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Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at, Societies and EducationISSN: 1476-7724 (Print) 1476-7732 (Online) Journal homepage: of capital and agency as mediationsin negotiating employability of internationalgraduate migrantsThanh Pham, Michael Tomlinson & Chris ThompsonTo cite this article: Thanh Pham, Michael Tomlinson & Chris Thompson (2019) Forms ofcapital and agency as … Continue reading “Globalisation, Societies and Education | My Assignment Tutor”

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at, Societies and EducationISSN: 1476-7724 (Print) 1476-7732 (Online) Journal homepage: of capital and agency as mediationsin negotiating employability of internationalgraduate migrantsThanh Pham, Michael Tomlinson & Chris ThompsonTo cite this article: Thanh Pham, Michael Tomlinson & Chris Thompson (2019) Forms ofcapital and agency as mediations in negotiating employability of international graduate migrants,Globalisation, Societies and Education, 17:3, 394-405, DOI: 10.1080/14767724.2019.1583091To link to this article: online: 01 Mar 2019.Submit your article to this journalArticle views: 535View related articlesView Crossmark dataCiting articles: 2 View citing articlesForms of capital and agency as mediations in negotiatingemployability of international graduate migrantsThanh Pham a, Michael Tomlinsonb and Chris Thompson caFaculty of Education, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; bEducation School, University of Southampton,Southampton, UK; cSchool of Chemistry, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, AustraliaABSTRACTThis study deployed a qualitative approach to explore an alternativeperspective regarding graduate migrants’ employability. Twentygraduate migrants in Australia participated in in-depth interviews.Findings revealed graduate migrants faced various challenges in thetarget labour market, and to successfully secure employment it wasimportant for them to develop key forms of capital – i.e., excellenttechnical knowledge, relationships with ‘significant others’, strong careeridentity and psychological resilience, and exercise agency in interlinkingthese capitals so that they could make use of their strengths and coatweaknesses. Results from the study imply that managing, teaching, andprofessional staff members should collaborate closely to develop wellrounded programmes to sufficiently equip international students withmultidimensional resources.ARTICLE HISTORYReceived 28 July 2018Accepted 12 February 2019KEYWORDSHigher education; Australia;international students;employability; skills; capitalIntroductionInternational education is important to both Australian society and economy. During the last decade, on average international students account for more than 20% of tertiary education students atAustralian universities – the highest proportion of international students in all OECD countries(Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2011). Employing international students upon graduation has been viewed as a strategy to meet the demands for highly skilled labourand enhance competition in Australian education (AUIDF 2013; Marginson et al. 2010). Thecountry has, therefore, extended various efforts to employ international graduates to fill the skilledworker gap. This process started with the liberalisation of the study-migration pathway in the late1990s, followed by employer-sponsored migrant policy, and recently the National Strategy for International Education 2025 in 2016. These policies aimed to support international students to apply forpermanent residency (PR) and enhance local working experiences in work-readiness programmes.Unfortunately, there is still clear evidence of alarmingly poor employment outcomes for international graduates (AUIDF 2013; Cappelletto 2010). To tackle this problem, Australian universitieshave prioritised implementing initiatives that embed employability skills in university curricula(Bridgstock 2009). This approach has been, however, critiqued for its ineffectiveness in equippinginternational students with adequate generic skills (Jackson 2016; Pellegrino and Hilton 2012)and practical and applicable working experiences (Gribble and McRae 2015). In this paper, weargue that improvement to international student employment outcomes might be catalysed by actingon insights we have identified through an investigation of the connection between graduates’ capitalsand their employability trajectories. This line of research has been supported by a small but© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis GroupCONTACT Thanh Pham Faculty of Education, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, AustraliaThis article has been republished with minor changes. These changes do not impact the academic content of the article.GLOBALISATION, SOCIETIES AND EDUCATION2019, VOL. 17, NO. 3, 394–405 number of researchers including Tomlinson (2017), Brown and Hesketh (2004), Clarke(2018), Fugate, Kinicki, and