Original Research

A narrative investigation into the meaning and experience of career success: Perspectives from women participants

Willie T. Chinyamurindi
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 14, No 1 | a659 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v14i1.659 | © 2016 Willie T. Chinyamurindi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 August 2014 | Published: 04 February 2016

About the author(s)

Willie T. Chinyamurindi, Department of Business Management, University of Fort Hare, South Africa


Orientation: In South Africa opportunities are being created that encourage more women to enter the workforce. Understanding how women conceptualise and experience career success affects not only their individual career development but also their general outlook in life.

Research purpose: To investigate how a sample of previously disadvantaged women distance learners conceptualise and experience the notion of career success.

Motivation for the study: Calls have been made for research incorporating a subjective understanding regarding career success, especially amongst minority groups.

Research approach, design and method: An interpretive approach was employed aimed at understanding individual experience and the interpretation of it. Unstructured interviews were conducted shaped by the objectives of the study amongst a sample of women (n = 25).

Main findings: Through narratives and stories, findings revealed career success to be conceptualised and experienced as (1) a means of professional attainment and recognition, (2) a contribution to society and (3) evident in material and non-material artefacts. Further, from the sample of women used in this research, the experience of career success considered not only socio-historical issues and community but also the cultural milieu. Education emerged as an enabler of individual pursuit and goals leading to career success.

Practical/managerial implications: An understanding of how career success is conceptualised and experienced by previously disadvantaged women can serve as a forerunner to individual specific career development interventions. The results of the study are therefore useful to both academics and practitioners in their formulation of interventions that enable individual career development.

Contribution: The experience of career success as found in this study through participant narratives and stories gave a picture of career development processes amongst previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa. These processes illustrate how individuals draw meaning and a sense of direction en route to career success, revealing aspirations affecting not only their career development but also their lived experience.


Career Success; Subjective; Previously disadvantaged; Narratives; Distance learning


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