This paper examines cross-national differences in the distinctiveness of specific professional groups, in terms of their capitals (economic, social and cultural), in turn reflecting different ‘rates of return’ for career actors in different occupational fields. In pursuit of career strategies, professionals invest in signalling their capitals, but this process is under-researched, especially in a cross-national context. Using large-scale household expenditure surveys from three European countries we compare ‘capital-signalling’ investments of several professional groups and find important differences within national contexts. We also draw cross-national comparisons of relative capital-signalling behaviours for the same professional groups and discuss professional identities, partly shaped by isomorphic institutional influences. The paper largely supports the claim about ‘professionals with borders’ and highlights the benefits of Bourdieu’s theory and the comparative capitalisms approach in cross-national analysis in explaining context-specific agents’ career strategies. We discuss unequal value of capitals in different professional and national contexts, implications for career actors, HRM-practices and wider cross-national management.
Bourdieu, comparative capitalisms, career fields, professional identity, signalling behaviour
D12, J62, M50