Latest Research News on Career Progression : May 2022

Stretchwork: Managing the Career Progression Paradox in External Labor Markets

Changes in employment relationships have diminished the degree to which internal labor markets shape careers. Using comparative field studies, we examine how contract workers try to achieve career progression without the benefit of organizational guidance. Specifically, we examine how contract workers manage the career progression paradox: the problem of finding a job without prior experience. “Stretchwork” bridging from proven competencies to new ones helps reconcile this paradox. We identify four tactics used to acquire stretchwork, explore the conditions affecting the success of those tactics, and offer theoretical implications for career progression in external labor markets. [1]


We analyze occupational attainment and career progression over the life course for Swedish men and women, born in 1925–1974. Careers progress (measured as improvements in occupational prestige) fast during the first 5–10 years in the labour market, and flatten out afterwards (approximately between 30–40 years of age). This is in line with the occupational status maturation hypothesis. Both class origin and educational attainment affect occupational attainment. The effects of educational attainment vary more over the career, but depend on the educational attainment level in question. Successive cohorts of women gain higher occupational prestige, and continue to gain in occupational prestige longer across their careers. We also find that cohorts that entered the labour market in times of economic downturns and restructuring (the oil crisis years and the early 1990s) had more difficulties in establishing their careers. Returns to education generally increase across cohorts, while class background differences decrease, as has been reported in earlier research.[2]

Undergraduate work placements: an analysis of the effects on career progression

Combining work experience with degree-level study is seen as a key differentiator for securing employment upon graduation in a competitive employment market. The positive benefits of sandwich courses, where up to 12 months is spent working in industry, are widely acknowledged in academic literature though data analysis tends to focus on cohorts in single subject areas with course-based factors possibly influencing outcomes. This paper explores the benefits of work placements on a cross-cohort basis with an institutional level study empirically analysing over three academic years the outcomes for placement students in comparison to non-placement students. The study found that completing a sandwich work placement is associated with improved academic performance in the final year of study. Placement students are also more likely to secure appropriate graduate-level work and higher starting salaries upon completion of their degree in comparison to non-placement students.[3]

Socio-cultural Career Progression Barriers for Women in Academics: A Case of the Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo, Nigeria

Gender challenges in career remains a deterrent to career progression and has largely affected the female population in the workplace environment. In Nigerian society, women have a quite significant socio-cultural role. This study, therefore, examined the understandings of women academics on the cultural family issues that serve as barriers to their careers. The study is a contribution to the existing literature on women academics’ career experiences which have been less investigated in developing countries compared to the developed ones. In doing this, the study tried to provide explanations to the impact of cultural family roles of women in achieving progression in their careers, using the Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo, Nigeria as a case. The study utilized a mixed research approach to investigate this relationship. The qualitative data was used to corroborate quantitative findings. The study found that the socio-cultural roles of women as wives and mothers play a crucial role in their career progression as academics. The impact of a partner’s support plays a crucial role in either the academics family or her partners family’s ability to support her career thereby facilitating academic career progression. Also, a coping strategy that has been widely explored has been the sourcing for assistance with executing some of the socio-cultural roles of women. [4]

Invest to Progress? A Survey of the Cost of Postgraduate Training Prior to Specialty Applications in the United Kingdom

Aim: Clinical training is expensive. This survey of foundation doctors across four UK foundation deaneries (Severn, Wales, South Thames and Scotland) identifies that highly variable sums of money were spent by foundation doctors applying for specialty training.

Place and Duration of Study: Bristol Royal Infirmary and University Hospital of Wales, between September 2015 and July 2016.

Methodology: A total of 1506 foundation year two (FY2) doctors were invited to participate in the online survey. Participants were canvassed via ten questions pertaining to their involvement in four groups of career enhancing activities: training courses; postgraduate examinations; qualifications, and conference attendances. The survey was closed after a ‘live’ period of 5 months. 100 FY2 doctors had completed the survey at the time of its closure.

Results: Of the 100 participants, 89 (89.0%) had undertaken at least one career enhancing activity, with a mean expenditure of £1460 per respondent. Surgical and academic programme applicants spent on average over double the amount of those for anaesthetics (p = 0.01) and medicine (p = 0.001) and ten times that of applicants to general practice (p = 0.0001).

Conclusions: These results have potential implications for training expectations, allocation of study budgets and specialty application processes as a whole.[5]


[1] O’Mahony, S. and Bechky, B.A., 2006. Stretchwork: Managing the career progression paradox in external labor markets. Academy of Management Journal, 49(5), pp.918-941.

[2] Härkönen, J. and Bihagen, E., 2011. Occupational attainment and career progression in Sweden. European Societies, 13(3), pp.451-479.

[3] Brooks, R. and Youngson, P.L., 2016. Undergraduate work placements: an analysis of the effects on career progression. Studies in Higher Education, 41(9), pp.1563-1578.

[4] Laniran, A.M. and Laniran, T.J., 2017. Socio-cultural Career Progression Barriers for Women in Academics: A Case of the Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo, Nigeria. Asian Research Journal of Arts & Social Sciences, pp.1-10.

[5] Bullock, N., Wallis, S. and Ved, R., 2016. Invest to Progress? A Survey of the Cost of Postgraduate Training Prior to Specialty Applications in the United Kingdom. Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research, pp.1-7.     


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