Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Decisions from the Decider's Perspective

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Decisions from the Decider's Perspective

Article excerpt

The authors used a phenomenological research method to investigate the career decision-making experiences of 17 employed adults. Thematic results from interview data analysis were organized within 3 overarching themes: decisions centered on relational life, decisions centered on personal meaning, and decisions centered on economic realities. Study results supported and extended contentions that career decisions are embedded in relational life and have contextual meaning. Belonging and the potential for meaningful engagement were integral to career decisions. Implications for the role of career counselors and career counseling are discussed. Recommendations for counseling that facilitates the consideration of belonging and personal meaning in career decisions are offered.

Recent career literature has delineated the central role of work in human experience (Axelrod, 1999) and has demonstrated that career decisions and personal issues (Amundson, 1995; Borgen, 1997) are inextricably intertwined. The extension of relational perspectives to the study of career decision making and development (Blustein, Schultheiss, & Flum, 2004) has indicated that career theory needs to take into account emerging evidence that human experience within work and nonwork domains intersects within and across relationships. Career counseling approaches that have focused on Super's life career development approach (Niles, 2003) and existentialism (Cohen, 2003) have offered alternatives to practice based on more traditional theory. Yet, despite an emphasis on more relational, contextual, and meaning-based perspectives in the professional literature, current career counseling practice often continues to reflect traditional matching and information-giving approaches (DagJey & Salter, 2004).

This reliance on traditional trait-factor approaches mirrors the limited attention to the career decider's perspective in the career decision-making literature. Although people choose and are satisfied with occupations for reasons other than congruence, the majority of research in career choice has centered on person-environment fit models (Phillips & Jome, 2005). Newer models of career decision making (Gelatt, 1989, 1995; Mitchell, Levin, & Krumboltz, 1999) have focused on decision-making strategies but have not explicated factors that persons consider in making decisions. Subjective perspectives reveal that decisions have a wide variety of meanings (Blustein et al., 2004) that depend on the unique psychological experiences of the individual situated within cultural, social, historical, and economic contexts. Recent studies focused on the decider's experience have suggested that career decisions are made within contexts that are nonreflective of traditional career development theories and models (Blustein, 2001). Instead, an individual's career decisions tend to be relational (Phillips, Christopher-Sisk, & Gravino, 2001), emotional (Iaquinta, 2007), and in service of the whole person (Hall, 2004). Career decision-making research that gives priority to the decider's subjective experience can foster a more relational, contextual, and meaning-based career development tiieory and practice.

Within the current context of rapid changes in the labor market and uncertainty' (Borgen, 1997; Trevor- Roberts, 2006), people may be making career decisions differently from how they had in the past. In our review of the literature, we did not find any qualitative studies that examined the criteria that people consider when they make career decisions. In a quantitative case study investigation of factors influencing job choice under conditions of uncertainty, Athanasou (2003) concluded that there is a greater degree of individuality in career choice than that suggested by traditional theories of choice. Phillips et al. 's (2001 ) investigation of the relational context in which career decisions were made depicted decisions as community events in which participants actively involved others. …

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