A narrative inquiry into the formation and deployment of graduate capitals by first-generation graduates over time

Maccabe, Rebecca and Komljenovic, Janja (2023) A narrative inquiry into the formation and deployment of graduate capitals by first-generation graduates over time. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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There has been a clear shift in the literature from employability as the acquisition of skills to employability as an active and socially constructed process that unfolds over time and across contexts. Yet there has been limited research on graduates’ career journeys and the development of employability capitals over time using Tomlinson’s (2017) graduate capital model. This study aims to add to this small body of literature by examining the development and usage of employability capitals over time among first-generation graduates, who have received little attention in the literature. Tomlinson’s graduate capital model, which is positioned as a more nuanced conceptualisation of employability, was chosen as the study’s main theoretical framework and the model’s usefulness in the study of employability was examined. A narrative inquiry research design was employed to elicit the career stories of five firstgeneration graduates who graduated from UK universities approximately ten years ago. Schlossberg’s transition theory was used to organise the central themes because career transitions were a significant feature in the participants’ narratives. A main finding of the study was that, while capital accumulation and deployment can assist career transitions, it was unclear from the career stories how developing capitals can support successful and sustainable employment when professional development is not always supported in the workplace. This study offers a critique of the graduate capital model by highlighting its shortterm, static nature, which prioritises the exchange value of graduate labour over long-term employment fulfilment. The career stories indicated that employability is a fluid and organic process, in contrast to the graduate capital model's strategic approach to capital formation and utilisation. This study demonstrates the need to move away from a static, individual-centred view of employability and towards one that considers long-term working conditions and practices, rather than just a graduate's immediate entry into the workforce.

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Thesis (PhD)
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21 Jun 2023 12:35
Last Modified:
19 Jul 2024 01:17