So I have entered the field.
Since December I started collecting data via one-to-one interviews with jobseekers and careers advisors. However, I have had a lot of other things going on in the intervening time (writing papers, conferences, some other RA work). So it has only been in the last few weeks that I have gone nuclear, pulling as many strings as possible to round up a sample.
Not so long ago another PhD student told me that a difficulty of the field work stage is that people treat you like the plague when you ask for their help. As it transpires, this is not a million miles away from the truth. Fortunately for me I got by with a fair bit of dogged persistence, and the benevolence of a small band of friends, acquaintances and strangers.
In the initial stage I only intended to do about 12 interviews (9 jobseekers & 3 careers advisors). I still have one or two meetings scheduled, but it looks as though the final sample will consist of about 4 careers advisor interviews, 8 jobseeker interviews, and 2 jobseeker focus groups (with a combined total of 12 jobseekers).
Importantly, my sample is quite diverse. I am aiming for a population of 16-24 year olds in Scotland. The participants so far have ranged those ages, are almost split down the middle in terms of gender, have a broad mix of education levels, and reside in at least 5 or 6 different local authority areas (including areas outside the “central belt“).
The range is simply to gain an understanding of networking behaviours from a variety of standpoints, without impressing my own values and experience on the participants. I haven’t fully analysed the data, but some of the findings are very interesting. In fact, I think they justify the use of a qualitative methods as a starting point of the study; not least because they have put paid to many of my assumptions.
In terms of the careers advisors, the interviews have been very conversational. I have spoken to professionals working in different contexts, with quite different approaches. A lot of the conversations have been geared towards understanding their roles, and crucially, what advice they give to jobseekers on networking and social media.
Once the interviews are over (probably within a couple of weeks), it will be a case of analysing the results, and gearing towards a survey questionnaire. Watch this space.