Employability for and through career transitions

Submission deadline date: 15 February 2024


Today’s labour market is increasingly turbulent, requiring individuals to be proactive and self-reliant.  Lower levels of job security (seen recently across the technology industry) mean people must prepare to transition across various boundaries (e.g., inter-organisation, intra-organization, geographical, sector, etc.).  This has led to the rising importance of employability, as well as related concepts like boundaryless careers (Defillippi and Arthur, 1994), protean (Hall, 2004), career adaptability (Savickas, 2005), career ecosystems (Baruch, 2015), and sustainable careers (van der Heijden and De Vos, 2015).

Employability concerns an individual’s potential and competition in the labour market (van Harten et al., 2022) and has seen a surge in scholarly interest in recent years (Akkermans and Kubash, 2017). However, definitions of employability remain fragmented – i.e., the general distinction between input-based and output-based employability (Forrier et al., 2018). Participation in higher education and work-integrated learning offers a key strategic pathway for developing employability (Jackson and Cook, 2023). Consequently, time spent at university can act as an antecedent to a sustainable career and prepare graduates to navigate career transitions across the lifespan.

Recently there have been calls to connect three different research strands of employability as (i) an array of personal strengths, (ii) a host of self-perceived employment opportunities, and (iii) the potential to realise satisfactory career transitions (van Harten et al., 2022). Additionally, there are calls for a more theory-driven approach to employability research (Forrier et al., 2018), with recent responses from Baruch and Rousseau (2019) integrating career ecosystems theory with the new psychological contract and Akkermans et al. (2023) integrating signalling theory with social exchange theory.

However, contributions from several disciplines (e.g., psychology, management, international education, sociology) often provide different perspectives which do not always conciliate. For example, the graduate employability and career development streams have tended to develop independently of one another, despite shared objectives (Healy et al., 2022). The domains of employability and career transitions have also been examined separately for too long, despite the importance of employability for undertaking career transitions (De Vos et al., 2021). There is also an urgent need to bridge these domains, given that career transitions are increasingly frequent, recursive, unexpected, and potentially disruptive (Akkermans et al., 2020).  

Moreover, in the last years, the employability field has (i) seen the rise of more frequent interdisciplinary papers (e.g., van Herten et al., 2017); (ii) the emergence of new definitions, including resource-based employability (Lo Presti and Pluviano, 2016), sustainable employability (van der Klink et al., 2016), employability capital via the Employability Capital Growth (ECG) model (Donald et al., 2023), and employability agency (Pham, 2021); and (iii) attempts to provide new theoretical explanations by merging different theoretical perspectives (Fugate et al., 2021).

This ambitious special issue seeks to address these aforementioned challenges by bridging the domains of higher education, work-based learning, employability, career development, and career transitions (including the university-work transition and career transitions of graduates). 

All submissions must provide implications relating to higher education and work-based learning. Longitudinal quantitative or qualitative studies are particularly welcome, as well as conceptual papers providing new theoretical insights, studies testing for the effectiveness of employability interventions, mixed-method studies, and studies carried out on homogeneous and underexamined occupational groups. 

List of Topic Areas

Based on these considerations, we acknowledge the need for scholars to address many challenges to advance employability and career research. Hence, we aim to assemble a collection of papers – in the context of higher education, skills and work-based learning, employability, career development, and career transitions – which address research questions including (but not limited to):

  • To what extent are alternative perspectives and definitions of employability overlapping or distinct?
  • Which available theoretical frameworks can contribute to explaining causal processes related to employability?
  • What is the role of higher education, work-based learning, employability, and career development in facilitating or hindering career transitions? Under which circumstances may it happen?
  • What is the boundary between employability and career-related concepts (e.g., career competencies or adaptability)? How do they differentially explain the quality of career transitions?
  • How can employability be promoted among university students and graduates? What is the role of new technologies? Who is responsible?
  • Are employability perceptions consistently accurate? What if individuals hold false expectations? 
  • Is employability more strongly associated with positive outcomes, or may it also contribute to decreasing negative ones?
  • Which is the best time interval to observe changes in employability? Do phases of acceleration or stasis exist, such as career plateaus?
  • To what extent can statistical and methodological approaches such as, for instance, diary studies or random-intercept cross-lagged panel models be applied to the study of employability and careers?

We encourage interested authors to submit an abstract (500-750 words) of their intended submission to all of the guest editors: William E. Donald, Alessandro Lo Presti, and Thanh Pham. This will allow the Guest Editors to offer preliminary feedback about the potential fit with this special issue and suggestions for potentially improving the fit and scope of the intended study.

