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Exploring career trajectories and social networks in early graduate careers

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 2:30pm – 3:00pm parallel session



Room 4 – 303-G16, Sem



Dr Matalena Tofa
Macquarie University, Australia

Dr Kate Lloyd
Macquarie University, Australia

Professor Ruth Bridgstock
Griffith University, Australia

Michelle Grant-Iramu
Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Dr Chris Bilsland
Macquarie University, Australia

Dr Denise Jackson
Edith Cowan University, Australia



Despite increased recognition of the importance of social networking for graduate employability and early career development, little is known about how recent graduates understand the role of social networks in their careers, and how best to support students to recognise the importance of social networks, and to use them in their career development. In this showcase, we draw on interviews and sociograms (visual representations of social networks) completed with 32 recent graduates from three Australian universities as part of a project on graduate social networks and employability. We suggest that developing a fuller understanding of how graduates themselves conceptualise and engage with networking and career development provides useful insights to graduate career success and support of future graduates. Three key insights will be explored in this presentation. Firstly, the early career trajectories outlined by graduates were intricate and unique; some were fairly direct, others were meandering, and all revealed emergent understandings of career identity, career goals, and networking. This complexity and the longer time frames often required to launch careers are typically obscured in quantitative snapshots of graduate employment, potentially generating unrealistic career expectations for future graduates. Secondly, the sociograms illustrated the diversity of networks and strategies for networking and career development both among and within disciplines. This provides a nuanced understanding of what ‘networking’ is and how recent graduates practice it. It also reveals the importance of both in-person networking and strategic engagement with online networks. Finally, because sociograms focus on connections, relationships and flows, this interview approach enabled graduates to reflect on the role of networks and connections in their professional lives. This suggests the utility of sociograms for supporting students and recent graduates to better understand their current networks and the potential of social networks for career development.


Presentation topic

Students – Future Graduates

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