Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

The Impact of Occupational Preferences on the Intent to Pursue an Entrepreneurial Career

Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

The Impact of Occupational Preferences on the Intent to Pursue an Entrepreneurial Career

Article excerpt


A controversial issue in the research of entrepreneurs is what cognitive factor(s) significantly impact the decision to pursue the vocation of entrepreneurship over safer, more traditional, employment alternatives. The early study of entrepreneurs began with some reasonable assumptions about the psychological characteristics of entrepreneurs. However, due to the inconclusive results of these efforts, researchers searched for more definitive cognitive-oriented constructs to explain the entrepreneur phenomenon (Shaver & Scott, 1991). Although various psychological explanations have been discarded over time, there exists support for the investigation of the cognitive processes that contribute to the instigation of new ventures. In entrepreneurship, this approach attempts to understand how the perceptions (Cooper, Woo, &Dunkleberg, 1988), cognitive and decision-making styles (Kaish & Gilad, 1991), heuristics (Manimala, 1992), biases (Busenitz and Barney, 1997), and intentions (Bird, 1988) of prospective entrepreneurs affect their behavior.

In the current study, one such cognitive process--the preference for an entrepreneurial career (as explained by the valence model component of the expectancy theory of motivation)--is posited to be fundamental to the favorable intention to engage in entrepreneurial activities. This is important because intent is a dependable predictor of human behavior in an assortment of circumstances, including entrepreneurship, and has been deemed by many to represent the most successful forecaster of human action (Ajzen, 1991; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Krueger, 1993; Krueger, 2000). Moreover, past research (Kim & Hunter, 1993) found that intentions explained sixty-seven percent of the variance in behavior and path analysis confirmed that the association between attitudes and behavior is fully explained by the attitude--intention and intention--behavior links (Krueger, 2000). Therefore, this study is an attempt to demonstrate a possible link between career expectancies and entrepreneurial behavior (as expressed through robust entrepreneurial intentions). The next section will review the literature on the expectancy theory of motivation and will detail its relevance for the study of entrepreneurs


The mere presence of appropriate personality traits that render an individual intrinsically suited for venturing does not guarantee entrepreneurial behavior (Shaver & Scott, 1991). Kirzner (1973) stressed that entrepreneurs are not only those that discover market opportunities, but also that they must act upon these prospects whenever possible. Accordingly, the purpose of cognitive process studies in entrepreneurship is to explain the mechanism of consideration that results in such action.

Based on Kirzner's rationale, it may be reasoned that a defining factor for prospective entrepreneurs is likely the willingness to pursue favorable opportunities once they are exposed. In this context, only those individuals who are motivated enough to pursue entrepreneurial careers, in deference to other possible choices (e.g., traditional employment), can be considered entrepreneurs. The problem, however, is that there exists no consistent explanation of the mechanism of motivation for the exploitation of these tenuous opportunities (Ripsas, 1998). Therefore, this study advances the idea that a likely explanation for entrepreneurial stimuli can be significantly linked to occupational preference for an entrepreneurial career as specified by the valence model component of the expectancy theory (Vroom, 1964).

Expectancy Theory and Occupational Preference

According to the expectancy theory of motivation, individuals are rational, they understand the possible consequences of their actions, and make selections among options based on a merger of the value of the outcomes and the probability that the outcomes will be achieved (Gatewood, 1993). …

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