What makes a career barrier a barrier?

Niamh Murtagh*, Paulo Lopes, Evanthia Lyons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to present research findings on the experience of career barriers by women who have changed career, and to suggest the practical implications of these findings for career management. Design/methodology/approach - An established, qualitative methodology, interpretative phenomenological analysis, was used to explore participants' experiences. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight women who had changed careers and were analysed to identify the salient themes. Findings - Participants experienced career barriers, but their subjective experience did not necessarily match objectively defined barriers. One participant, for example, experienced redundancy not as a barrier to her career path but as an opportunity. It was only when situations or events threatened the self-concept that problems were experienced as barriers. These barriers were not insurmountable and participants used a number of strategies to overcome potential barriers. Practical implications - The findings suggest that career management or counselling should acknowledge and explore the client's subjective experience of career barriers. Strategies such as challenging or reframing potential barriers can be effective methods for helping clients to dismantle them. Originality/value - This research points to the gap in career theory and research on the experience of barriers in adult careers. It presents evidence on the subjective nature of barriers and on strategies used to overcome them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-339
Number of pages8
JournalIndustrial and Commercial Training
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Careers
  • Change management
  • Experience
  • Women


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