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SELECTION PROCESSES AND VOCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: A MULTI-METHOD APPROACH. Melanie J. Zimmer-Gembeck School of Psychology, Griffith U Gold Coast, Australia Jeylan T. Mortimer Department of Sociology, Life Course Center and U of Minnesota. Thanks….

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selection processes and vocational development a multi method approach

SELECTION PROCESSES AND VOCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: A MULTI-METHOD APPROACH

Melanie J. Zimmer-Gembeck

School of Psychology, Griffith U

Gold Coast, Australia

Jeylan T. Mortimer

Department of Sociology, Life Course Center and U of Minnesota

thanks
Thanks….
  • Mikki Holmes and Michael Shanahan for their interviews of study participants.
  • This research was supported by a grant, “Work Experience and Mental Health: A Panel Study of Youth,” from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD44138) and the National Institute of Mental Health (MH42843).
  • And supplementary assistance from the College of Liberal Arts and the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
slide3
Age 27 interview: “That was kind of long process. I didn't quite know what I wanted to do when I started college and it took me awhile to finish. I finished in about six years, but about half way through I got a job {in the public educational system} and really enjoyed that and that’s what started to get me on the right path as far as thinking about what I wanted to do and I thought maybe a counselor and I thought a social worker and then finally thought about teaching...”

But, on a prospective survey at ages 18, 24 and 25, she consistently responded that she wanted to be a teacher!

OVERSELECTION

slide4
Age 27 interview: “I mean, realistically, I think that I’ve never...thought about work much actually. I mean I never thought about a career in high school and I always thought it was crazy when people knew what they wanted to go to college for.”

And…she has had loads of different jobs from age 18 to 27.

