Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Occupational Engagement and Academic Major Satisfaction: Vocational Identity's Mediating Role

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Occupational Engagement and Academic Major Satisfaction: Vocational Identity's Mediating Role

Article excerpt

In their model of adaptive career decision making, Krieshok, Black, and McKay (2009) emphasized the role of occupational engagement in making satisfying career-related decisions. Occupational engagement was defined as "taking part in behaviors that contribute to the decision maker's fund of information and experience of the larger world" (p. 284). Occupational engagement consists of exploration-collecting information to make an imminent decision-and enrichment-gaining knowledge that can be applied to future (i.e., currently unknown) decisions. Drawing from career construction theory, which highlights lifelong career adaptability (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012), occupational engagement facilitates an ever-growing body of self- and world knowledge that can be applied throughout students' careers (Krieshok et al., 2009). Examples of occupationally engaging behaviors among college students include interning, volunteering, working part time, conducting informational interviews, and engaging in job shadowing. Occupational engagement also includes less occupation-specific behaviors, such as attending presentations or seminars, visiting museums, joining clubs, and simply talking with professionals about their experience of work.

Through occupational engagement, students learn about themselves, the world, and the relationship between themselves and the world (Krieshok et al., 2009). By being occupationally engaged, students gain a sophisticated self-recognition of likes, dislikes, strengths, limitations, values, and skills. They also learn about career-related opportunities that include academic and vocational possibilities. Furthermore, occupational engagement facilitates an interpersonal network that students can draw from to enable their career goals. In summary, as has been postulated since Parsons (1909) articulated a tripartite model of career decision making, students can use knowledge about the self, the world, and the relationship between the self and the world to make satisfying imminent decisions (e.g., selecting an academic major) and satisfying future decisions (e.g., selecting a job or graduate program).

Proponents of occupational engagement have argued that career counselors should emphasize facilitating occupational engagement in their clients and de-emphasize helping clients make decisions (Krieshok et al., 2009). Drawing from decision-making research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social psychology, Krieshok et al. (2009) concluded that solely introspecting about decisions does not facilitate making satisfying decisions, as is generally conceived in theories of career development and career counseling (see Krieshok, 1998, 2001, and Krieshok et al., 2009, for reviews). Via occupational engagement, students amass experientially based knowledge about themselves and the world that increases their understanding of their fit with particular tasks and environments in work and academic domains. Students then use that understanding to make informed and satisfying decisions (Holland, 1996). Furthermore, contemporary careers are dynamic, typically consisting of several job and occupational changes (Bluestein, 2006). Thus, the goals of career counseling through an occupational engagement lens are to (a) increase students' present occupational engagement, which will aid imminent decision making, and (b) facilitate lifelong occupational engagement, which will enable adaptive career-long decision making (Krieshok, 1998).

Making Satisfying Decisions

Vocational identity is the degree of clarity regarding work-related plans and goals, as well as regarding how those plans and goals relate to interests and strengths (Gupta, Chong, & Leong, 2015; Holland, 1997). Holland (1997) argued that as vocational identity increases, people's ability to make satisfying career-related decisions improves because of their increased understanding of themselves and the world of work. Furthermore, students' capacity to select academic options that are a good fit largely depends on their degree of vocational identity (Super, Savickas, & Super, 1996). …

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