When do university students and graduates know what careers they want: A research-derived framework
Keywords:graduate employability, career development, transition, higher education, students, graduates, career choice
This paper reports on research which was conducted to explore how university students and those who had graduated and been subsequently employed, made career decisions. Specifically, through interviews and focus group discussions with 22 university students and 28 graduates from Australian undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a variety of disciplines, four questions were explored: Do university students know their own desired post-course employment, or in other words, what they want to be after graduation; if so, at what point in their student experience do they come to this decision; what elements come into play in university student career decision-making; and to what extent do students and graduates feel that their career decision-making is supported by their universities? Research was grounded in, and results aligned with, the ‘chaos theory of careers.’ The main findings were that at the enrolment-stage of university and during their studies, most students were pessimistic about their career outcomes and felt largely unsupported in identifying suitable career goals. However, the outcomes after graduation were unexpectedly positive in that, by this point most had identified career goals and were in careers they had desired. Most of the research participants who had been in their careers for an extended length of time were casual academics who were dissatisfied with their career progression and status. Although they had identified academic career goals and secured employment in their chosen industry, they were disappointed by continuous short-term contracts and what they perceived as poor career supports extended by their university employers. A ‘university student and graduate career-knowledge framework’ was derived. The key takeaway from this research was a set of recommendations for universities regarding how to better support students to make career choices.
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