Ashforth (2004), King, Findlay, and Ahrens (2010). These researchersargued that employment outcomes are not simply determined by generic skills, but also by factorssuch as social class, gender, ethnicity, social networks and university status: essentially, the development of human capital, social capital, cultural capital, mobility capital, personal adaptability andcareer identity.This contribution enriches the graduate employability literature by unpacking the connectionbetween graduates’ agency and employability trajectories through an analysis of how graduatemigrants developed strategies to manage their transitions into the labour market. The paper is structured as follows. It will commence with a discussion of employment issues facing graduate migrantsin Australia, followed by a presentation of Tomlinson’s Graduate Capital Model which is used as thecore conceptual framework to this study. It will end with a discussion of how the present study wasconducted and what findings were revealed as well as suggestions and implications for graduates,policy makers, and educators.Employability of international graduates in AustraliaIn the current literature, international graduates’ employability in Australia has been shown to bedetermined by various factors. Holding PR could, according to Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi(2017), ease graduates’ employment adventures as it can minimise complicated administrative sponsorship procedures for employers. High expectations and stereotyped attitudes of Australianemployers were also found to negatively impact job opportunities for international graduates(Almeida et al. 2015; Robertson, Hoare, and Harwood 2011; Gribble and McRae 2015). This happensbecause employers often hold ‘perception of fit’, meaning having preferences towards candidateswith a similar background (Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi 2017). Last but not least, internationalgraduates also limit their employment opportunities when often targeting large-tier and high-profileorganisations (Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi 2017; Jackson 2016). These factors have contributedto the fact that in 2013, only 18.5% of employers indicated that they recruited international graduates(Graduates Careers Australia 2015).Due to the continuous shortage of skilled migrants, both the Australian government and universities have strongly promoted the employability skills agenda as the predominant approach toenhance the employment status of international graduates (Barrie, Hughes, and Smith 2009).Employability skills which are often used in association with ‘soft skills’, ‘graduate competencies’,‘work-ready skills’, ‘generic skills’ and ‘transferable skills’ have been widely embedded in currentteaching and learning programmes (Williams et al. 2016). Unfortunately, flaws of this approachhave been reported in various studies with main critiques about the vague meaning of the attributesbetween stakeholder groups (academics, industry and students) (Pellegrino and Hilton 2012), academics’ lack of skills in embedding these attributes in their teaching (Jones, Yates, and Kelder2012), and insufficient support provided to students on extra-curricular activities (Tran 2017).Recently, more and more researchers have found that employability is often demonstratedthrough different capitals: human capital, social capital, cultural capital, mobility capital, personaladaptability, and career identity Clarke (2018), Fugate, Kinicki, and Ashforth (2004), King, Findlay,and Ahrens (2010) and Tomlinson (2017). The employment battle has become significantly competitive due to a larger number of students accessing higher education and employability skills training (Gale and Parker 2017). How graduates develop and exercise agency in interlinking theirpersonal capitals has, therefore, become crucial for employment success (Saito and Pham 2019).To date, very little attention has been paid to this area, except some studies including Thondhlana,Madziva, and McGrath (2016), Hinchcliffe (2013), Erel (2010) and Ryan (2011) which examinedmigrants’ agency in negotiating employability. To redress this gap, this article examines the roleof forms of capital in graduate migrants’ employability trajectories and how they exercised agencyin interlinking various personal qualities articulated in both home and host countries, and evenGLOBALISATION, SOCIETIES AND EDUCATION 395translating non-recognised capitals to recognised qualities to obtain employment success. The following section will summarise Tomlinson’s Graduate Capital Model which we deployed as the framework guiding our investigation.Tomlinson’s graduate capital modelTomlinson (2017) has identified five forms of capital – human capital, social capital, cultural capital,identity capital, and psychological capital – and their relationship with graduate employability asillustrated in Figure 1 below.In brief, human capital refers to the knowledge and skills that graduates obtain to prepare