An Investigation of Career Decidedness in Relation to "Big Five" Personality Constructs and Life Satisfaction

By Lounsbury, John W.; Tatum, Holly E. et al. | College Student Journal, December 1999 | Go to article overview

An Investigation of Career Decidedness in Relation to "Big Five" Personality Constructs and Life Satisfaction


Lounsbury, John W., Tatum, Holly E., Chambers, Wendy, Owens, Kim S., Gibson, Lucy W., College Student Journal


Drawing on research on careers, career indecision, and personality, this study examined career decidedness in relation to life satisfaction and the "Big Five" personality constructs of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Both general and work-based Big Five measures were studied. Participants were 249 undergraduates at a large southeastern U.S. university with representation from all four years. For both general and work-based Big Five measures, results showed that career decidedness was positively and significantly related to life satisfaction, agreeableness, and conscientiousness as well as negatively related to neuroticism. Findings were discussed in relation to construct validation for career decidedness, as well as career planning and future research directions.

This paper is concerned with personality correlates of career decidedness among college students. The general topic of careers has become increasingly differentiated in recent research and theorizing on college students as can be seen in such diverse topics as career counseling (Coker, 1994), gender differences (Schroeder, Blood, & Maluso, 1993), career expectations (Heckert & Wallis, 1998), non-traditional student career trajectories (Kinsella, 1998), career choice determinants (Keller, Piotrowski, & Rabold, 1990), vocational identity (Zagora & Cramer, 1994), and career needs of students with disabilities (Aune & Kroeger, 1997).

A more focused line of inquiry concerns the issue of vocational indecision (Callis, 1965) and, more recently, its counterpart--career decidedness--which is conceptualized as "a continuous variable ranging from a self-perception of completely decided to completely undecided" (Jones & Chenery, 1980). As noted by Super (1988), deciding on a career to pursue is a fundamental task of early adulthood. Not surprisingly, there has been extensive research on career decidedness (cf. the review by Gordon 1998). Moreover, a number of studies have examined personality correlates of career decidedness, including such constructs as state-trait anxiety (Fuqua, Blum, & Hartman, 1988), self-efficacy (Larson, Hepner, Ham, & Dugan, 1988), and self-esteem (Chartrand, Martin, Robbins, McAuliffe, Pickering, & Calliotte, 1994). However, we could not identify any research that has investigated career-decidedness in relation to the "Big Five" personality constructs.

Increasingly, personality psychologists are beginning to accept that there are five major dimensions of personality derived from factor-analytic studies over the past 40 years (Costa & McCrae, 1985; Digman, 1990; John, 1990). The five factors, often referred to as the "Big Five", represent the hierarchical organization of personality traits and consist of Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. During the last decade, the "Big Five" model of personality has become widely accepted as the most parsimonious and well-validated model of traits among personality researchers. The Big Five have been described as " ... a universal descriptive framework ... for the comprehensive assessment of individuals" (McCrae, 1989, p. 243). These five robust factors of personality have been consistently observed in both children and adults, have strong relationships to actual behavior, and have been found to remain relatively stable throughout the life span (Costa & McCrae, 1994). Goldberg (1992) has referred to the five factor model as a "quiet revolution occurring in personality psychology" (p. 26).

To further explore the construct validity and nomological network (Messick, 1989)for career decidedness, we examined career decidedness in relation to the Big Five constructs as measured by the short form of Costa and McCrae's NEO-PI-R, the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (Costa & McCrae, 1989). In accordance with the suggestion by Schmit, Ryan, Stierwalt, and Powell (1995) that the validity of personality measures used for the realm of work (and careers) can be enhanced by using work-related phrasing in scale items, we also investigated career-decidedness in relation to a work-based Big 5 personality inventory developed by Lounsbury and Gibson (1998). …

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