Understanding career interests and developing goals

As noted previously, many of our graduates experienced job and occupation transitions after several years of working, most likely due to parental pressures or poorly formed career goals (Crockett, 2002; Gecas, 2003). Our study did, however, find eight graduates (both local and international and working in different industries) who clearly understood their long-term career and life plan. Some of these succeeded in obtaining their desired jobs immediately after graduation due to excellent credentials and other advantages (e.g. having key contacts, articulating impressive working experience). Others experienced more challenges, such as undertaking temporary and casual roles before securing their preferred job. A common feature shared by both groups was that they were strategic with developing social capital, choosing part-time work, and carefully crafting and communicating their personalities to prospective employers. One, for instance, targeted a lectureship at an Australian university rather than undertaking any form of part-time work. This meant she could later avail opportunities to work as a research assistant and sessional teacher which considerably strengthened her CV for future academic roles and eventually led to a full-time lecturing position. Our study also revealed that having a clear career plan enabled our graduates to more quickly settle their family commitments (e.g. children’s education, partner’s work) and then became more focussed on building their career.

By contrast, some graduates were undecided about their career path, so did not make a concerted effort in building required career resources. These graduates became less competitive, in both the home and host labour markets. One, for instance, expressed her dilemma over many years, between staying in the host and returning to her home country. This led to limited social capital, poor understanding about industries for exploring opportunities either in home orhost labour markets, resulting in unemployment over several years. Pham et al. (2019) found similar cases of graduates who faced similar dilemmas and were indecisive about remaining the host or return to the home country. Consequently, they made little effort during their studies to expand their social networks, explore relevant industries, and join extra-curricular activities to prepare for their career. Consequently, Pham and colleagues highlight the importance of international students having a clear career plan, including where they intend to reside post-graduation, and being strategic in their career preparation to afford labour market opportunities.

In their preparation for future careers, the importance of ‘adaptability’ and ‘flexibility’ has been widely acknowledged in employability literature (Barrie, 2007; McArdle, Waters, Briscoe, & Hall, 2007). This is particularly important in an era of globalization and digitization where graduate employment is more likely to be fluid across different borders and industries. While preparing for these transitions is important, having a clear career goal also appears to motivate graduates to access useful resources for their career, leading to enhanced well-being and more positive career vision (Laughland-Booy, Newcombe, & Skrbis, 2017). Despite some research in this area, the interplay between career intentions and employability - particularly international graduates - needs further attention. Li (2013) found that employment outcomes were significantly shaped by students’ planned career paths. In her study, a large number of Chinese graduates planned to return to their home country so did not have a desire to seek employment in the host country. Saito and Pham (2018) explored strategies utilized by international graduates in Australia to navigate their insufficient communication competencies and found that the efforts to improve communication competencies were determined by where they planned to develop their career and reside - i.e. stay in Australia, return home or move to a third country. Subsequently, Pham et al. (2019) claimed that career planning was an important dimension of any employability formula designed to enhance graduate careers, complementing Jackson (2017c) who reiterated the importance of explicit attention to career planning and goal formulation in degree education and the value ofWIL in this regard.

Our study indicates career goals, to a great extent, determined how graduates develop and utilize forms of capital (i.e. human capital, cultural capital, psychological capital) that have been discussed in previous chapters as essential resources for employability negotiation of graduates. The following sections report on how the graduates utilized these forms of capital strategically in obtaining and sustaining their job.

Developing and utilizing forms of capital to secure employment outcomes

Our study affirmed that positive employment outcomes result not only from the articulation of human capital which is mainly yielded by practices and programmes of HE and individual characteristics - such as parental expectations and demographic characteristics. Instead, those graduates who had successfully attained full-time or part-time roles had engaged well in building various forms of capital including social capital, cultural capital, psychological capital, and identity capital.

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