for employment. Graduates in vocation-related disciplines tend to be able to apply technical knowledge uponemployment in a straightforward manner, whereas those in general education disciplines do not havea clear transferable knowledge pathway to the workplace (Tomlinson 2017). Social capital refers to socialrelationships and networks with significant other, including family, peers, higher education institutions,and social organisations that graduates use to access the labour market. It is noted that graduates fromlower and marginalised socioeconomic backgrounds are disadvantaged in this area and often have to useexisting economic capital or make more efforts to enrich their social network (Tomlinson 2017).Cultural capital refers to cultural-valued knowledge, dispositions and insights typically valuedwithin organisations and which graduates need to embody in order to signal their attractivenessto employers. This capital is illustrated as a ‘personality package’ that includes accent, body language,and humour. Similar to social capital, poor socioeconomic background or an overseas backgroundwere noted by Tomlinson as factors that may cause international students to struggle in developingcultural capital. Identity capital is how individuals are able to make active self-investments towardstheir future employment. Their efforts could be used to form their personal identity and are also presented as form of narrative. Tomlinson highlighted the curriculum vitae (CV) as a tool allowinggraduates to present compelling employability narratives that convey their identities to impressemployers. Finally, psychological capital includes capacities that enable graduates to overcome barriers, adapt to new situations, and respond proactively to inevitable career challenges. This capital isbecoming increasingly important because of the intense competition and uncertainty regardingemployment in today’s labour market (Brown et al. 2012; Tomlinson 2017).Figure 1. Tomlinson’s Graduate Capital Model.396 T. PHAM ET AL.Tomlinson’s model was developed mainly to inform an understanding of domestic graduates’employability and has not been applied to international students. However, the model indicatestypes of capitals that our previous and current research found international students possessing(Pham 2014; Pham and Saito 2019). Deploying the model as a conceptual framework would enablethe researchers to extend and deepen our previous investigation. This study, therefore, utilised butfurther empirically explored the model to better understand international graduates’ employabilityand their approaches to managing their future outcomes. Underpinned by this conceptual approach,the study was guided by the following questions:1. How were graduate migrants able to develop and utilise different forms of capital towards enhancing their employment opportunity and outcomes?2. How were graduate migrants able to exercise their agency in utilising different forms of capital toenhance their labour market prospects?MethodologyParticipantsTwenty international graduates from a range of demographic backgrounds, academic disciplines,and career development pathways, were invited to participate in this research. The researchemployed purposeful sampling. Specifically, an ethics-approved snowball sampling technique wasused to approach participants (Creswell 2012). Participants met the following selection criteria: (i)completed school education overseas; (ii) held a degree obtained in Australia (undergraduate, master’s, or PhD); and (iii) lived in Australia when the research was conducted. The participants’ agesranged from 23 to 46 years old. They all came from Asian countries and their demographic detailsare presented in Table 1 below. This research did not attempt to offer a representative sample of allinternational students in Australia but provided insights into how graduate migrants developed theiremployment outcomes and exercised agency towards managing their employability.Data collection and analysisSemi-structured interviews were conducted to collect narrative descriptions of the participants’employability trajectories and key episodes on their journey from higher education (HE) to employment. Specifically, twelve participants were invited in individual in-depth, open-ended interviews,Table 1. Demographic information about the par.ticipants: (n) = number of participants.Nationalities Degree Disciplines Professions Staying in Australia GenderChina(n = 6)PhD(n = 5)Education(n = 6)Academics(n = 4)3 years(n = 4)Female(n = 12)Vietnam(n = 4)Masters(n = 4)Business(n = 6)Office staff(n = 6)4 years(n = 6)Male(n = 8)Malaysia(n = 2)Bachelors(n = 9)Technology(n = 3)Programme coordinators(n = 3)5 years(n = 6)Indonesia(n = 2)Vocational and college degrees(n = 2)Arts(n = 2)Language teaching(n = 2)6–8 years(n = 4)Singapore(n = 2)TESOL(n = 2)Casual staff(n = 3)Philipinnes(n = 2)Construction(n = 1)Unemployed(n = 2)Thailand(n = 1)Japan(n = 1)GLOBALISATION, SOCIETIES AND EDUCATION 397the remainder joined