“Learn how to hustle for good”: Women’s work transitions out of the sex trade

November 2019 | Deer, Shannon

Human resource development principles have important applications for everyone, including marginalized populations. Particularly relevant to marginalized groups are issues of work development and growth, as impacted by individuals’ confidence and ability to transfer skills to different contexts. In this qualitative study, we explored the experiences of a particular group of marginalized women, namely those transitioning out of the sex trade and into legal employment. Study participants included 10 women who have been out of the sex trade from between 3 and 20 years. We found that, in their transition to lawful work, the women began with low job self‐efficacy. Traditional influencers of self‐efficacy were key to aiding their transitions. The most important factor was reflected efficacy, which occurred through their experiences receiving coaching from leaders of the exit‐assistance organizations and employers. This coaching helped the women reframe their skills and attributes gained in the sex trade into employable qualities valued in lawful work. The present study contributes to our understanding of supervisors’ roles in helping employees develop self‐efficacy. We conclude with ways in which employers and organizations can aide employment transitions as well as build skills transfer and job self‐efficacy through modes of reflected efficacy and coaching in positive, professional relationships.



  • Zarestky, J.
  • Baumgartner, L. M.


Human Resource Development Quarterly

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