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A qualitative exploration of the career narratives of six South African Black professionals.

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The purpose of this study is to explore the contextual factors that influence the career development of black South African professionals. The study is a response to the modernism approach to career development which has led careers and career development to be perceived as being linear, stable and fixed. Rational, western career development and career guidance has been used in South Africa but has, however, not been applicable to the South African context as it has been largely influenced by values of individualism and diminishes the importance of context. There has been limited research that explores the influence of wider contextual factors on career development. This study investigates the narratives of career development of a sample black professionals in the context of the legacy of apartheid, which continues to impact the education and training system in South Africa and which continues to create class, racial, gender, and other inequalities around access to educational opportunities. The study uses a qualitative narrative and hermeneutic method based on social constructivism and systems theory, to contribute to theoretical understanding of career development. Six participants (2 males and 4 females) were selected for this study. Being 35 years or older the respondents have lived through the apartheid era which has had an influence on their career development, and also have a substantial career narrative they can reflect on. Non-probability purposive sampling and snowball sampling were used in the study. The study finds that many contextual factors influence the career development of black South African professionals. Family played a significant role, even more so than finances, on the career development of participants. Individuals in the study emphasised the need for social conformity, collective decision making and conforming to familial expectations when it comes to career decision making. These findings challenge traditional theoretical assumptions of a career as solely determined by intrapersonal factors. Other factors such a family, religion, gender, self-efficacy, political factors, socio-economic factors and culture play an important role in career development. It also demonstrates the interplay of family and culture that has largely been ignored within career research. In light of this study's findings, it is suggested that more research using the qualitative method of data collection and analysis in this study could be used to explore the impact of various contextual factors on the career development of black South Africans who have been under-researched in career research.


Masters of Social Science in Industrial Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2014.