group interviews of 3–4 members. Open-ended interview questions were developed so that participants could ‘best voice their experiences unconstrained by any perspectives of theresearcher or past research findings’ (Creswell 2012, 218). Interviewees were asked to share experiences related to key forms of capitals captured in Tomlinson’s capitals model that they used in theircareer development. This aimed to enabled the researchers to collect sufficient data to answer theresearch questions. Questions focused on how participants managed challenges and navigated complexities. Additionally, they were asked to identify their strengths and support in the labour market.Each interview lasted approximately 40 min and was recorded audibly or by written notes, or both,for later transcription. Both the first researcher and the research assistant participated in coding dataand continuously cross-checking codes until the inter-rater agreement was 100%. A deductiveapproach was applied to analyse the data. The analytical process commenced at a general level,for instance starting with broader areas such as career aspirations, educational profile and experience, then focused on more specific issues such as their use of career resources and related assetsthat facilitates (or otherwise) their early career outcomes.The questions specifically focused on the main capitals which were used to frame the subsequentdata analysis, with specific attention given to specific sub-dimensions of each capital (for example,knowledge, social relations, resilience, cultural fit) which emerged through the respondents’ personalaccounts of their early career experiences and outcomes. Accordingly, the data were disentangledinto segments (i.e. a word, single sentence, or paragraph) so that annotations and codes could beattached to them. Any code that referred to these five categories was grouped into one or more ofthe categories. Then, for each category, the researchers grouped any code that referred to thesame phenomenon as a theme. Codes that did not fall into these five categories were grouped innew categories, to allow for further inductive analysis to unfold.FindingsHuman capital knowledge: technical knowledge versus soft skillsOne of the first significant themes was the perceived value of their enhanced human capital, acquiredthrough studying an international degree. Although the participants were from various disciplinesand worked in different industries, they expressed a common experience that disciplinary knowledgehelped them significantly in obtaining immediate employment especially in the academy, remainingemployed, and earning promotions. Some could apply their content knowledge directly, whereasothers were advantaged in a more generic sense having gained a stronger overall foundation of educational and work-related knowledge:I came to Australia without knowing how to write a good essay but now I can write publications. My publications were the main reason I was employed (Quyen – a lecturer in education).I could use quite a lot of things I learned from my degree, but my working experiences in multinational companies in my home country helped a lot (Ngan – banking sector employee).How much content knowledge these respondents could apply to their jobs varied depending onthe nature of their jobs and the more specific connections between their degree-level learning and thedemands of a given workplace. However, their accounts revealed the operation of their agency indifferent ways to manage their career. Quyen was strategic in building an impressive publicationrecord to make her stand out, whereas Ngan knew how to make use of her non-recognised knowledge (working experience in her home country) to support the hard currencies obtained in the hostcountry as an additional credit. These capacities made them look more advantaged compared toother candidates – a strategy enabling graduates to win the employment battle in many cases(Brown and Hesketh 2004).By contrast, generic skills could be interpreted differently based on individuals’ backgrounds andvalues (Pham et al. 2018). Therefore, the graduates found it hard and frustrating to find the fit in the398 T. PHAM ET AL.organisation. Our analysis revealed language proficiency and intercultural competences affected theirentrance to the field and slowing their career progression significantly as employers often have preference towards verbal communication (Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi 2017). By contrast, thegraduates perceived verbal communication was their weakness compared to other capacities, as illustrated in the message below.I was shortlisted for several interviews but failed all of them … When they looked at my CV, they might havebeen very impressed, but when we met for face-to-face interviews, they became aware of my English[deficiencies] (Wang – a graduate in business).Several graduates echoed confusion and frustration when facing the gap between what they hadbeen taught and what industry expected.I