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Career attitudes and employability: analysis of mediation via career strategies

Gina Gaio Santos (Department of Management, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)
Ana Paula Ferreira (Department of Management, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)
José Carlos Pinho (Department of Management, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 4 December 2019

Issue publication date: 17 January 2020




The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the impact of career attitudes (traditional career vs boundaryless career) on perceived employability (internal vs external employability). In addition, the authors examine whether career self-management strategies act as mediators of these relationships. Due to high unemployment rates in the last two decades, it is important to assess the extent to which young graduates’ career attitudes affect perceived internal and external employability, along with the role of career self-management strategies as an employability enhancement tool.


As part of a cross-sectional research design, the authors administered a survey questionnaire to a sample of 131 graduates (i.e. master’s students) with at least one year of work experience. The empirical data were analyzed with partial least squares structural equation modeling, which combines confirmatory factor analysis, multiple linear regression and path analysis.


The results reveal that there is a positive and significant impact (direct effect) of a traditional career attitude (TCA) on internal employability, while there is no significant negative impact of a TCA on external employability. Additionally, the results show that there is a negative impact (direct effect) of a boundaryless career attitude (BCA) on internal employability, while no significant positive impact is found of a BCA on external employability. This study also confirms the mediation effect (full mediation) of career positioning strategies on the BCA-external employability relationship, and a partial mediation of career influence strategies on the TCA-internal employability relationship.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations of this study relate to the sample size and the use of a convenience sampling technique. Hence, some caution is needed regarding results’ generalization. In addition, this research uses a cross-sectional design, thus the authors cannot assess longitudinal causal relationships between variables. Future research should be replicated with different types of respondents and in different cultural contexts.

Practical implications

The results suggest that organizations would benefit more from employees that hold a TCA than those that hold a BCA, especially if they are interested in fostering the internal employability of their workforce. At the individual level, the results identify optimal career self-management strategies (internal vs external employability) for young graduates.


This study offers new empirical evidence of the predictive value of perceived internal vs external employability and the mediating role of career self-management strategies in explaining employability. Young graduates perceive a TCA as more advantageous than a BCA for both internal and external employability. This is an unexpected but interesting finding, since the bulk of the literature on contemporary career attitudes overemphasizes the advantages of a BCA, while disregarding potential disadvantages for both individuals and organizations.



The authors would like to thank the participants in this study for their time and availability and for agreeing to share their valuable experiences. The authors also thank both reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions in improving this manuscript. A first version of this manuscript was presented on the 33rd EGOS Colloquium held July 6–8, 2017, in Copenhagen, Denmark. This research received no funding.


Santos, G.G., Ferreira, A.P. and Pinho, J.C. (2020), "Career attitudes and employability: analysis of mediation via career strategies", Employee Relations, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 417-436.



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