Career paths in hospitality: a life history approach

  • Maria Gebbels

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


High labour turnover and associated costs have been subjects of considerable debate in the hospitality industry. Central to this ongoing discussion is understanding why hospitality management graduates leave the industry. Research studies suggest some answers, such as the nature of work conditions in the industry or a lack of career planning by hospitality students. This doctoral thesis is concerned with the process of leaving the hospitality industry. It explores the interplay between self-efficacy and career inheritance, and its influence on career commitment by gaining insights into how hospitality management graduates arrived at the decision to leave the hospitality industry. In the context of the changing nature of careers, from traditional linear to flexible protean, this interdisciplinary research provides insights into the process that leads to the individual leaving the hospitality industry. Career commitment, conceptualised as a psychological contract between the individual and a chosen career, informs this process of leaving, which is further explored using the interplay between the concepts of self-efficacy and career inheritance. Drawing on life history methodology, which allows for an exploration of unique life experiences and an in-depth understanding of academic and career decisions, semi-structured interviews were conducted with hospitality management graduates no longer employed in the hospitality industry. Underpinning and informing data collection and analysis was critical realism, with its unique perspective on epistemology as constructed, and ontology as realist yet stratified. The interview data were analysed thematically, which involved coding participants’ responses into pre-assigned and emergent themes. Empirical evidence reveals that the decision to leave the hospitality industry is a result of a cumulative power of events. The concept of the leaving process is the original theoretical contribution of this thesis, which explains the interaction between the three concepts indicated above. It demonstrates that exiting the industry is a developmental journey punctuated by significant career turning points. The speed of decline in commitment, which is representative of the duration of leaving, is dependent on the interaction between career inheritance and self-efficacy. Alongside an integrative definition of career, characteristics of a career manager and the principles of the legacy of hospitality as further research findings, this doctoral thesis concludes by proposing a collaborative approach to career management. Limitations of this study are evaluated and avenues to further research are also proposed.
Date of AwardSept 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorIoannis Pantelidis (Supervisor), Steven Goss-Turner (Supervisor) & Paul Frost (Supervisor)

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