Graduate Employment and Career Development in Higher Education


Michael Healy holds a PhD in careers and employability learning and is now the Head of Careers and Employability at Career Ahead. Prior to this role, he was an educator at several universities, leading the development of award winning and sector leading careers and employability services and programs. Michael was the QLD recipient of the 2021 CDAA Division Awards for Excellence in Practice.

I'm honoured to have been awarded the Career Development Association of Australia Queensland division award for excellence in 2021. There are so many truly excellent career development scholars and practitioners in Queensland, so it means a lot to me to have my work recognised in this way. I’m excited about coming to the CDAA conference in May, where I am under consideration for a national excellence reward. 

I was given this award on the strength of my PhD research and it’s only fair that I offer a  summary of what my research is all about to all of my friends and colleagues in the career development community. 

Thanks and acknowledgements

But first I have to offer some thanks. Firstly, of course, to the CDAA committee members who reviewed the award nominations and selected the winners. 

Next I have to thank my doctoral supervisors, Professor Peter McIlveen and Associate Professor Sara Hammer from the University of Southern Queensland. A PhD is an apprenticeship and I owe a debt of gratitude to Peter and Sara, as the masters who guided me through mine. Then I need to thank all of those who have co-authored articles or chapters with me over the last few years, for their collegiality and for the expertise and insights they have brought to our work. 

Finally, of course, none have done more to support me and motivate through this long and challenging project than my family. To my wife Dy and son Patrick who have sacrificed much over the last six years as they have allowed me the time and solitude that I needed to complete this work, thank you. 

My PhD research 

 My PhD is a portfolio of published articles, so if you're interested, you can go and read them to get the full story. You could also have a look at my blog,, where I've summarised my research, provided links to open-access versions of my articles, and shared webinar recordings.

My research focused on something that has long troubled me as a career development practitioner in higher education: the conceptual and professional gap between graduate employability and career development. You simply don't often see career development theory or evidence represented in graduate employability research and strategies as much as you'd expect.

In my first article, Mapping graduate employability and career development in higher education research, I looked at this gap in scholarly research. I analysed the citation links between more than 4,000 journal articles, and showed that, despite the common concern for student careers and employability success, graduate employability and career development are, for the most part, separate fields of research.

In my second article, Graduate employability as a professional proto-jurisdiction in higher education, I looked at the same gap, but this time in relation to professional practice in higher education. I and my co-authors analysed around 370 job advertisements for university careers and employability roles, between 2013 and 2019. Again, we demonstrated a distinct difference between career development roles and a variety of employability-focused roles.

Unfortunately, you can't yet read the final article from my PhD, as it's currently under review with a journal. This is where I moved from demonstrating the gap between career development and graduate employability and instead proposed a new way of bringing them closer together.

I argue that, rather than conceiving of graduate employability and career development as related but distinct concepts, we should understand them as expressions of the same goal: to support students in their journeys of personal and professional self-actualisation.

Advocacy for the role and impact of quality career development 

 Although my PhD research was focused on higher education, I have also observed a similar lack of attention to career development in other sectors and I believe that my work can inform quality careers and employability learning support in a number of different contexts.

In addition to my research, I have passionately advocated for career development through various channels including social media, blogs, webinars, and newsletters. I have focused a lot of that on translating contemporary academic research trends into accessible and practical articles for my career development colleagues. You can follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn if you’d like to see some of that work.

I wear my heart on my sleeve and all who know me know how much I value career development and how enthusiastic I am about the deeply transformational outcomes that we can achieve with our clients. I found my calling in this professional community, and I am committed to advocating for it and  innovating within it as we work to make quality career development available to all who need it.

So, thank you, to everyone in the Australian career development community, for the important work that you do. I look forward to seeing many of you in Sydney at the 2022 CDAA conference.