found this very interesting but frustrating. In universities, we were taught to be ‘critical’, and we often think[that] asking questions … means ‘critical’ … but then I found he [supervisor] was not very happy [because Iasked a lot].This quote clearly consolidates what Pellegrino and Hilton (2012) claim about different interpretations of attributes amongst stakeholders and this made it double hard for graduate migrants tofigure out what was actually expected from them.The data therefore show that higher education-derived human capital in the form of ‘hard currencies’ was not sufficient on its own. Respondents appeared to come unstuck when applying softskills from the academic and home-country worlds to the workplace. This reflects the differencein transferring possibilities of hard knowledge and the acquisition of wider soft skills which are ofequal value (Thondhlana, Madziva, and McGrath 2016).Social capital: social networks and human relationshipsOur data analysis revealed the respondents had limited social networks. Similar to findings of previous studies (i.e., Sakurai, McCall-Wolf, and Kashima 2010), the main reasons contributing to thislimitation were their close attachment to co-ethnic community and mentality of emphasising academic performance over social relations. Differently, some graduates indicated that they did makeefforts to develop social networks but found it challenging. What they shared revealed the ‘fit’ searchthat industries often hold (Almeida et al. 2015). The reflection below, for instance, suggested theirAsian name and accent inhibited their chance of success:They were looking for volunteers and I called but they never got back to me … It is hard to develop physicalrelationships … even on social media it is not easy to join their conversations—maybe because they see my Chinese name (Adrian – a graduate in marketing).Our data analysis, however, disclosed an important finding that most of the successful graduates haddeveloped good relationships with some key stakeholder whom could be called ‘significant others’.These people helped connect them to potential employers as a referee and an introductory person.For instance, Lan, a finance graduate, transitioned from cleaning work she did for a local family topart-time accounting work at their family company, and finally landed a full-time job as the result ofthe knowledge and experience she had through this pathway. Another full-time lecturer admittedthat a good relationship with her supervisor was crucial to her job success because she wasknown and recognised in the field mainly due to her supervisor’s reputation. She stated:Many fantastic students were around, and I understood that many were better than me, but I was chosen partially because of the reputation of my supervisor. When I became an academic, I realised that the reputation of areferee can guarantee the quality of students (Ha – a graduate with a PhD degree).The connection between such relationships and employment outcomes has been discussed in variousstudies about migrants and international students and returnees (Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi2017; Li 2013; Popadiuk and Arthur 2014). However, the significance of each network variesGLOBALISATION, SOCIETIES AND EDUCATION 399amongst the groups depending on their contextual backgrounds. For migrants, the connection withpeople in co – or similar-ethnic groups appeared significant because it helped them learn about thehost country’s labour market and job opportunities (Ryan and Mulholland 2014; Wimmer and GlickSchiller 2002). Also, relationships with relatives and authorities were found to help returnees inmany Asian countries (i.e., China, Vietnam) navigate barriers in the home labour market (Li2013; Pham and Saito 2019). Our study and the study conducted by Popadiuk and Arthur (2014)reported the importance of developing relationships with supervisors and mentors in career opportunities of international students because such connections helped broker significant knowledgeabout job openings and what may be required to negotiate them. This certainly helped socialisethe hard currencies gained from formal study and improve their job market opportunities.Cultural capital: cultural synergy and alignmentAlmost all respondents expressed concerns about having a shallow understanding of the workingenvironment in their field. They did not have good insights about the cultural script or constitutionof a workplace, the hidden recruitment rules and expectation of employers, including desired behavioural dispositions and competences. Some graduates perceived industries were not looking for whatwas advertised on the website ‘I heard [that] some companies prefer candidates with experience invarious fields rather than only one field. If I had known this, I could have developed my CV to highlight this (Henny – a graduate in finance)’. Industries do not advertise all expectations explicitlymaybe because they have what Bauder (2003) and Hage (1998) call ‘nationally-based