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Identity as career capital: enhancing employability in the creative industries and beyond

Jina Mao (Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA)
Yan Shen (Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 3 February 2020

Issue publication date: 19 March 2020




The purpose of this paper is to broaden the conversation about the link between identity and employability by investigating how identity can function as a type of career capital. Drawing on Bourdieu’s (1990) theory of practice and Côté’s (2016) identity capital model, the authors introduce the concept of identity capitalization and elaborate on the career practices people engage in to convert identity into career capital based on studies of careers in the creative industries.


The conceptual development is based on an examination of studies of careers in the creative industries. The authors move beyond a single idiosyncratic occupational setting and offer insights about how individuals acquire, accumulate and deploy identity capital in response to varying occupational demands and institutional norms.


The authors identify three patterns of work – display work, authenticity work and personation work – that creative professionals use to harness identity as career capital to enhance their employability. The authors find that both the demand for authenticity and the existence of social inequalities in the creative industries present challenges for the acquisition, accumulation and deployment of identity capital.


The ability to harness one’s identity for career capital has become increasingly important for career actors in the face of a challenging labor market. This paper provides a conceptual understanding of the process of identity capitalization and presents concrete career practices in real-world settings. It also offers practical advice for individuals wishing to capitalize on their identity to maximize career opportunities.



The authors sincerely thank their editor and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable and insightful comments and suggestions throughout the review process. The authors would also like to thank Douglas T. Hall and Jeff Yip for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.


Mao, J. and Shen, Y. (2020), "Identity as career capital: enhancing employability in the creative industries and beyond", Career Development International, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 186-203.



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