In this paper, we provoke the strong focus on personal agency in employability research. We counter three dominant assumptions in the literature, namely, (a) that employability is an individual asset, (b) that employability is owned by the individual, and (c) that employability leads to positive outcomes. A key observation is that the three dominant theories that are being used in employability studies, namely, human capital theory, conservation of resources theory, and social exchange theory, also question these core agency assumptions that form the basis of those studies. Based on these theories, we identify three blind spots in employability research: Employability is (a) contextual, (b) relational, and (3) polarising. Taken together, we make the case that the agency perspective overlooks a potential dark side of employability: The winner takes it all, the loser has to fall. We outline a future research agenda on this potential dark side of employability.
- conservation of resources theory
- human capital theory
- social exchange theory