A constraint-friendly approach to understanding contemporary graduate careers

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2013
Thesis identifier
  • T13355
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • In todays so-called knowledge economy, skills policies in the UK and the 'new' career discourse assume opportunities in the labour market to be virtually limitless and emphasise the role of self-directedness for enhancing and maintaining employability, securing employment and developing careers. Increasing, and to some extent persistent, accounts of graduate underemployment contradict these assumptions. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of contemporary graduate careers by examining (i) the factors associated with enhancing graduate employability and the extent to which this reflects a self-directed process; and (ii) the occupational boundaries within which graduate careers develop and the extent to which this reflects limitlessness of opportunities for graduates' career development; and (iii) by exploring career mobility and outcomes for graduates, starting with entry into and movement out of early underemployment and extending up to ten years, to determine the role of employability on early graduate underemployment, its pervasiveness and temporality and the emerging career patterns in the graduate labour market.;The study uses a mixed methods approach consisting of primary and secondary survey data analyses to study graduate employability and the structure of opportunities; and career history analyses from 37 in-depth interviews with graduates mostly from arts, social sciences and humanities, and business-related courses to explore graduate career mobility. The findings suggest that contemporary graduate careers are increasingly bounded by the opportunities in the graduate labour market and that graduate adaptability is the key to developing employability perceptions, successful job transitions and, career satisfaction and well-being. These results point to segmentation within the graduate labour market which comprises 'lousy', intermediate and 'lovely' jobs, and a struggle on the graduates' side in forming employability for 'graduate' level employment. From a theoretical perspective, this study provides a bridge from the 'new' career discourse to the structure of opportunities by examining career development and outcomes for highly skilled workers who are taken for granted to be the pillars of 'boundarylessness'. From a policy perspective, it highlights a need for intervention on the demand side in achieving the 'high skills, high wages' vision.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2013
Former identifier
  • 972686