protectionism’and ‘national capital’ – hidden policies that give priorities to local people with local qualifications.Hidden expectations of employers could be, for example, seen in recruitment policies which oftenhave a clause saying that employers are not responsible for clarifying their reasons of recruiting.This led to frustration shared amongst some graduates in our study because they were unsuccessfulbut did not know what to improve.The participants’ trajectories also disclosed their struggles of entering different organisationalfields and the challenges of decoding the cultural rules and scripts of an organisation, includingits desired forms of embodied capital. One of the main challenges concerned ‘socio-pragmatic competencies’ (Celce-Murcia, Dörnyei, and Thurrell 1995); that is, competencies in relation to everydayinteractions such as figuring out appropriate language, standard behaviours and acceptable topics indaily talks. As a result, they experienced accidents as described by Millet (2003) as ‘hitting an iceberg’when venturing different cultures without adequate preparation – i.e., asking ‘odd’ questions or looking ‘weird’. One participant said he often found it hard when working with other people because hecould only see the visible and surface layer of human relationships but failed to understand whypeople chose one approach over another or collaborated with one person over another.Amongst 20 participants, we identified five graduates obtaining employment in their co- andsimilar ethnic communities mainly based on their social networks and the advantage of beingable to use another language and possessing knowledge about the home-country market. Forinstance, a graduate in commerce (Debing) shared that he was selected for the position mainlybecause the company expected him to expand networks in China. Although two out of these fivegraduates were not satisfied with their downgrading positions, these graduates proved their capacityin using social network to find a space where they could use their non-recognised human capitalsand avoid the competition with local counterparts.Psychological capital: resilience as an important dimension of managing post-HEtransitionsOur analysis revealed two groups possessing distinct psychological characteristics. The firstexpressed their strong desire to stay in Australia, whereas the second was indecisive about wherethey really wanted to settle. The differences in attitudes led to distinct features in their efforts in400 T. PHAM ET AL.negotiating employability. The first group, in general, showed great resilience since coming to Australia. They mostly adapted admirably to their studies and work environments. Some PhD graduatesin the study were exceptional because they came to Australia for their first Australian degrees butachieved exceptionally academic performances. It was noteworthy that the PhD programme didnot give them much chance to develop soft skills due to their main contacts being limited withthe supervisors. However, they showed impressive flexibility and adaptability as their career progressed. An important quality helping them develop resilience and persistence was a positive attitude, for example:Of course, there are always issues at any workplace, so I keep thinking positively and learn a lesson from eachproblem. I like the way people here use productivity to judge our quality but not personal relationships. (Hannah – a graduate in construction).Amongst the participants, we found Xia, a graduate in education, stood out with her amazing resilience. She used to be a maths university lecturer with rich specialisation knowledge. After migratingto Australia, her qualification was not transnationalised, so she decided to pursue a second undergraduate degree in education. She was shortlisted for all job positions she applied for but failed allinterviews mainly because, as she perceived, her English proficiency was not standard. She finallyaccepted a mandarin teaching position and used it as a tool to enrich local working experienceand improve English – two areas that she hoped could make her more competitive for a job inher specialisation once they got improved.The second group appeared to possess less psychological capital because they showed less effortsin socialising with mainstream people and easily gave up when confronting difficulties. Amongstsome common reasons (e.g., difficult to develop social networks with local people, easy to hangaround with people in the same community), many did not have intentions to settle in Australiafor long-term work. They had actually planned to return to their home country or move to anothercountry after they obtained PR. Li (2013) and Pham and Saito (2019) found a similar finding; manyinternational students intended to do study to apply for PR or citizenship but not for employmentpurposes because they had been arranged for jobs in the home country. This explains why half ofnew permanent residents leave Australia within five years of receiving