Submission Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available here.

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to "Please select the issue you are submitting to".

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Click here to submit!

Key Deadlines

Submissions for full manuscripts open: 15th September 2023

Closing date for manuscript submissions: 15th February 2024


Akkermans, J. and Kubash, S. (2017), “Trending topics in careers: A review and future research agenda”, Career Development International, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 586–627. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-08-2017-0143

Akkermans, J., Richardson, J. and Kraimer, M.L. (2020), “The COVID-19 crisis as a career shock: Implications for careers and vocational behavior”, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 119, 103434. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb/2020.103434

Akkermans, J., Tomlinson, M. and Anderson, V. (2023). “Initial employability development: introducing a conceptual model integrating signalling and social exchange mechanisms”, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, (ahead-of-print). https://doi.org/10.1080/1359432X.2023.2186783

Baruch, Y. (2015), “Organizational and labor market as career eco-system”, De Vos, A. and van der Heijden, B.I.J.M. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp. 164-180. 

Baruch, Y. and Rousseau, D. (2019), “Integrating psychological contracts and ecosystems in career studies and management”, Academy of Management Annals, Vol. 13 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.5465/annals.2016.0103

Defillippi, R.J. and  Arthur, M.B. (1994), “The boundaryless career: A competency-based perspective”, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 15, pp. 307-324. 

De Vos, A., Jacobs, S. and Verbruggen, M. (2021), “Career transitions and employability”, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 126, 103475. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2020.103475

Donald, W.E., Baruch, Y. and Ashleigh, M.J. (2023), “Construction and operationalisation of an Employability Capital Growth Model (ECGM) via a systematic literature review (2016-2022)”, Studies in Higher Education, (ahead-of-print). https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2023.2219270

Forrier, A., De Cuyper, N. and Akkermans, J. (2018), “The winner takes it all, the loser has to fall: Provoking the agency perspective in employability research”, Human Resource Management Journal, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 511-523. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12206

Fugate, M., Van der Heijden, B.I.J.M., De Vos, A., Forrier, A., & De Cuyper, N. (2021), “Is what’s past prologue? A review and agenda for contemporary employability research”, Academy of Management Annals, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 266-298. https://doi.org/10.5465/annals.2018.0171

Hall, D.T. (2004), “The protean career: A quarter-century journey”, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 65 No. 1, pp. 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2003.10.006

Healy, M., Hammer, S. and McIlveen, P. (2022), “Mapping graduate employability and career development in higher education research: A citation network analysis”, Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 47 No. 4, pp. 799-811. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2020.1804851

Jackson, D., & Cook, E.J. (2023), “Benefits of work-integrated learning for students”, Zegwaard, K.E. and Pretti, T.J. (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Work-Integrated Learning, 3rd Edition, Routledge, London, Chapter 6.

Lo Presti, A., & Pluviano, S. (2016), “Looking for a route in turbulent waters: Employability as a compass for career success”, Organizational Psychology Review, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 192-211. https://doi.org/10.1177/2041386615589398

Pham, T. (2021). Conceptualising the employability agency of international graduates. Centre for Global Higher Education Working Papers, No. 75, Oxford: University of Oxford. 

Savickas, M.L. (2005), “The theory and practice of career construction”, Brown, S.D. and Lent, R.W. (Eds.), Career Development and Counseling: Putting Theory and Research to Work, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ, pp. 42-70.

van der Heijden, B.I.J.M. and De Vos, A. (2015), “Sustainable careers: An introductory chapter”, De Vos, A. and van der Heijden, B.I.J.M. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, Chapter 1.

van der Klink, J.J., Bültmann, U., Burdorf, A., Schaufeli, W.B., Zijlstra, F.R., Abma, F.I., Brouwer, S. and van der Wilt, G.J. (2016), “Sustainable employability—Definition, conceptualization, and implications: A perspective based on the capability approach”, Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, Vol. 42 No. 1, pp. 71-79. https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.3531

van Harten, J., De Cuyper, N., Guest, D., Fugate, M., Knies, E. and Forrier, A. (2017), “Special issue of international human resource management journal HRM and employability: An international perspective”, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 
Vol. 28 No. 19, https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2017.1377866

van Harten, J., De Cuyper, N., Knies, E. and Forrier, A. (2022), “Taking the temperature of employability research: A systematic review of interrelationships across and within conceptual strands”, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 31 
No. 1, pp. 145-159. https://doi.org/10.1080/1359432X.2021.1942847