In the last post I discussed the definitions of employability that had been created by a variety of groups (employers, policy makers and academics). Did you spot the glaring omission?
On the whole, students and graduates don’t tend to go in for definitions of employability; they are too busy trying to live it.
However, Martin Tomlinson from the University of Cardiff conducted interviews with a number of undergraduate students to explore their perspectives.
The students interviewed had a grasp of the idea that the ‘career for life’ of earlier generations was no longer a valid reality. Therefore, employability is clearly linked to the need for flexibility in how you approach the labour market.
They also recognised the requirement of the individual to take responsibility for managing their own careers.
As a rule, they tended to emphasise the importance of individual attributes in determining career success rather than wider structural factors in the labour market. (However, this may have changed in the current labour market.)
In light of the increasing number of graduates entering the labour market, the students were aware of the need for added value above and beyond that given by the basic undergraduate qualification. They tended to see this in terms of obtaining higher grades, attending prestigious institutions or undertaking further study. However, they were also aware of the need to have marketable experience.
Ends and means
Tomlinson also claims to have identified four approaches to managing future employability.
- Careerists — These people are active in their attempts to engage with the labour market. They have ideas about what they want to get out of their careers and they are willing to shape themselves to the needs of the labour market in order to make progress. Motto: ‘Do all you can’
- Ritualists — These people are engaged with their career development but it is not central to their identity or fulfilment. Work is a means to an end — achieving a particular lifestyle. It is therefore not worth quite as much personal investment and is more likely to result in compromise. Motto: ‘Do what you need to’
- Retreatists — These people find the notion of engaging with the labour market daunting. They tend to put off the activities that could help them make progress in favour of more immediate distractions.
- Rebels — Tomlinson didn’t find any people who actually fell into this category, but proposed it to complete the model. These people do not buy into the priorities of the conventional labour market and actively pursue alternatives.
Tomlinson, M. (2007). Graduate employability and student attitudes and orientations to the labour market Journal of Education and Work, 20(4), 285-304. DOI: 10.1080/13639080701650164