Refugees’ Vocational Behavior in the Receiving Country: Identity Threats, Career-Related Coping, and Adversarial Growth




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This dissertation includes three empirical qualitative studies that focus on refugees’ vocational behavior and careers in Germany. The studies unravel the threats, challenges, and constraints that refugees face in regards to their identities, vocational behavior, and careers, as they resettle into Germany and seek to enter the local labor market, and they illustrate how refugees cope with these threats, challenges, and constraints to restore their identities and careers, possibly even experiencing growth and/or weaving together personally meaningful careers. Following a general introduction in chapter 1, the first empirical chapter (i.e., chapter 2) offers a study exploring refugees’ identity threats, coping, and growth upon resettlement to Germany. Building on 31 semi-structured interviews with refugees, the study provides nuanced insights into how refugees experience identity threats upon resettlement to the new country and illustrates the double jeopardy of co-existing threatened and threatening identities. The study also shows how refugees cope with such threats and how the experiences may enable them to grow as workers and persons. The second empirical chapter (i.e., chapter 3) presents a study that integrates three datasets of 38 refugees, 27 refugee support workers, and 37 employers to address refugees’ self-regulation during their job search in Germany. When they resettle into the new country and search for a job there, refugees often face meager or exhausted resources and need to navigate a work context that is innately foreign to them including unknown requirements, power structures, and professional scripts (Barley & Tolbert, 1997). This may influence refugees’ self-regulation and also locals’ – i.e., those supporting or hiring refugees – interpretation of refugees’ self-regulation. This research deciphers refugees’ self-regulation challenges and so-called failures and traces how these may affect refugees’ job search. When facing involuntary career transitions and/or work-related traumas, research shows workers to benefit from career adaptive behaviors (Savickas, 2013). The third empirical chapter (i.e., chapter 4) seeks to understand workers’ career adaptive responses in times of uncertainty and career disruption by studying 36 refugees in Germany. The research unravels the contextual complexity that refugees face in their careers and the influence that uncertain and transitional career contexts have on people’s typical career-related self-management behaviors, as related to control, planning, exploration, and deciding (Savickas, 2013). It also unpacks how refugees cope with their forced career transitions. The final chapter of this dissertation (i.e., chapter 5) integrates and discusses the key findings from the three empirical studies, carves out this dissertation’s theoretical and practical implications, states the studies’ limitations and strengths, and shows future research directions.




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