Is a Degree Enough? Reviewing the Role of Social Capital in Career Entry

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Higher education has traditionally been seen as a route to career entry, and indeed in some disciplines (e.g. medicine) is a necessary perquisite. In the UK, government policy, aimed at improving social mobility, has opened up higher education to many more students, and over the last three decades the proportion of the population with undergraduate degrees has almost doubled (ONS, 2016). However, this has not kept pace with graduate-level employment, and many graduates find it challenging to access entry-level roles in their chosen careers (Tomlinson, 2008). While structurally disadvantaged graduates may possess an abundance of human capital at the conclusion of their studies, in the form of skills and knowledge, they may not possess adequate amounts of social capital, i.e. connections, which can benefit job acquisition (Granovetter, 1973; Zippay, 2001). This paper looks at a training intervention designed to help structurally disadvantaged minority ethnic graduates access careers in one specific discipline, corporate communications. The intervention was designed to deliver both discipline-specific human capital and social capital. Through interviews with graduates who were accepted for training, and those that were not, it seeks to establish the main themes that define their university-to-early-career transitions as well as the experience of the intervention, and its success. These themes are then developed for use in future research. The authors conclude that targeted training interventions may well have a role to play in levelling the playing field for disadvantaged graduates when it comes to accessing careers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18387
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


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