‘…having people that will help you, that know the ropes and have walked that road before you’: How does first in family status impact graduates in the employment field?

Keywords: graduate employment, first in family students, social theory, Bourdieu


Increasing competitiveness in the graduate employment field combined with growing numbers of degree bearing applicants means that gaining employment after completing university studies can be a lengthy and complex undertaking. This is even more the case for students who do not have ready access to the social or family capital often required for successful employment, such as those who are first in their family to attend university. This article reveals hidden tensions within the post-graduation employment market when this is negotiated without the benefit of necessary capitals required to do so successfully. Drawing on interview and survey data from recent first in family graduates and alumni in Australia, the ways in which they negotiated employment was explored. This exposed an alternative perspective on graduate employment that highlights the somewhat ‘hidden’ inequities and unfair expectations within a hyper competitive job market. Participants’ written and spoken reflections reveal the ways in which the graduate landscape is far from being an ‘even playing field’. The perspectives presented contribute to broader understanding about the difficulties of moving towards desired employment goals or social mobility particularly when intangible relational and personal capitals are needed. Such insights are needed to inform both policy and practice globally, particularly as nation states come to terms with the repercussions of the current health crisis.


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Author Biography

Sarah O'Shea, Curtin University, Australia

Director, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Curtin University.


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How to Cite
O’Shea, S., Groves, O., & Delahunty, J. (2021). ‘…having people that will help you, that know the ropes and have walked that road before you’: How does first in family status impact graduates in the employment field?. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(2), 36-50. https://doi.org/10.21153/jtlge2021vol12no2art982