Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Social Skills Efficacy and Proactivity among Native American Adolescents

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Social Skills Efficacy and Proactivity among Native American Adolescents

Article excerpt

This article discusses Native American urban adolescents' construal of social skills, and relationships between these skills and proactivity behaviors as identified in the Integrative Contextual Model of Career Development (Lapan, 2004). Recommendations that build upon the social skills strengths of Native American young people are included.


Theorists have identified the importance of social skills in the academic and career success of young people. Social skills can be defined as part of the common factors that allow young people to successfully negotiate their academic, career, and personal lives. The construct of social skills also underlies the assumptions of many academic and career development theories. Thus, social skills are related to the career development of adolescents in both pantheoretical and theoretical ways.

For example, in the Theory of Work Adjustment (Dawis & Loftquist, 1984), social skills can be conceptualized as one of the categories of basic skills that are learned and stabilized throughout childhood. Social skills, in this theory, are instrumental tools for increasing employees' satisfaction and satisfactoriness to their employers through their abilities to negotiate correspondence between self and the environment. Social skills can be theoretically related to the ability to persevere in the face of adverse circumstances, thus increasing workers' tolerance for workplace stress, which in turn increases length of job tenure.

In the Theory of Vocational Personalities and Work Environments (Holland, 1997), social skills can be conceptualized as tools to help job seekers find congruence between their expressed interests and opportunities in the world of work. In this theory, person-environment fit can be increased as persons who are considering employment opportunities use social skills to network and explore careers through various person-centered exploration activities.

In the Theory of Career Construction (Savickas, 2002), social skills can be used to extend oneself into the social organization of occupations. Social skills help young people connect to their communities and construct careers according to community norms, psychosocial development, and cultural adaptation. Social skills can increase one's readiness and resources for coping with vocational development tasks, occupational transitions, and personal traumas, thus strengthening the career adaptability that is increasingly required in our post-industrial society.

The Integrative Contextual Model of Career Development (ICM; Lapan, 2004) directly addresses the contribution of social skills to the career development of young people. According to ICM, the development of social skills allows young people to learn to work with others who may be demographically and multiculturally quite different from themselves (Bloch, 1996). Moreover, social skills are related to such proactivity attitudes and behaviors as awareness of opportunity, assertiveness, initiative, flexibility, and adaptability, which are critical components for success in today's labor market.

Researchers have shown that social skills are connected to young people's academic achievement, ability to set career goals, vocational identity, career self-efficacy and attributions, vocational interests, and career exploration (Lapan, 2004; Turner et al., in press). Among adults, workers who have good interpersonal skills are able to establish and maintain positive relationships with both co-workers and supervisors, perform more competently in their jobs, become more socially integrated into the organization, experience greater job satisfaction and workplace rewards, and demonstrate greater workplace stamina and adjustment by promoting such worker characteristics as stability, resilience, self-esteem, and self-efficacy (Ashford & Black, 1996; Fisher, 1985; Ladd & Kochenderfer, 1996; Lapan; Wanberg & Kammeyer-Mueller, 2000). …

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