Coping with a changing world: A study of graduates’ career development

Chen Fleisher [1]

Chen - artikelGlobalization, technological advancement, and other economic pressures have changed the face of human resource management. Companies increasingly rely on the external labor market to achieve competitive advantage, while establishing short-term relationships with their employees. In particular, the volatile environment created by the recent economic recession has compelled rigorous recruitment approaches.  Consequently, employers are constantly looking to hire employees with new skills and those who do not posses these skills are let go. 

This dynamic situation results in decreased job security and requires workers in the 21st century to engage in ongoing efforts to ensure their employability and enhance their value in the workforce. Researchers have found that having the right skills and knowledge is vital for individuals to cope in a changing world. Some argue, that mastering one’s career development enable individuals to shape organizations, industries and even society at large.empty[2

It is therefore not surprising that universities are interested in learning more about their graduates and how they can better prepare them for a successful and sustainable career. This includes acquiring more knowledge about the factors that aid graduates to be more successful and how this relates to the changes and growth of companies and society at large.

The Career Aspirations Trendwatch

These and more questions were recently examined in a study led by Dr. Svetlana Khapova and Chen Fleisher (MSc) from the Management and Organization department at the faculty. As part of Chen’s PhD dissertation, the Career Aspirations Trendwatch (CAT) is aimed at annually recording FEWEB graduates’ mobility, work attitudes and behaviors. It includes questions concerning the way they engage in and outside their work.

The study, which took place between February and March 2011, was sent to 2.000 alumni and was completed by 500 respondents (75% male) with an average age of 39 (44% 24-34 years old; 25% 35-44 years old; 16% 45-54 years old; and 15% over 55 years old). The main industries in which they are currently working are Banking\Insurance\Finance (30%), Consulting (13%), Accounting (8%), and Military and Government  (5%). It appears that despite the economic turbulence the average tenure is 7 years, where only 30 percent of them have changed jobs over 3 times in their careers. Finally, more than 80 percent of the respondents indicated they are very satisfied with their work and with their career achievement.

The influence of social media

In terms of perceived value in the labor market, it was found that most respondents specified having high value for their organizations. This appears to be related to activities such as bringing knowledge and experiences, and maintaining networks of relationship that cross the boundaries of their employers. Researchers have already suggested that such actions can contribute to the development and success of organizations.[3] Interestingly, results showed that social media helps people in contributing to their employers. This is significantly important, seeing the increase of social media use in the digitized work environment. By using different social media platforms (e.g., email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Hyves, Twitter), respondents can access information, attain resources and receive support in their professional lives. However, this is not only vital for conducting their work, but also for advancing and developing their career competencies and skills. 

The relationship with the university

Overall these initial results reveal that the graduates are very pleased with their studies and the university. Most (80%) of the alumni find their studies to be inspirational and helpful in their careers. They are very involved in their community and interested in maintaining relationship with the university. This includes giving lectures, providing internships and donating to the university.

Following the success of CAT 2011, the faculty will continue monitoring and gathering information about its alumni. The results also carry policy implications and will enable FEWEB to improve the quality of education and academic experience, and in particular the career development of current students. The graduates are invaluable source of learning, whose individual characteristics and experiences are combined to provide a wealth of knowledge.  As a token of appreciation, the CAT team in cooperation with the FEWEB Alumni office has decided to offer participants the opportunity to win a prize. In the draw that took place on 30 May 2011, Rob van Schaagen won a brand new Apple® iPad (notification will be sent by email). The CAT team and the faculty would like to thank all participants for taking part in such important initiative. We hope to see you again in the Career Aspirations Trendwatch 2012.

References

Arthur, M. B., Inkson, K., & Pringle, J. K. (1999). The new careers: Individual action and economic change. Sage.

Eby, L. T., Butts, M., & Lockwood, A. (2003). Predictors of success in the era of the boundaryless career. Journal of Organizational Behavior.

de Janasz, S. C., & Sullivan, S. E. (2004). Multiple mentoring in academe: Developing the professorial network. Journal of Vocational Behavior.

Somaya, D., Williamson, I., & Lorinkova, N. (2008). Gone but not lost: The different performance impacts of employee mobility between cooperators versus competitors. The Academy of Management Journal.

Weick, K. (1996). Enactment and the boundaryless career: Organizing as we work. Oxford University Press.

 

[empty1] Chen Fleisher is promovendus bij de afdeling Management en Organisatiekunde, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam , c.fleisher@vu.nl

[empty2]  Eby, Butts, & Lockwood, 2003; de Janasz & Sullivan, 2004; Weick, 1996

[empty3] Arthur, Inkson, & Pringle, 1999; Somaya, Williamson, & Lorinkova, 2008