their permanent visa(Gomes 2017).Identity capital: passion as a ‘must’ for employment successWhen analysing the connection between identity capital and their career progression, we found anoteworthy theme that most of the participants who successfully secured satisfactory employmentopportunities demonstrated real passion in their careers. As discussed elsewhere in the paper,holding PR is an important factor lifting employment status of international graduates (Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi 2017). However, surprisingly, our analysis revealed many graduateswho had not targeted obtaining PR as their main goal of coming to Australia succeeded in employment. By contrast, the graduates who had aimed to obtain PR as the only goal of their overseasstudy struggled to find employment. For instance, a PhD graduate shared that she had a greatinterest in exploring her field of expertise, so just kept reading and writing as a way to exploreand disseminate her work. Her research capacity and publication record impressed her supervisorimmensely who then recommended and supported her to win a research fellowship. We also foundsome graduates expressed their passion in portraying themselves as what Tomlinson (2007) calls‘careerists’. They sold their image as a career-oriented person on social media (i.e., facebook, LinkedIn) by disseminating their work, joining conversations related to their field, and showing theirpositive attitudes. James, a graduate working as a director of a start-up finance company, sharedhis tip below.At the end of the day, employers only care about outcomes, so show them your capacity to obtain the outcomesby an image full of energy on any media channel.GLOBALISATION, SOCIETIES AND EDUCATION 401By contrast, our analysis revealed several graduates who had targeted obtaining PR as the only goal ofcoming to Australia faced struggles in their employability trajectories. For instance, one graduateshared that she interrupted the PhD programme to do another course so that she could be eligibleto apply for PR. After obtaining PR and sponsoring her whole family to Australia, as the main breadwinner she then gave up the PhD programme to work full-time at a fruit shop – a career pathwaythat, as an academic, she had never thought about.A final important theme emerging in our data was that how the graduates positioned themselveswithin their social networks could determine their employment opportunities. Some graduates didnot intend to do downgrading professional work (i.e., shop sellers, service workers) because theywere afraid that their friends and relatives would look down them. An accounting graduate, forinstance, explained she had been looking for jobs for two years because ‘I need to find a type ofwork that makes my mum feel proud’. Friedmann (2002) described this thinking as habitus thatcan inflict a feeling of one living ‘simultaneously in two countries’ (311). The reluctance to acceptdowngrading positions appeared more obvious amongst the graduates who had strong attachmentswith their co-ethnic community and home country because in Asian culture professions are associated with social class and respect (Pham and Saito 2019).Discussion and conclusionThe findings from this study revealed several significant empirical themes which further contributeto current knowledge and understanding of graduates’ transitions into employment and the factorsinfluencing their employability. While applicable to home graduates, this study specifically makes anovel contribution to understanding the situation for international graduates. First, contrasting withnumerous studies about the importance of generic skills in negotiating employability (Barrie 2006;Jones, Yates, and Kelder 2012), our study found that the weight of academic performance and softskills varied depending on the profession and strategies utilised by the graduates. It was clear that thegraduates who pursued career in the academy needed to articulate excellent hard currencies – i.e.,academic performances and publications. Being academically outstanding students could enablethem to easily build a relationship with ‘significant others’ (i.e., academics, supervisors). Such arelationship then opened up various opportunities enabling dialogues with potential employersfor jobs. The emphasis on academic performance reflects recent trends in Australian educationwith much interest in quantitative measurement (i.e., comparisons of quantitative educational outcomes across national boundaries) (Rizvi and Lingard 2010). Therefore, students with outstandingacademic records tend to be prioritised for job opportunities.For the graduates who pursued career in industry, generic skills (especially communication) werecrucially important, and where lacking presented challenges for graduates. It was clear that ourrespondents were largely disadvantaged in this area although some showed great efforts in learningand improving. As a result, to succeed in employment, the graduates needed to exercise