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Position, possession or process? Understanding objective and subjective employability during university-to-work transitions

Okay-Somerville, Belgin and Scholarios, Dora (2015) Position, possession or process? Understanding objective and subjective employability during university-to-work transitions. Studies in Higher Education. ISSN 0307-5079

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Abstract

This article aims to understand predictors of objective (i.e., job offers, employment status and employment quality) and subjective (i.e., perceived) graduate employability during university-to-work transitions. Using survey data from two cohorts of graduates in the UK (N=293), it contrasts three competing theoretical approaches to employability: position (based on social background), possession (of human capital) and process (of career self-management (CSM)). Findings support the process view of graduate employability, developed through engaging in career self-management, in particular environment exploration, networking and guidance seeking. There is also some support for a possession view where educational credentials predict employment quality and perceived employability. Theoretically, the study highlights the importance of proactive career behaviours as well as the constraining role of educational credentials for some during university-to-work transitions. These findings have practical implications for university students/graduates and career counsellors, and, more indirectly, for employers and policy-makers.