UNDERSELECTION

overview
Overview
  • Prospective data (age 18, 24 and 25) were used to classify individuals into 3 career aspiration groups: overselection, underselection or one-change.
  • Representatives from each group were interviewed at age 27.
  • Themes related to selection, optimization and compensation (SOC) metatheory (Freund & Baltes, 1998), work commitment, and the stressful character of vocational development were compared across groups.
method participants
Method: Participants
  • Longitudinal survey data from 787 individuals (N=1000 in grade 9)
    • grade 12 (about age 18; wave 4), age 24 (wave 9), and age 25 (wave 10)
  • Structured interviews with 67 participants.
method survey measures age 25
Method: Survey Measures, age 25
  • Educational aspirations
    • The highest level of education they planned to attain
  • Career establishment, 3 response options
    • ‘it will probably continue as a long-term career’ (3)
    • ‘it provides skills or knowledge that will prepare me for my future work’ (2)
    • ‘it is not linked to my long-term career objectives’ or ‘I don’t know’ (1)
  • Job satisfaction and income
method survey measures age 18 24 and 25
Method: Survey Measures, age 18, 24, and 25
  • Career/vocational aspirations
    • Open response (homemaker an option)
    • 3 groups formed
      • Overselection: same career aspirations in all waves (n = 70).
      • One-change: occupational aspirations that changed after high school (between ages 18 and 24) but were consistent through the mid-twenties (age 24 and 25) (n = 131).
      • Underselection: different career aspirations at age 18 compared to 24, and at age 24 compared to age 25 (n = 233).
background theory interpretation of qualitative findings
Background: Theory & Interpretation of Qualitative Findings
  • Used Overselection, One-Change, and Underselection categories (based on longitudinal survey data) to compare participants and to organize qualitative findings
  • Theory that guided this classification system.
    • Selection-Optimization-Compensation (SOC) theory
      • Freund, Li and Baltes (1999, also Lerner et al., 2001) described potential life course difficulties of selecting too few (‘‘overselection’’) or too many (“underselection”) goals.
background theory interpretation of qualitative findings1
Background: Theory & Interpretation of Qualitative Findings
  • SOC Theory
      • Expected findings
        • Overselection may not provide sufficient options given historical change, poor initial matches between choices and individual interests and skills, and other obstacles.
        • Underselection may result in too little focus, impeding attainment of a level of mastery that enables occupational achievement.
  • Other theories…
results comparison of prospectively identified career aspiration groups
Results: Comparison of Prospectively Identified Career Aspiration Groups
  • Demographics
    • No gender or race/ethnic differences.
    • Little difference in parent education or income.
  • Educational aspirations / outcome
    • At age 25, Overselection and One-Change were slightly advantaged in educational aspirations (trend).
    • By age 25, Overselection and One-Change groups were somewhat advantaged in the education and career arenas
      • Overselection and One-Change (>30%) were more likely to have graduated from university compared to underselection group (20%).
results comparison of prospectively identified career aspiration groups1
Results: Comparison of Prospectively Identified Career Aspiration Groups
  • Career establishment
    • At age 25, no group difference.
  • Job satisfaction and income
    • At age 25, Overselection and One-Change slightly advantaged in job satisfaction (trend).
    • No group difference in income.
      • Note. A 4th group -- “missing” career aspirations at one wave – were lower in career establishment, educational aspirations, educational attainment, and job satisfaction.
method home interview age 27
Method: Home Interview, age 27
  • Questions organized by life periods
    • Current work, and general and vocational interests.
    • Back to interests in high school, especially in the career domain.
    • Interests and future goals recalled from earlier periods of life (e.g., junior high school) were discussed briefly.
    • Work experiences and interests between high school and the present.
    • Current work and interests.
    • Perceptions and feelings about the life trajectory, turning points, and a summary of the interview.
method home interview age 271
Method: Home Interview, age 27
  • Length of interviews was about 1 hour.
    • 57% in-person.
    • Others by telephone.
  • N = 67.
    • 63% female
    • 80% Caucasian
results prospective overselection group n 13
Results: Prospective Overselection Group (n = 13)
  • 54% of this prospective Overselection group also classified as Overselection based on the interview transcript.
  • Centrality of work: 69% placed work as central to their lives. Yet, about 1/3 were questioning their career choice and engaging in new selection processes.
    • “…I think in every job, obviously, people are unhappy and there are drawbacks. Maybe I just think that I would enjoy something else more, but I don’t know what it would be. But then sometimes you think, could you give up having that badge and the gun and going out and telling people what to do and bossing people around?”
results prospective overselection group n 131
Results: Prospective Overselection Group (n = 13)
  • Stress?: 54% thought vocational selection processes had been “stressful.”
  • Other issues: Although their aspirations remained constant, a minority had to compensate as they were not able to achieve their goals.
    • “A turning point in my life. I guess, your big one is on my third MCAT, when I didn’t get in {to medical school}. That was it. I pretty much decided I’ve given that an honest shot. For now that door is closed. I don’t ever say it’s closed forever, but I do say that door is closed for right now. That’s the biggest turning point in my life.”
results prospective underselection group n 16
Results: Prospective Underselection Group (n = 16)
  • 63% of this prospective Underselection group also classified as Underselection based on the interview transcript.
  • Centrality of work: 56% described low commitment to work and 50% said it was just a way to make money – nothing more.
  • This group was likely to have other commitments (56% marriage, 50% children, 40% 2+ children). 20% had not graduated from high school.
    • “...I would rather be doing something more creative. I’m really interested in photography and I’m trying to break out into that in a side business.”
results prospective underselection group n 161
Results: Prospective Underselection Group (n = 16)
  • Stress?: One might think that career goals and selection would not be a priority for this group, but 50% thought vocational selection processes had been “stressful.”
    • “I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to…to really feel, to be directed and have this really clear idea of what I’m doing and where I’m going and, and I never really have that, so I always kind of beat myself up about that. …I feel like I’ve just found mostly that things just kind of, I don’t know they just kind of happen, like they just kind of fall in your lap and end up being what you need at the time.”
  • Other issues:The underselection group mentioned many careers. Still, they often neglected to mention many choices they reported on their prospective surveys.
results prospective one change group n 16
Results: Prospective One-Change Group (n = 16)
  • 63% of this prospective One-Change group classified as One-Change based on the interview transcript.
  • Centrality of work: 50% described low commitment to work. 60% married, 38% had children, 1 interviewee had 2 children.
  • Stress?:A minority of this group (37%) found the process of vocational development to be “stressful.”
results prospective one change group n 161
Results: Prospective One-Change Group (n = 16)
  • Other issues: A focus on abstract ‘higher order’ goals rather than particular job pursuits.
    • Selected broad areas of interest that directed their pursuit of career that “fit,” rather than a specific occupation (e.g., police officer), as was more often reported by individuals in the overselection group.
      • “I never saw any of the options before they came. The options were opportunities that fit, they were right fits. I didn’t have them picked out before. I didn’t know I was going to do forestry before I did it. I didn’t know I was going to do urban forestry until I did it. I didn’t know I was going to...so they just fit. I found things that fit...I mean, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t...I realized that, I didn’t have anything to put in the box for career, so it worried me, but I was just actively seeking them out as they occurred, when I suddenly needed a career or needed to decide something I would choose and make the choices along the way.”
results prospective one change group n 162
Results: Prospective One-Change Group (n = 16)
  • As active or more active than the prospective Overselection group in selecting and constructing career paths
    • Considered more options, but became committed to a career somewhat later in life.
  • A few were more similar to the prospective Underselection group
    • still considering options and exploring their interests to find/optimize their career trajectories.
  • A few were more focused on making choices in other domains.
  • This group perceived the least amount of distress about vocational development and career aspirations.
substantive conclusions
Substantive Conclusions
  • The interviews revealed more career advantages in the prospective Overselection and One-Change groups (especially the One-Change group) than in the Underselection group
    • including more commitment to work, more focus on optimizing vocational pathways, and a less stressful SOC process.
  • Processes of selection and optimization provided some orderliness to the career trajectories of the Overselection and One-Change groups.
substantive conclusions1
Substantive Conclusions
  • Survey indicators of educational attainment and career establishment at age 25 did not reveal as many differences between the prospective Overselection, One-Change and Underselection groups as were expected.
  • It may be that larger group differences will emerge as participants move into later periods of adulthood.
    • The interviews, completed at age 27, revealed some of these potential future differences.
slide24

