A Self-Regulatory Model of How Future Work Selves Change During Job Search and the School-to-Work Transition

Document Type


Publication Date



To better understand the identity-shaping experiences of students during their school-to-work transition, we developed and tested a model of how students' future work selves change as they search for jobs. We propose that a job seeker's future work self becomes more or less salient depending on how they manage job search challenges. We further propose that change in future work self salience influences job search success through engagement in more effective job search behaviors. Results from a three-wave, three-month longitudinal survey of 539 undergraduate business school job seekers indicated that when they exercised higher levels of motivation control, their future work selves grew more salient. Further, as job seekers' future work selves became more salient, they conducted a more intense job search and used more focused and exploratory job search strategies. Higher job search intensity and a more exploratory strategy predicted more interview invitations, whereas a more focused strategy predicted more job offers. Finally, analyses suggest that future work self salience and job search behaviors mediate the relationship between motivation control and job search outcomes. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.