The career of an occupational psychology graduate: employment, employability and identity

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Elsey, Vicki
  • Subject: X900 | C800

This thesis explored the factors contributing to the employability and identity development of occupational psychology graduates at various career stages. A mixed methods approach was taken to achieve three broad aims of the professional doctorate: 1) raising awareness of employability within the occupational psychology (OP) profession; 2) improving theoretical understanding of employability applied to a domain specific occupational sample; and finally 3) enhancing the professional practice of the thesis author. A qualitative study using focus group methodology (N=6) and thematic analysis identified barriers and facilitators to OP employability culminating in six core themes of ‘identity, ‘continuing professional development’, ‘making a difference’, ‘adaptability’, ‘evidence-based practice’ and ‘external environment’ (study 1). These themes were translated into an Occupational Psychologists Facilitators to Employability Scale (OPFES) which was assessed for its psychometric properties (N=88) using exploratory factor analysis. This study also detailed the development of a Subjective Career Satisfaction Scale (SCSS) (study 2). A revised version of the OPFES and measures of employability antecedents (Competence and Psychological Capital) and career success were distributed to the OP community (N=185). An analysis of the demographic data detailed the variety of OP careers. This study emphasised the potential challenges in creating a strong professional identity (study 3). Structural Equation Modelling determined the relationship between employability and career success (objective and subjective) where final models suggested different relationships between employability antecedents and objective and subjective career success (study 4). Finally, a narrative thematic analysis of OP stories (N=20) concluded the thesis (study 5). This study revealed the presence of five identity types: ‘learners’, ‘networkers’, ‘compromisers’, ‘achievers’ and ‘career builders. Each type was present in the career stories adding further support for the concept of ‘career identity complexity’. Overall, findings indicated that the career of an OP graduate was varied, that multiple employability antecedents could enhance career success and that a diversity of strategies were utilised in identity formation. Support was provided for Career Construction Theory and the influence of human capital and personal resources in employability. Reflections on how the research outcomes have impacted on the thesis author’s professional development are discussed throughout. The research programme contributes an evidence base for interventions that can inform MSc curriculum and the ongoing career and professional development of OccPsychs.
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