The Influence of Spirituality on the Career Development of College Seniors: An Examination of Work Values

By Dudeck, Jennifer M. | College Student Affairs Journal, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

The Influence of Spirituality on the Career Development of College Seniors: An Examination of Work Values


Dudeck, Jennifer M., College Student Affairs Journal


This study explored the relationship between spirituality and work values among graduating college seniors at a large public mid-Atlantic Research-Extensive institution. Gender differences in this relationship were also examined. Via an online survey, 429 participants completed Super's (1968) Work Values Inventory and Wheat's (1991) Human Spirituality Scale. The results revealed a low, hut statistically significant relationship between spirituality and intrinsic work values (r=0.40). Between spirituality and extrinsic work values, an even lower, but statistically significant relationship existed (r=0.15), with men exhibiting higher degrees of relationship than women. These findings inform the practice of career counselors by raising awareness of gender influences on spirituality and career development.

Higher education is experiencing a resurgence of interest in spirituality. Within student affairs in particular, concern for the whole student (Jablonski, 2001; Temkin & Evans, 1998) has provided impetus for examining spirituality as both a developmental process (Fowler, 19Hl; Love, 2001, 2002; Love & Talbot, 1999; Parks, 2000) and an aspect of diversity (Hoffman, 1995; Jahlonski, 2001).

Heightened awareness of spirituality is occurring against a backdrop of higher levels of materialism and career orientation among college students (Astin, Parrott, Kom, & Sax, 1996; Levinc & Cureton, 1998). However, while materialistic concerns are prevalent for many college students, they do not negate the existence of other nonmaterialistic concerns. With regard to career orientation, Levine and Cureton found that although students may be interested in pursuing socially meaningful careers, they often feel that they have to choose between "doing good" and "doing well," between "helping others" and "having material resources" (p. 138).

The purpose of this study was to examine career development among graduating college seniors through the lens of work values, exploring whether levels of spirituality influence levels of intrinsic and extrinsic work values among this population. This study adopted the following definition of spirituality developed by Wheat (1991):

The personal valuing, experiencing or expression of (a) a larger context or structure in which to view one's life, (b) an awareness of and connection to life itself and other living things, and (c) a reverent compassion for the welfare of others, (abstract)

Work values were defined as "values that individuals believe should be satisfied as a result of their participation in the work role" (Brown, 2002, p.49). Intrinsic work values refer to "objectives that can be satisfied in the work itself," and extrinsic work values signify "objectives that can be satisfied through work as a means to an end" (Hood & Johnson, 2002, p.l66).

This study utilized a correlational research design to examine the relationship between levels of spirituality and levels of intrinsic and extrinsic work values among college seniors. Three research questions guided this inquiry:

1. Do college seniors with higher levels of spirituality exhibit higher levels of intrinsic work values than those with lower levels of spirituality?

2. Is there a relationship between college seniors' levels of spirituality and their levels of extrinsic work values?

3. Are there differences in the relationship between spirituality and work values for women and men?

Review of Literature

Many models of spirituality tend to focus on internal processes rather than external behaviors (Cook, 2000; Love & Talbot, 1999). The faith development models offered by Fowler (1981) and Parks (2000) provide insight into college students' spiritual meaning-making processes. Fowler's and Parks's stage-based models examine spirituality through the concept of faith. Both Fowler and Parks consider faith to be a universal dimension of human experience, one which serves an integrative and synthesizing function by helping individuals to make meaning in a complex world. …

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