Vignettes

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Salim was born into a Bahà’í family in Iran. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, he experienced religious persecution that restricted his education/worklife options and faced perilous conscription. He and his wife fled and came as refugees to Australia. He failed to have his university education recognized. Over the next 35 years, he worked in a range of jobs (e.g., factory work, spare parts, driving buses and taxis) before gaining skills in and becoming certified as a builder. He worked in that field for some years before a work injury required him to seek alternatives. He secured a coffee shop franchise, sometimes returning to bus and taxi driving, before selling it and becoming a project manager for a construction company. Salim has experienced many transitions across his adult life, each requiring significant learning to progress. These include: i) becoming a husband and parent when religious persecution limited his education and employment options; ii) fleeing his country of birth to establish a life in Australia; iii) needing to be competent in English to participate in education and work; iv) negotiating paid employment of different kinds (e.g., factory work, spare parts sales); v) becoming and working as a builder; vi) coffee shop franchisee; and vii) project manager for a construction company.

Sandra is in her late fifties, Australian born. She is currently a university academic and researcher. Dissatisfaction with the work she was undertaking precipitated most of the changes that she initiated and actively sought out other opportunities, and particularly, through education. It also seems that the initial foray into postgraduate studies was more about interest and intellectual development, rather than specifically associated with career development. It would seem that there is inconsistency across the kind of work that she was doing, particularly earlier on, in the public service and what she needed to feel fulfilled, engaged and being involved in worthwhile activities. Sandra has experienced a number of transitions across her adult life, including i) casual employment while in school and during university; ii) fulltime employment with Commonwealth departments; iii) teaching and tutoring at university then teacher education program development; and iv) becoming a university academic and researcher in adult education.

Sarah is in her fifties, originally from Britain, and is currently the Deputy Principal at a primary school. Sarah has experienced approximately ten transitions of different kinds across her adult life. These are clustered around five main transitions, including (i) leaving school and starting her first jobs until completing the first qualification in social work, (ii) continuing studies to complete a diploma, then a Bachelor degree in Social work and securing a full time position in Youth Justice, (iii) moving to Australia and securing jobs, (iv) studying to become a teacher and securing teaching positions, and (v) completing continuing education and training to gain a postgraduate certificate and a masters degree in Autism and securing more senior positions in schools.

Sebastian is in his early forties, originally from Nigeria, and is currently self-employed in the health industry operating a platform connecting carers with clients. Sebastian’s approach to working life is shaped by his personal epistemology of work as a means to (financial) survival. He reported most of his transitions being constantly distracted by his ‘calling’ of becoming a ‘social entrepreneur’. He started his working life as a nurse in Nigeria for 7 years but did not enjoy his work. He then moved overseas on scholarships for further studies including South Africa and Australia. He managed to financially survive on the stipends of these scholarships but engaged in paid employment for a short period of time with health agencies and NDIS providers. His future plan is to go into full mode of supporting community and providing teaching and mentorship. 

Shirley is in her fifties and is currently a casual administrative worker. She was born with a learning disability (i.e., dyslexia). Living in an area of Australia where educational support was limited, she struggled through primary and secondary school and completed her schooling with limited literacy. Supported by her parents, she was found initial employment and then through vocational educational programs she learnt occupational skills. Later, as an adult she completing her tertiary preparation and graduated with a teaching degree. However, her teaching career was short, but she used her newly-developed literacy skills to secure employment in local government.  Yet, she faced struggles and difficulties in some demanding aspects of her work roles that led to her early retirement from full-time work. Shirley had a number of transitions across her work life and to the present, including becoming a:  i) retail worker, ii) beauty therapist, iii) receptionist, iv) high school teacher, v) a clerical worker undertaking a range of roles in local government, before retiring early because of work-related ill-health and vi) is now a casual administrative worker.

Simon is in his sixties, originally from New Zealand, and is currently self-employed in his computer software business. Simon’s transitions indicated a continuity of entrepreneurship. His entrepreneurial trajectory started with his moving to Australia where he has experienced a number of transitions, including (i) moving to Tasmania and becoming part owner in home insulation business, (ii) moving to Brisbane and doing various sales jobs before going into business with his brother selling books, then with his friend in computing software development, and (iii) going into business on his own following purchase of software system from the computing business.

Sofia is in her late thirties, Australian born, and is currently working as a clinical nurse. Sofia has had straightforward transitions into nursing roles. She started as an enrolled nurse then compeleted her nursing degree to become a registered nurse. Sofia has decided to move into a clinical product advisor role. Whilst the intensive care area in her previous roles can be incredibly demanding and chaotic, the new role can be a bit more controlled and have less intense demand. This change also means a promotion to a nurse unit manager or consultant position.

Susan is in her sixties, originally from Fiji, and is currently a university academic and researcher. Susan started her first paid employment as a maths and science teacher in Fiji. Her transitions then involve a number of relocations, including (i) moving to the UK with her husband and becoming a stay-at-home mother, (ii) moving to Brunei and working as a maths and science teacher, (iii) moving to Australia and working in a number of roles while upgrading her qualifications (bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees) – moving from admin assistant to research assistant, becoming project officer then project manager at TAFE and senior policy officer at ANTA before (iv) becoming a university academic and researcher.

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Tammy is in her early thirties, originally from Ethiopia, and has just completed her master’s degree in urban planning and development at a university in Queensland, Australia. Before coming to Australia to do her postgraduate studies, Tammy had been employed as a lecturer of architecture for 10 years in Ethiopia. She also practiced as an architect in a private company owned by herself and two other colleagues. She is now seeking employment in Australia in the field of her studies and experience. Her worklife has been intentional and shaped by personal imperative, including meeting certain family expectation, i.e., being the first to attend university and practice a prestigious occupation (lecturer/architect).  

Tiana is her early thirties, Australian born, and is currently working in ground operations in the aviation sector. During COVID-19, due to the constrained options and prospects within the aviation industry, Tiana started a nursing degree for a career change but later dropped out because of negative experience during internships. Apart from four years of casual employment in the retail industry, Tiana has experienced a number of transitions across 14 years in the aviation ground operations, including i) an attendant then managerial role in food and beverage of an airline lounge, ii) a contracting position in the ground crew through a contractor company, checking in boarding staff onto the airplane iii) an airport movement coordinator in charge of aircrafts that were directly related to the airline’s departures and arrivals, then iv) a load controller position, looking after the weight and balance of the aircraft, working in numerous roles including a trainer, team leader, slot control then a lead load controller.

Tim is in his forties, Australian born, and is currently working in the public service sector. Tim has experienced a number of transitions across his adult life including i) becoming a travel consultant including corporate travel for 10 years, ii) moving into training role working with Red Cross, then iii) moving into public service for 14 years across 4 distinct roles, including learning and development consultant, international education in the Department of Education, developing policies and programs to support the growth of Australia’s international education sector.

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Veronica is in her forties, Australian born, and is currently working as a gym trainer. Veronica has experienced a number of transitions, including (i) finishing year 12, completing a diploma in horse business management and working in various horse studs, (ii) becoming a receptionist then manager in customer service and sales manager in the blinds industry, (iii) becoming a stay-at-home mother and doing bookkeeping work for her husband’s business, and (iv) becoming a part-time gym trainer.