Methodological Issue: Agreement between Prospectively and Retrospectively Identified Career Aspiration Groups

methodological conclusions
Methodological Conclusions
  • Although there was moderate amount of consistency in classification
    • Caution about drawing conclusions from one method
      • Retrospective interview sometimes overemphasized continuity
      • BUT sometimes illustrated more discontinuity and indecision
    • Survey may not have provided enough flexibility in answers
      • Consider asking about future plan for a course of study or further training rather than career aspirations
future directions
Future Directions
  • Why these individual differences?
    • Dispositional traits?
    • Environmental experiences?
  • Are the findings question-, age-, and/or context-specific?
    • Wiese et al. (2002) found that selection was of less importance than optimization among individuals age 25-36 living in Germany
  • Selection of vocational goals did NOT seem to be a salient issue for a large proportion of young people during high school.
    • Is this associated with less than optimal and less satisfying vocational pathways in later (e.g., middle) adulthood?
background theory interpretation of qualitative findings2
Background: Theory & Interpretation of Qualitative Findings
  • Other theories
    • Emphasize selection of goals and planning during adolescence / emerging adulthood:
      • Exploration as a process of gathering information about oneself and the environment in order to make vocational choices and to set career goals (e.g., Blustein, 1997; Clausen, 1991; Grotevant, 1992).
      • Expressions of vocational commitment include the number of occupational choices under consideration, the specificity and certainty of career plans, and the strength of commitment to occupational choices (Blustein, Pauling, DeMania, & Faye, 1994; Vondracek & Skorikov, 1997).
      • Lent, Brown & Hackett (1994) and Savickas (1999) also identify goal-setting and planning.
background theory interpretation of qualitative findings3
Background: Theory & Interpretation of Qualitative Findings
  • Other theories
    • Theories also describe processes of compensation that might occur when goals and commitments must be modified.
    • Lerner, Freund, De Stefanis & Habermas (2001)
      • Identity formation was conceived of as a SOC process including goal selection, pursuit and maintenance/alteration, given limited time and energy.
    • Selection of goals must occur because limited resources are available.
    • Many theories assume much individual agency in vocational development.