Coping with career boundaries and boundary-crossing in the graduate labour market

Belgin Okay-Somerville, Dora Scholarios

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
130 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: This article explores the nature and role of career boundaries for enabling/constraining career self-management for occupational boundary-crossing in the UK graduate labour market.
Methodology: The data is provided by career history interviews with 36 UK graduates. The analysis contrasts transitions for those who started careers in low- intermediate- and high-skilled segments of the labour market.
Findings: Availability of development and progression opportunities were the most prominent career boundary experienced. Ease of boundary-crossing differed by career stage and educational background. Boundaries enabled career self-management by acting as psychological/external push factors, but push factors only aided progression to high-skilled segments for a third of graduates who started careers in underemployment. For the rest, an adaptation of expectations to labour market realities was observed.
Research limitations/implications: Although career history interviews limit generalisability, they contextualise boundaries and deepen understanding of career actors’ subjective experiences and responses.
Practical implications: The study highlights the role of labour market and demand-side constraints for career transitions as well as proactive career behaviours. This has implications for career counsellors, employers and individuals.
Originality/value: This article provides a distinctive ‘boundary-focused’ analysis of emerging career boundaries in the graduate labour market. The findings point to the intricate interplay between structure and agency for career development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCareer Development International
Issue number6
Early online date23 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • career management
  • labour market conditions
  • graduates
  • career boundaries
  • career self-management
  • career mobility
  • underemployment

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Coping with career boundaries and boundary-crossing in the graduate labour market'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this