Novices’ professional identification awakened: Uncovering the impact of positive profession-spotlighting events

Wei Wu, Wu Liu, Wen Wu, Yuhuan Xia

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Many professions experience unique events that highlight their relevance and value. These positive profession-spotlighting events may significantly influence employees’ professional identification, especially for novices in the highlighted professions. In this paper, we aim to gain a comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon. Drawing on the identity construction process model, we investigate how and why positive profession-spotlighting events influence novices’ professional identification. In Study 1, using 10-wave longitudinal data (five waves before and five after the outbreak of COVID-19) collected from 322 new graduate nurses, we use discontinuous growth modelling to investigate the impact of the pandemic as a positive profession-spotlighting event on their increase in professional identification. We found that new graduate nurses’ professional identification gradually fell during their initial months in professional practice but rose dramatically after the onset of COVID-19. We also found that sensegiving and moral elevation during the event led to an increase in professional identification. We further theorize an increase in work meaningfulness as the core mechanism for the hypothesized relationships and obtain supporting evidence from one experiment (Study 2) and two quasi-experiments (Studies 3a and 3b). Our research reveals the significant influence of positive profession-spotlighting events on both the identity construction and socialization processes and offers practical implications for how to manage such events.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPersonnel Psychology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Sept 2023


  • identity construction
  • positive profession-spotlighting events
  • professional identification


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