A moderated mediation model of planned happenstance skills, career engagement, career decision self-efficacy, and career decision certainty.

Author:Kim, Boram
Position:Articles
 
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For college students, searching for a job or exploring careers is one of the most important life tasks. During this period, most college students explore their interests and aptitudes to decide their future career and, furthermore, to find a satisfying job. After this stage, making time to consider life-changing career activities becomes more difficult. Therefore, college students, especially juniors and seniors, invest most of their time on career development activities such as internship experiences. Determining one's future career is perceived as a big challenge to almost every college student.

Several theories have been developed to help understand and explain the career decision-making process, a matter of great importance for college students. Self-efficacy theory (SET; Bandura, 1977), in particular, has received extensive attention in the career literature (Betz S: Hackett, 2006). Self-efficacy refers to the self-trust that one is able to perform a task successfully. This concept is related to a person's perception of their ability to reach a specific goal, and also to their expectation that they can master a situation and produce a positive outcome. In this sense, SET postulates that self-efficacy is developed from mastery experiences in which goals are achieved through perseverance and overcoming obstacles and from observing others succeed through sustained effort. Thus, self-efficacy is considered as a crucial concept in positive psycholog)', and SET is widely applied to the study of academic performance and also to the career decision process.

It is important for career counselors to concentrate their clients' efforts on the career-searching process and strive to find out what their career goals are. Cox, Rasmussen, and Conrad (2007) asserted that individuals who are engaged are more prepared for and adaptable in the ever-changing world of work and are also more satisfied and fulfilled in their careers. Occupational engagement interventions include activities ranging from participating in a career camp to seeking career counseling services.

Particularly, one of the objectives of career counseling services is to facilitate the clients' career search activities and to help them make appropriate career decisions. Clients are encouraged to engage in multiple activities related to careers or to explore career choices (O'Brien et al., 2000). Clients' involvement in career search activities enhances their self-trust and confidence that they can make a good career decision; this in turn leads to increased career decision certainty. Supporting self- and career-exploration activities has been a major aspect of career counseling interventions (Zunker, 2001). Although some clients decide their career through these traditional career counseling approaches, others may not benefit from this traditional approach. At times, clients may feel lost in a world of uncertainty and feel that there should be something more than rational reasoning in choosing their future career.

Some people transform happenstance events into an opportunity for learning whereas others gain nothing. According to Lent, Brown, and Hackett (1994), exposure to new experiences plays a significant role because it is the first stage to boost the career development process. To find their career interest and aptitude, individuals need to be adventurous and somewhat risk taking in early adulthood (Atkinson & Murrell, 1988; Pryor & Bright, 2009). Many college students have a difficult time finding out about careers they might find interesting. This may be because of a lack of initial encounters with new experiences. Happenstance or coincidence is known to play an important role in the beginning of career development (Bandura, 1982; Mitchell, Levin, & Krumboltz, 1999; Pryor, Amundson, & Bright, 2008).

The National Career Development Association (2008) defines career development as "the total constellation of psychological, sociological, educational, physical, economic, and chance factors that combine to influence the nature and significance of work in the total lifespan of any given individual" (p. 2). As defined, in the process of career development, the chance factor has been considered one of the most influential. Mitchell et al. (1999) proposed the planned happenstance theory as a way of explaining the chance factor of individuals' career development. Mitchell et al. and Pryor et al. (2008) asserted that individuals need to take advantage of chance events as the paradigm of career development changes. Mitchell et al. postulated five skills that are essential to recognizing, creating, and using unexpected events as opportunities: curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism, and risk taking. Curiosity means exploring new learning opportunities; persistence means exerting ongoing effort despite setbacks; flexibility is adapting to changing attitudes and circumstances; optimism is viewing new opportunities as possible and attainable; and risk taking is taking action in the face of uncertain outcomes. The question remains, how do these five planned happenstance skills work in the career development process? According to Mitchell et al., people who have planned happenstance skills are actively searching career information or activities that might be connected to beneficial unplanned events in the future. Exploring how these behaviors interact may help inform individuals' career development trajectory.

The purpose of our research was to identify how planned happenstance skills play a role in the relationships among career engagement, career decision self-efficacy, and career decision certainty. Self-efficacy is enhanced through learning experiences and helps the development of interests and goals (Lent et al., 1994). Therefore, it was hypothesized that career decision self-efficacy would mediate the relationship between career engagement (e.g., learning experiences) and career decision certainty. According to planned happenstance theory (Mitchell et al., 1999), individuals who are more engaged in career activities feel confident in their career development only when they have sufficient skills to recognize, create, and use unexpected events as opportunities. Therefore, it was further hypothesized that planned happenstance skills would moderate the relationships among career engagement, career decision self-efficacy, and career decision certainty. In summary, as shown in Figure 1, we posited that career engagement would strengthen college students' career decision certainty via career decision self-efficacy only if they had sufficient planned happenstance skills to discover and recognize unexpected career opportunities.

Method

Participants

Questionnaires were distributed to 229 Korean college students in general education courses at a large university in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. Participants were recruited from general psychology classes targeted to students from all majors. They answered a web-based survey introduced during the class and received an extra point for participating. However, the data from 12 students were excluded from the analysis because of incomplete responses. Therefore, we used the data from only 217 Korean college students (106 women, 111 men). Among the 217 students, 113 (52.1%) were freshmen, 64 (29.5%) were sophomores, 21 (9.7%) were juniors, and 19 (8.8%) were seniors. The participants were from a diversity of majors: Seven (3.2%) were majoring in business, 33...

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