Vocational Development and Choice

Not all children are created equal. Different children have different genetic potentials that cause them to be better at some things and worse at others than their peers. In addition, the human and nonhuman environments in which children grow up have a marked effect on their patterns of behavior and the choices they make. Vocational interests are no exception. Differential reinforcement by, and modeling of, parents and significant other people, in addition to other environmental factors and just plain luck, are important in shaping interests. However, research has also indicated that children are born with a hereditary predisposition to be interested in certain activities and things (Grotevant, Scarr, & Weinberg, 1977). It is commonly believed that parental behavior is more influential than heredity in shaping a child's interests, but parents may be much less influential than one might suspect. According to Grotevant et al., the role of parents should be one of providing children with a variety of experiences and models so that whatever interest scream "Yes, Sir!" and "No, Sir!," sing the Marines hymn with someone banging on a pail placed over my head, stand nose-to-nose with another recruit while both of us laughed for an hour or two, climb over and under six dozen double-decker bunks, stand at attention for two hours, strip and reassemble arifle in the dark, shave with a pair of tweezers, and let mosquitos bite me without slapping them. The marines also trained me as an aviation electronics technician, an occupation close to the furthest thing from my interests. However, the monotony was occasionally relieved by an electric shock when I accidentally touched the wrong wire while crawling around in an airplane belly. Even planes seemed to be conspiring against me in those days.

About the only part of my military career that I really enjoyed was attending technical classes, so after being discharged I decided to become a professional student. Fancying mvself something of a renaissance man, when

I wasn't pursuing girls I attended all kinds of college classes—biologychem-istry, physics, mathematics, English, philosophy, foreign languages, tennis, typing, music, art—youiame it. I didn't take a lot of any of those subjects, just a lot of subjects. By the time I had earned over 100 semester hours credit, I discovered that I didn't have enough of anything for a major. An introductory psychology course failed to make me proficient in reading minds and curing mental disorders, but I did learn a little bit about a lot of things. This experience was the start of my occupational awakening and provided a focus for my adult life. Late one night, none the worse after a few beers, I made up my mind to specialize in general psychology! This may seem absurd to narrow technocrats and other drones of limited perspective, but it suited me fine. For four decades it has enabled me to survive, and even moderately prosper, while doing what I wanted to all along-a little bit ofevery-thing, but not too much of anything!

predispositions or inclinations they inherit will have a better opportunity to develop.

The choice of an occupation and progress in it are not always rational, planned affairs. Rather, the decision to enter a particular occupation is often an accidental or impulsive affair, made on the basis of incorrect information and unduly influenced by social pressure. However, the occupational histories of most people can be characterized in terms of a series of stages or periods. The most prominent theories are those of Ginzberg and Super. According to the findings of Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad, and Herma (1951), interests, values, and abilities are all important in the choice of an occupation. These researchers see the development of vocational interests as proceeding from a fantasy stage in early and middle childhood, when a child's interests are arbitrary and unrealistic, through a tentative stage from ages 11-18, when possible vocations are considered, to a realistic stage from ages 18-21, beginning with exploration and culminating in the crystallization of a vocational pattern.

According to Super (1969,1985,1990), individuals select those occupations that allow their self-concepts to be expressed. Super views occupational development in adolescence and adulthood as occurring in a series of eight stages. The first stage, crystallization, is one of exploration: The adolescent explores various fields and attempts to match them with his or her needs, interests, abilities, and values. Following the crystallization stage is a specification stage, a transitional period occupied by job training. At this stage, the individual learns more about specific careers and combines this knowledge with the reality of his or her own situation to make decisions concerning specific occupations. Among these "reality factors" are the individual's financial situation, the availability of education and/or job training, and supply-and-demand factors that determine the marketability of individuals who enter specific occupations.

Beginning at about age 21 or 22 is an implementation stage, when the individual tentatively commits him- or herself to an occupation and takes an entry-level position. It is during this time that the individual may be guided by a mentor— an experienced person who takes a personal interest in the young worker and smooths the way toward competence and advancement in his or her chosen vocation. Beginning workers generally fare better with mentors of their own gender, so sexual attraction and discrimination are less likely to enter the picture. Women, in particular, have been found to be significantly more productive when they have women mentors than when their mentors are men (Goldstein, 1979). Having a good mentor can help cushion the shock of discovering that a job is never quite the same as books and brochures make it out to be.

After the implementation stage comes the establishment stage, the beginning of an orderly career and a settling down into an occupation at about age 25. This stage is characterized by stability, production, and advancement in an occupation. The next stage, the consolidation stage, begins at around age 35 and is the time when the now-experienced worker is on the threshold of advancing as far as he or she will go. Some workers, the fast-trackers, advance rapidly, whereas others, the dead-enders, reach their threshold of advancement fairly soon. Another transitional period—the maintenance stage— begins at about age 45 and lasts to age 55. By this time, the person's goals have either been already met or are seemingly unattainable. This stage lasts until retirement looms and shifts into the deceleration stage of the mid-fifties. Preparation for retirement begins, and the individual begins to separate him-or herself from the job. Last, there is the retirement stage, when one becomes formally separated from the work role. Of course, not all people follow the same career time line or experience the same outcomes. In addition to drifting or reaching one's goals late, a person's career progress can be interrupted by personal setbacks such as accidents or illness and by external events such as recession, war, and sociopolitical events.

Betz (1992, 1994) extended Super's emphasis on the importance of the self-concept in occupational preferences. Adapting Bandura's (1977) perceived self-efficacy model to vocational counseling, Betz maintained that counseling to enhance self-efficacy should concentrate on four sources of information in Bandura's model: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and emotional arousal (see Bandura, 1977). Also of importance in vocational counseling is the realization that jobs possess many different features that change over time. Consequently, there is usually enough diversity in most jobs for people with different interests and abilities to adapt satisfactorily. However, it should be emphasized that interests are not necessarily indicative of abilities. Some people do not possess the abilities that are required for success on jobs in which they are interested, and other people are not interested in jobs for which their abilities are adequate. For this reason, scores on interest inventories, such as the Strong Interest Inventory, and on tests of cognitive abilities should be interpreted in the light of other information about the individual—school marks, awards, extracurricular activities, community service, experiences, and motivation.

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