Career and identity as flexible resources in talk: a discourse analysis of graduate employees' accounts of work experience

Coupland, Christine (2001) Career and identity as flexible resources in talk: a discourse analysis of graduate employees' accounts of work experience. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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'Career', as a term, has been described as difficult to define yet frequently used, as if it is commonly understood what it means. Its relevance as a topic of investigation lies in its prevalence in people's accounts of themselves and their work. There has been a growing awareness of the constructed nature of the term 'career' which merits new empirical research. In addition, the relationship between identity and career from a constructionist perspective has rarely been explored. In the present thesis an empirical investigation of graduate employees' talk about workplace experiences aims to add to understanding about career and identity as resources which may be drawn on in interaction.

In keeping with the social constructionist perspective of the thesis, a discourse analytic methodology was adopted. The data was selected from transcripts of fifty-four interviews, a group meeting with graduate employees and the recruitment literature of one, large, well known, high street retailer.

Given the assumption that career is drawn on as a resource in talk we see that it functions in order to account for work-appropriate behaviour. The implications of the findings are relevant to both theory and practice. In theoretical terms, in contrast to much of the previous work in the field, the fore grounding of the language of career and identity provides new insight into commonly held assumptions about meaning. In this way the findings of the study extend previous notions of career, for example through the exploration of how the participants constructed differentiation as one part of a tension between two desirable states, fitting in yet standing out. In addition, the exploration of how identity, or ways of talking about the self, is deployed in interaction highlights a new and important theoretical area for future research.

In practical terms the findings are of relevance to business and individuals. For business, a focus on the constructions of development, self, skill and career highlights one perspective of the relationship between the individual and the employing company. For individuals the findings have emancipatory potential as they illustrate how alternatives to a dominant understanding about career and progression may be made plausible in interaction.

NB. This ethesis has been created by scanning the typescript original and may contain inaccuracies. In case of difficulty, please refer to the original text.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Starkey, K.P.
Musson, G.
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 10344
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2007
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2017 11:26

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