agency ininterlinking various capitals so that they could make use of their strengths and hide weaknesses.For example, Lan and Ha used their hard-working and dedicated personalities as a tool to win support of their ‘significant others’ who then refereed them to employers – a clear interlink betweenidentity, cultural and social capitals. Previous studies had reported the important role of quanxi(relationship) in Asian countries (Bodewig et al. 2014; Guo, Porschitz, and Alves 2013; Robertson,Hoare, and Harwood 2011; Le and LaCost 2017) and in Australia (Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi2017). However, the nature of such relationships differs in these two contexts. Quanxi tends to meanrelationships with monetary exchange, whereas the relationship with ‘significant others’ in Australiatends to be built on mutual benefits over a long period of time and often on trust that is called ‘ironclad’’ (Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi 2017, 81).Differently, Xia’s case showed her exercise of agency in interplaying various forms of capital andalso creating new capital. She used psychological capital to enrich her human capital (i.e., do a newdegree, accept a downgrading position to improve English) and cultural capital (i.e., enrich local402 T. PHAM ET AL.working experiences) so that she could find a job in her specialisation. This process indicated an ability in combining her non-recognised capital (her overseas maths qualification) and recognised capital (her Australian education degree) to form a new capital – a combination of maths knowledge inChina and pedagogical skills in Australia. In their study about returnees’ career development, Phamand Saito (2019) found that the returnees who knew how to interplay hard knowledge and soft skillsobtained in Vietnam and Australia achieved significant successes in their career, and we saw suchagency in Xia’s case. Similarly, five graduates who obtained jobs in their co-ethnic communityshowed a capacity to connect their cultural and social capitals to navigate their inadequate communication competencies. Aware of their limitations in linguistic and cultural competencies and strengthsin language and knowledge of the home country, they strategically developed social networks withpeople in co-ethnic communities for job opportunities and progression. Out of all the dominantforms of capital discussed, international graduates experienced most challenges in terms of cultivating the appropriate forms of cultural capital, mainly in the embodied and linguistic form, and thispresented barriers to entering different fields.Finally, our study revealed a couple of significant messages for international students and institutions. First, PR was found to have both negative and positive influences on participants’ employment. Having PR helped some graduates obtain employment more easily because it was arecruitment condition but the process perusing PR could also interrupt career progression. Thisfinding was a significant message to migrants because many tend to have an assumption that havingPR guarantees employment (Blackmore, Gribble, and Rahimi 2017). Second, our study found thatthe development of forms of capital was significantly influenced by their plan for job and stay settlement. Little attention has been paid to the connection between employability and career development intentions (i.e., Li 2013). This line of research should be further investigated because thereis currently an increasing number of Asian students returning to their home country (Xinhua2013) mainly due to the economic development of emerging markets, especially those in Asia likeChina, Vietnam, Korea, India and Malaysia (Harvey 2009). If we want to enhance international students’ employability, it is time for Australian education to work on not only preparing them foremployment in the host country but also for their home or a third country.Finally, it was very clear from the study that the current dominant skills agenda was insufficient tofacilitate the multifaceted employability journeys of international graduates. Therefore, universities’instructors and services need to better inform international students about the need to develop varioussources of capital at the early stage of their study. This also meant there is a need to deploy diverse theoretical perspectives to guide research regarding the multifaceted dimensions of international graduates’employability. The literature is still in an early stage of examining the post-study life of internationalstudents. Therefore, data in this field is still limited and further research should be conducted. Suchdata would be invaluable to any government attempting to develop a rational policy to link internationalstudent recruitment with national high-skilled labour recruitment needs.Disclosure statementNo potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.ORCIDThanh Pham Thompson, S., M. Fernando, Z. Hannif, and S. 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