Through living we become someone! Through our working lives we sustain the enduring patterns of the institutional world! These themes resonate in the institutional analysis of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, in Mary Douglas'' concept of institutional thinking and in the grand pageant of Pierre Bourdieu''s social reproduction. The linkage between lived experience and institutional role is recognised as central to social work practice. Indeed, the term ‘use of self'' encapsulates this linkage and points to its deeply personal nature. Eleven social workers share their life histories in this exploration of memory and social continuity: some are attuned to the nuances of personal interaction, others to the demands of institutional networking. The analysis suggests distinct paths to a social work career that reflect the distinct structuring, and reproduction, of institutional social work.