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Coping with career boundaries and boundary-crossing in the graduate labour market

Okay-Somerville, Belgin and Scholarios, Dora (2014) Coping with career boundaries and boundary-crossing in the graduate labour market. Career Development International, 19 (6). ISSN 1362-0436

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Abstract

Purpose: This article explores the nature and role of career boundaries for enabling/constraining career self-management for occupational boundary-crossing in the UK graduate labour market. Methodology: The data is provided by career history interviews with 36 UK graduates. The analysis contrasts transitions for those who started careers in low- intermediate- and high-skilled segments of the labour market. Findings: Availability of development and progression opportunities were the most prominent career boundary experienced. Ease of boundary-crossing differed by career stage and educational background. Boundaries enabled career self-management by acting as psychological/external push factors, but push factors only aided progression to high-skilled segments for a third of graduates who started careers in underemployment. For the rest, an adaptation of expectations to labour market realities was observed. Research limitations/implications: Although career history interviews limit generalisability, they contextualise boundaries and deepen understanding of career actors’ subjective experiences and responses. Practical implications: The study highlights the role of labour market and demand-side constraints for career transitions as well as proactive career behaviours. This has implications for career counsellors, employers and individuals. Originality/value: This article provides a distinctive ‘boundary-focused’ analysis of emerging career boundaries in the graduate labour market. The findings point to the intricate interplay between structure and agency for career development.