The Role of Perceptions of Future Extrinsic Outcomes and Person-Environment Congruence in Career Choice

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ABSTRACT

This study examined the relationship between student's perceptions of future extrinsic job choice outcomes and person-environment congruence in the selection of college curriculum. Pearson correlation and multiple linear regression procedures showed a highly significant relationship between reliance on perceptions of person-environment congruence in major choice and satisfaction with major. Reliance on perceptions of future extrinsic outcomes was found to be a negative predictor of major satisfaction. No support was found for person-environment congruence being attributed a greater role in major choice than future extrinsic outcomes. The influence of family, friends, and educators was found to be correlated with reliance on future benefits factors. ANOVA results showed major switchers attributed more importance to easy coursework than non-switchers.

INTRODUCTION

The career choice process and continues to generate substantial research. Of the psychologically-based theories, Holland's matching theory (1973) has generated the most research (Neiner & Owens, 1985). It also maintains the greatest following (Hall, 1987). The theory that individuals choose careers based on their perceptions of the congruence between their personality and alternative work environments, despite being burdened to some extent with conflicting evidence (Spokane, 1985), continues to accrue considerable empirical support.

Although person-environment congruence's role in vocational choice is well established, can one conclude that movement towards such a congruence explains most of the initial choice process, or even the greatest part of it, in relation to other factors thought to play a role? In his discussion of the problems faced in some of the studies which focused on congruence, Gati, for example, (1989) suggested that other important variables are being overlooked. Included among these other variables were occupational values, abilities, and aptitudes.

Labor economists have focused primarily on relative income and future income streams as determinants of occupational choice outcomes. This perspective assumes that individuals have unlimited freedom in choosing a career and simply accept positions which offer the best net advantage, usually in terms of income (Rottenberg, 1956). Further determinants which have been hypothesized include large aggregate shifts in career "tastes and preferences" (Fiorito, 1982), which stem from the sociological perspective on vocational choice (Lipset, Bendix, & Malm, 1962).

Taking both psychological and economic approaches to career choice into account provides an opportunity to investigate career choice as a function of both person-environment fit and non-fit related preferences. This exploratory study examined the role of perceptions of personal fit, which may impel individuals toward eventual person-environment congruence, vis-a-vis other factors thought to play a role in the career choice process.

The current study is based on the view that career choice is the product of an ongoing decisional process (Mihal, Sorce, & Comte, 1985). From this perspective, individuals consider a variety of factors, each with different relative salience. Examples of such incremental decisions include whether or not to pursue higher education, which institution to attend, and which curriculum to pursue.

Just as career path corrections and redirection may occur after one's first job begins to provide real-world information about what the job is like, redirection often occurs college training and education. This is the phase of the vocational choice process during which personal notions, proclivities and tentative choices are first beginning to be evaluated against experiences. As new information about oneself and the fit with future career is acquired, some students inevitably change directions. This may serve to improve eventual fit between personal traits and career. …