Empirical research has suggested that many people experience chance events in their career development and that those chance events affect their career decision making (Bright, Prvor, Chan, & Rijanto, 2009; Bright, Prvor, & Harpham, 2005; Bright, Pryor, Wilkenfeld, & Earl, 2005; Hirschi, 2010; Williams et al., 1998). Other research has suggested that internal characteristics, such as locus-of-control beliefs, self-confidence, and openness to experience, as well as external characteristics, such as barriers and social support, are important factors that affect the perception and perceived effects of chance events (Bright, Pryor, & Harpham, 2005; Hirschi, 2010; Williams et al., 1998). However, the relationship between chance events and career decidedness remains largely unexplored. This relationship is theoretically important because being open to unexpected opportunities and taking advantage of chance events are often depicted as the opposite of the more traditional focus in career development and counseling, which stresses the importance of being clearly decided regarding one's career (Krumboltz, 2009; Mitchell, Levin, & Krumboltz, 1999). Yet, we are aware of only one empirical study that explored the relationship between career decidedness and perceived chance events. By examining two samples of Swiss adolescents, Hirschi (2010) showed that perceived influence of chance events was not significantly related to career decidedness and career planning beyond demographic and personality factors.
To explore the relationship between perceived chance events and career decidedness, we applied a person-centered approach, which takes into account that several subgroups that show distinct combinations (i.e., profiles) of perceived chance events and levels of career decidedness might exist within a population. Conversely, a variable-centered approach explores the on-average relationships between variables within a given sample from a population. We believe that a person-centered approach is particularly meaningful in exploring the relationship between chance events and decidedness because it is plausible that chance events have affected the careers even of some people with clear career plans and a selected career path. For others, chance events might have been influential while they were open to different possibilities and highly undecided regarding their careers. As such, the on-average relationship between chance and decidedness might not be very meaningful in understanding the true relationship between these two factors. In fact, different combinations of chance and decidedness across groups of people would remain undetected when using a variable-centered approach focusing on the on-average relationship between chance and decidedness.
Are Chance Events Good or Bad?
According to happenstance learning theory (HLT; Krumboltz, 2009; Krumboltz, Foley, & Cotter, 2013), chance events might provide opportunities for objective and subjective success. HLT therefore urges career counselors to help clients capitalize on chance events and actively incorporate the discussion of chance events into the career counseling process (Krumboltz et al., 2013; Mitchell et al., 1999). However, it is also possible that a job obtained based on chance events might lead to negative outcomes, such as less commitment or engagement at work, because the individual was not able to realize his or her original aspiration. It is surprising that the questions of if and when chance events have positive or negative effects have rarely been explored empirically. Hirschi (2010) found that perceived chance events were significantly related to wish correspondence of and satisfaction with current training/education among Swiss adolescents in vocational training and high school, beyond the effects of sociodemographics, personality, and career decidedness and planning. However, some forms of chance events showed a positive relationship whereas others exhibited a negative relationship with the outcomes. In a study of managers in Israel, Grimland, Vigoda-Gadot, and Baruch (2011) found that those who reported that a fundamental chance event had affected their careers were in a higher position in their organization but did not report significant differences in career satisfaction or professional vitality compared with managers who did not experience such an event.
Chance Events and Work Motivation
In this study, we extended these initial findings and focused on the relationship between perceived chance events and work motivation among adolescents in vocational training. Specifically, we investigated work motivation in terms of occupational self-efficacy beliefs, perceived person-job fit, and work engagement. These three variables are indicative of individuals' readiness to put effort into their work and to identify with it. Thus, these variables can be used to obtain a broad conceptualization of work-related motivation. Occupational self-efficacy beliefs refer to an individual's expectation that he or she can successfully fulfill work-related tasks (Rigotti, Schyns, & Mohr, 2008). Self-efficacy beliefs influence which goals an individual chooses to pursue, the degree to which these goals are challenging, the effort an individual puts into achieving these goals, how an individual reacts to obstacles, and whether these obstacles are perceived as encouraging or demoralizing (Bandura, 2001). Supporting the importance of self-efficacy in the work context, one study showed, for example, that adolescents who reported high self-efficacy beliefs as 12- to 15-year-olds reported less unemployment and higher job satisfaction at age 21 (Pinquart, Juang, & Silbereisen, 2003). Perceived person-job fit refers to an individual's perception that his or her job is in line with his or her knowledge and abilities, needs, and vocational aspirations. Research has shown that person-job fit is related to employees' positive organizational attitudes (e.g., organizational commitment) and job attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction; Saks & Ashforth, 2002). Finally, work engagement refers to the experience of vigor, dedication, and absorption in one's work (Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006) and is related to greater work resources and competencies in young employees (Akkermans, Schaufeli, Brenninkmeijer, & Blonk, 2013).
The Present Study
When investigating the effects of chance events, it is important to explore samples and contexts that are particularly suited to derive valuable insights in this regard. This is because, as the developmental-contextual perspective on career development suggests, both the person and the context--as well as interactions between the two--must be taken into account when investigating career development (Hartung, Porfeli, & Vondracek, 2005). Our study focused on adolescents, who are usually considered to be in an exploration phase in which being curious, inquisitive, and open-minded is important. However, at the same time, adolescents should continue to develop a sense of control, self-direction, and ownership of their life-careers (Hartung et al., 2005). This implies that issues of chance (e.g., open mindedness, exploration) and issues of decidedness (e.g., control, ownership) are critical in this career stage.
We conducted this study in Switzerland, where approximately 70% of adolescents begin one of over 200 types of vocational education and training after compulsory school (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, 2014). Apprenticeship positions are announced by organizations and are awarded on a competitive basis to students who apply for them. The apprentices are then trained in successively complex tasks of...