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Media work and the creative industries: Identity work, professionalism and employability

Daniel Ashton (Department of Film and Media Production, School of Humanities and Cultural Industries, Bath Spa University, Bath, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 16 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine the situated understandings that higher education students can offer on their employability, and to make sense of “employability” in industry and career context‐specific ways. The paper further seeks to explore potential critical reflections on emerging professional practice and future employment conditions.


Drawing on interviews and focus groups conducted with students located within a university‐operated industry‐facing media production studio, this paper focuses on how students articulate their career development and aspirations.


Discussing their studio experience and forms of “identity work”, students would nuance “employability” in terms of media industry‐specific concepts of creativity and professionalism. Anxieties around future professional practice were also voiced, signaling the potential value of a Career Studies approach that creates a space for explicitly exploring employment conditions as personally meaningful concerns.

Research limitations/implications

Noting how employability is articulated in terms of industry professionalism, this paper encourages analysis that is attentive to situated understandings and identity work. Given the studio and media focus, application of findings may be limited.

Practical implications

Relevant for industry employers is how students make sense of their future career aspirations and undertake “work on the self” that is bound up with but also potentially critical of professional norms, quality of life and work conditions.


Recognising how employment can be understood in terms of “professionalism”, this paper suggests how an exploration of discourses and practices of professionalism can be part of a wider examination of employability. This paper explores the value of the Career Studies approach for integrating questions of student identity with subject‐specific accounts critical to employment conditions and practices.



Ashton, D. (2011), "Media work and the creative industries: Identity work, professionalism and employability", Education + Training, Vol. 53 No. 6, pp. 546-560.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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