Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Interpersonal Influences on Students' Academic and Career Decisions: The Impact of Sexual Orientation

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Interpersonal Influences on Students' Academic and Career Decisions: The Impact of Sexual Orientation

Article excerpt

The authors investigated differences in interpersonal influences on career decision making between gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) and heterosexual college students. Contrary to hypotheses, GLB students reported having more career role models than did heterosexual students, and the amount of inspiration received from role models did not differ between the 2 groups. However, GLB students perceived they received less support and guidance from others in their academic and career decision making. As expected, GLB students were more likely to endorse the importance of a career role model's sexual orientation and support of people with their own sexual orientation. Career intervention and research implications are discussed.

An unannounced, telephone follow-up evaluation of 181 out-of-school adults who had enrolled in 1 of 2 programs of individual career counseling at a university extension center indicated that 78% were satisfied or very satisfied. Eightyfive percent reported that they were following through on their counseling in a variety of ways, including pursuing further education (35%) and changing jobs or occupations (14%). Satisfaction was not related at a statistically significant level to completion of their allotted counseling interviews, program, gender, or education level. The discussion considers the implications for offering career counseling to adults and for future research.

The unique concerns of gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) individuals have been identified as a critical area of inquiry in the career development literature (Bieschke & Matthews, 1996; Croteau, 1996; Lonborg & Phillips, 1996). Because of"stereotypes, discrimination, environmental barriers, and other forms of bias that typically impede the development of minority groups" (Herr & Cramer, 1988, p. 154), theorists have suggested that the career decision making and implementation of GLB individuals may be particularly difficult when compared with that of heterosexual individuals. A growing literature, including special issues of The Career Development Quarterly and Journal of Vocational Behavior, has addressed ways in which GLB individuals' career development is affected by sexual identity and orientation issues (e.g., Chung, 1995; Fassinger, 1995, 1996; Mobley & Slaney, 1996; Morrow, Gore, & Campbell, 1996; Pope, 1995; Prince, 1995).

Role Model Influences

One of the issues that has consistently emerged from the literature on GLB career development is the importance of role models who are "out" with respect to a GLB sexual orientation. Research has documented a beneficial impact of role models on various career outcomes in general (Dryler, 1998; Nauta & Kokaly, 2001; Savenye, 1992). According to social learning theory (Bandura, 1977), individuals are likely to seek role models whom they perceive to be similar to themselves because they assume such models' experiences would extend to their lives as well (Gottfredson, 1981). Thus, out GLB role models may be especially important in the career development of GLB individuals because they can demonstrate how to balance private and public aspects of self on the job, they can model confidence with one's self as a GLB individual in a career, and they can challenge stereotypes about appropriate and inappropriate jobs for GLB individuals (Croteau & Thiel, 1993; Hetherington & Orzek, 1989). In addition, observing career role models who are out at work may help young adults anticipate reactions to and consequences of public disclosures about their sexual orientation in the workplace (Elliott, 1993; Etringer, Hillerbrand, & Hetherington, 1990; Morgan & Brown, 1991).

Empirical studies indicate, however, that most GLB individuals have not disclosed their sexual identity to their employers and coworkers, often because they fear reprisal, bias, discrimination, and job loss (Fassinger, 1995; Schneider, 1987; Woods, 1993). When they are "closeted" in the workplace, such persons may not serve as career role models for other GLB individuals (Fassinger, 1996). …

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