The Career Constructions of Hospitality Students: A Rocky Road
This article presents the first set of data from an ongoing three-year longitudinal study, which explores how hospitality undergraduates develop a career identity during the course of their studies. Previous, generally quantitative, studies have discovered that many hospitality students choose not to follow a hospitality career after they graduate, however, these studies do not attempt to discover when their career intentions change, nor explain why. The New Zealand study on which the article is based, employed an interpretative, social-constructionist approach informed by intersectional theorizing, using data collected from semi-structured interviews with first-year hospitality and culinary arts degree students. Career construction theory is used to interpret positive or negative career adaptive behaviours and effects are analysed at macro, meso and micro levels. A fusion of global and societal factors and personal characteristics influenced the construction of participants’ professional hospitality identities. Age, gender and ethnicity-based intersections were evident in the ways students developed career adaptive behaviours. A significant contribution of this article is that negative workplace experiences appear to change students’ motivation to follow a hospitality career because they reduce the individual’s belief of being suited to the industry under current prevailing conditions. This finding can shed light on the type of student who is likely to eventually pursue a career in hospitality, the potential role of the internship in the development of career identity and the responsibility of employers. Employers should be aware and validate the idea of ‘the hospitality career as a calling’ by recruiting and developing highly motivated employees and facilitating the development of a professional hospitality identity in their younger workers.