Higgins, M. (2005), "Developmental networks and professional identity: a longitudinal study", Career Development International, Vol. 10 No. 6/7, pp. 567-583.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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