Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

Career Habitus, Capital, Field and Boundaries: Self-Initiated Expatriate Migrant Careers of South Asian Professionals and Managers in Australia

Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

Career Habitus, Capital, Field and Boundaries: Self-Initiated Expatriate Migrant Careers of South Asian Professionals and Managers in Australia

Article excerpt


The self-initiated expatriate (SIE) migrant career is a growing and important area of research. This research extends the expanding literature emphasizing the idea that SIE migrant careers are better understood by thinking beyond the human capital perspective in which migration is seen as a flow of a factor of production (labor) flowing across international borders (Syed, 2008). Recent research suggests that SIE migrant careers are also shaped by and are an expression of habitus (Mayrhofer, Meyer, Steyrer and Langer, 2007). This idea has led to consideration of career fields (Iellatchitch, Mayrhofer and Meyer, 2003), and career capital (Inskon and Thorn, 2010; Mayrhofer, Iellatchitch, Myer, Steyrer, Schiffinger and Strunk, 2004). The researchers in this area have also begun to examine the ways in which career boundaries are established and maintained (Inkson, Gunz, Ganesh and Roper, 2012) and the effects of structural and personal conditions on migrant careers (Zikic, Bonache and Cerdin, 2010).

This main focus of this research was on 'one-shot migrants'; the SIEs who move permanently from one country to another (Thorn and Inkson, 2013) and concept of 'habitus' was used as a valuable theoretical lens to further improve understanding of the ways in which career capital, career field and career boundaries are formed and their resultant effects on SIE migrant careers. By drawing on the notion of habitus, this study seeks to extend and develop its application to improve understanding of career boundaries. To accomplish this goal, interviews were conducted with migrants from South Asia who have settled in Australia. The data was analyzed using a two qualitative methodological approaches; phenomenology for providing a way of eliciting the meanings the interviewees attached to their migrant career experiences (Cresswell, 2009; Moustakas, 1994) and analysis of narrative, that illuminated the personal and social experiences of the participants as their migrant career unfolded through time (Cziarniawska-Joeges, 2004). Two approaches were employed to ensure validity and reliability of the data analysis (Morse and Niehaus, 2009).


Career habitus, career capitals and career fields

In general terms, habitus is a stable and unconscious phenomenon that can be used to conceptualize a person's disposition and competences as they are connected to social structures incorporated by individuals, their habitual thinking, and their acting (Mayrhofer, et al., 2007). When applied to the specific area of SIE migrant careers, we can identify and explain their 'career habitus' (Mayrhofer, et al., 2007). A SIE migrant can then be seen as inhabiting and acting in a 'career field' in which they must compete for position, resources, power, control, and so on (Bourdieu, 1987). The capacity of an individual to create possibilities and positions in a particular career field depends on the degree of social capital (e.g. networks of personal relationships), economic capital (e.g. money, shares, and property), cultural capital (e.g. education, language, and cultural understanding), economic capital, and symbolic capital that they are able to control and deploy (Bourdieu, 2002). By extension, career capital is composed of a combination of economic, social, and cultural, capital (Mayrhofer et al., 2004), and thus symbolic capital. The importance of symbolic capital arises from the rules of a career field that determine the degree of symbolic capital a person is able to deploy (Bourdieu, 2002).

Career habitus and Career Boundaries

While it is argued that SIE career habitus, capital and field connect with how careers unfold (Illatchitch, et al., 2003), it can also be argued that these also are linked to the formation and effects of boundaries to careers. Just as habitus, capitals and field are social constructs that are subjective in origin so are career boundaries and subjective in origin and situated within social, organizational and institutional contexts (Inkson, et al. …

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