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An Exploratory Study of Student Awareness and Understanding of Structural and Agentic Influences on Career Choice

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posted on 26.03.2012, 10:49 by Eoghan O’Grady
‘Career choice is the result of the interplay between individuals within organizational and social structures’ (Ozbilgin et al, 2004: 2). However, much of the career choice literature examines career choice from an agency or structure perspective. “This tendency to separate individual agency and social structure leads to reductionist understandings that fail to account for the complex interplay between these dimensions” (Duberley, 2006:282). The transition from third level education to the graduate labour market can be a time of great uncertainty and stress. The decisions made at this time, the emergence of the “boundaryless” and “protean” career notwithstanding, can have ongoing and long term impact on individual careers. It is especially important therefore that those transitioning into the graduate labour market have an understanding of the context in which their careers develop including, and perhaps critically, an understanding of the agentic and structural barriers and enablers impacting on their career choice. It is likewise important that those actors in this field including career guidance professionals and educational providers are cognisant of these structural and agentic influences. A qualitative focus group methodology is used. Focus group participants comprised final year students on an honours undergraduate business programme. This approach is considered appropriate given the exploratory nature of this research and its ability to capture the complexity of the structure agency duality in career choice. The research confirms students’ ability to grasp the complexity of this duality. It also provides further evidence of the extent to which career choice is shaped by a complex interaction of social factors and individual attributes and that career choice is a continuous process which is constrained and enabled by individuals’ ongoing interaction with changing structural forces. This research is based on a cohort of final year business programme students. Further and wider study is required in order to estimate the extent to which the opinions and experiences expressed reflect the opinions of the wider student population.



Goodwin, John

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University of Leicester

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