Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Future Career Autobiography: A Narrative Measure of Career Intervention Effectiveness

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Future Career Autobiography: A Narrative Measure of Career Intervention Effectiveness

Article excerpt

To be consistent with narrative career theory, effective career interventions should result in changes to individuals' occupational narratives over time. This exploratory study sought to present and examine the efficacy of the Future Career Autobiography (FCA), which is a narrative tool designed to identify and measure change or lack of change in individuals' occupational narratives over time. Undecided undergraduate students completed the FCA before and after a traditional career exploration course. The FCA seemed to measure both change and lack of change in occupational narratives, consistent with the career choice process and narrative theory.

Narrative theory and interventions have influenced much of psychology since the publication of Sarbin's collaborative text Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct in 1986. The focus of narrative is on understanding and enhancing the power of an individual's story. This process moves away from a positivistic tradition of objective observation and is more concerned with the qualitative subjective engagement of the individual (Sarbin, 1986; White & Epston, 1990). Narrative has been embraced by many career theorists and practitioners who believe that it helps to provide a holistic understanding of an individual's vocation and career (Bujold, 2004; Cochran, 1990; Mayo, 2001; McAdams, 1995; Savickas, 1995, 1997, 2005). Cochran (1990, 1997), Savickas (1995, 2001, 2005), and others (Bujold, 2004; Collin & Young, 1992) have developed theories and implemented interventions that support narrative as a primary factor in conceptualizing career. Some have even expressed that narrative must be embraced for career counseling and guidance to be successful in the 21st century (Reid, 2005).

The goal of all narrative theory and interventions is to change the individual's story, because to change one's life or identity, one must change one's story (Carr, 1986; Clandinin & Connelly, 1998; Cochran, 1997; Freedman & Combs, 1996; Sarbin, 1986; Savickas, 2005; White & Epston, 1990). This change in story is described in specific career applications and interpretations, but current theories and interventions do not supply instruments to measure this narrative change. Because narrative is qualitative in nature, qualitative narrative tools should be used to measure changes in individuals' career narratives. Qualitative career research and interventions consistent with narrative exist, but they do not focus on measuring narrative change (Blustein, Kenna, Murphy, Devoy, 8c Dewine, 2005; Gysbers, 2006; Whiston & Rahardja, 2005). Therefore, narrative tools that can clearly measure narrative change in individuals' lives are needed.

This brief qualitative study sought to present and evaluate the use of the Future Career Autobiography (FCA) as an assessment designed to measure change in occupational narratives resulting from typical career interventions. The purpose of the instrument is to specifically measure change or lack of change in an individual's occupational narrative over time, consistent with narrative theory and interventions (Cochran, 1997; Savickas, 2005; White & Epston, 1990).

Method

Participants

The participants in this study consisted of 48 undecided undergraduate students (30 women and 18 men) who were between the ages of 18 and 23 years (M= 19.58, SD = 1.43) from a large midwestern university. The ethnicity of the participants accurately reflected the ethnic diversity of the campus population's being approximately 11% minority status (n = 7). The participants' self-reported credit hours earned at the time of the study ranged from 16 to 110 hours (M= 36.25, SD = 28.32), and their semesters completed ranged from 1 to 7 semesters (M= 2.75, SD = 2.08). The participants represented a convenience sample of students enrolled in a traditional 8 -week career exploration course designed to enhance students' career decision-making abilities and facilitate their selection of major fields of study. …

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