[ Dissertation Project ]

Learning to Aspire: The Making of Career Aspirations in Business Schools

Universities are not only providers of higher education but also launch points for careers. It is at college that students begin to develop professional identities and learn to aspire to prestigious jobs in a chosen field. While many studies in sociology and psychology have explained such career plans in terms of personality traits and sociodemographic background, little is known about how vocational aspirations are actually constituted in social practices and shaped by organizations. Adopting a practice theory perspective, this dissertation project explores the processes and institutional mechanisms underlying occupational socialization. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork at a German business school and semi-structured interviews with students, faculty, recruiters, and career coaches, it shows how students’ career plans are shaped by the school’s official curriculum, student-run business clubs, recruiting events, and other campus activities. In so doing, it opens the black box of professional socialization in business schools and provides insights into the making of future entrepreneurs, managers, and consultants. The project aims at understanding the practical formation and institutional embeddedness of vocational imaginaries to contribute to a sociology of aspirations.

Degree-Granting Institution: Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences, University of Cologne

Thesis Advisory Committee: Jens Beckert (Chair), Mark Ebers, Kathrin Leuze

Project Duration: October 2016 – present