Career Uncertainty: A narrative approach

Trevor-Roberts, Edwin (2012). Career Uncertainty: A narrative approach PhD Thesis, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland.

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Author Trevor-Roberts, Edwin
Thesis Title Career Uncertainty: A narrative approach
School, Centre or Institute UQ Business School
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012-04
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Polly Parker
Professor Jorgen Sandberg
Professor Norman Amundson
Total pages 183
Total black and white pages 183
Language eng
Subjects 150310 Organisation and Management Theory
150305 Human Resources Management
150311 Organisational Behaviour
Abstract/Summary This study investigates the effect of uncertainty on professionals’ careers. Rapid socioeconomic changes in society, the labour market and organisations have resulted in increased instability and uncertainty in the environment in which people construct their career. Identifiable career paths can no longer be expected as organisational, occupational, and geographic boundaries become increasingly permeable. Moreover, as traditional objective markers of success such as pay and status decline in prominence, career success is increasingly defined by subjective measures, which themselves are uncertain. Professional careers are particularly uncertain. A wide variety of career structures are available to professionals, configurations in which they form and enact multiple identities, and the threat of knowledge obsolescence is ever-present. Despite the increased uncertainty in professional careers, uncertainty has not been systematically investigated. Traditional matching (Holland, 1959; Parsons, 1909) and developmental process career theories (Gottfredson, 1981; Super, 1984) retain a strong presence the field yet overlook the effect of uncertainty. Some contemporary career theories acknowledge uncertainty in, for example, the context within which careers are enacted (e.g. Arthur & Rousseau, 1996c), in the process of constructing a career (e.g. Lent, 2005) or within an individual’s subjective career (e.g. Khapova, Arthur, & Wilderom, 2006). However, none problematise uncertainty, implicitly suggesting that it has the same meaning for all people. These shortcomings are addressed in this thesis by investigating how the meaning that people ascribe to uncertainty affects their career? The study used an interpretive research design and a narrative approach. Twenty in-depth interviews with professionals yielded rich data of people’s experiences of uncertainty in their career and the meaning that they ascribed to these uncertainties. The empirical results identified four distinct genres of career uncertainty: Stabiliser, Glider, Energiser and Adventurer. Each genre represents a distinct understanding of uncertainty – a shared meaning – that differs from personality traits or attitudes. Moreover, the variation of understanding of uncertainty affects career behaviour in distinctive ways, notably, in how people make career decisions, form and maintain a working identity, achieve career success and find meaning in work, structure their career, respond to job insecurity, display individual agency, and develop a clear self-concept. Together these behaviours led to the identification of an uncertainty based-framework for career theory that represents a continuum of understanding of uncertainty from negative to positive. The framework challenges the dominant logic of uncertainty in existing career theory in two important ways. First, the framework shows that uncertainty affects the behaviours through which people construct, enact and experience their career. The findings support and extend career theories that acknowledge the role of uncertainty in people’s career, while challenging the matching and developmental process theories that overlook uncertainty. Second, the uncertainty-based framework proposes that people have different understandings of uncertainty which affects their career behaviour in distinct ways. Thus, the contribution is a more nuanced understanding of the nature and role that uncertainty plays in career construction. Implications exist for people who confront uncertainty as well as the career counsellors who support them. The results also narrow the gap between theory and practice and suggest future research directions.
Keyword Career
subjective career
Additional Notes Please print single sided (not sure if this is standard or not). Landscape pages: 55,56, 138, 139

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Created: Mon, 07 May 2012, 20:07:23 EST by Edwin Trevor-roberts on behalf of Library - Information Access Service