Resilience and decision-making strategies as predictors of career decision difficulties.

Author:Shin, Yun-Jeong

The purpose of this study was to examine resilience and decision-making strategies as predictors of difficulties experienced during the career decision-making process. College students (N = 364) responded to measures of resilience, career decision-making strategies, and career decision difficulties. Results indicated that resilience and decision-making strategies accounted for 46% of the variance in career decision difficulties. Resilience had a greater influence on problems encountered during decision making than on problems encountered at the outset of the process. Different decision-making strategies appeared to be related to difficulties encountered at different stages of the decision-making process. For example, aspiration for an ideal occupation was positively associated only with lack of readiness. Procrastination was the only strategy related to all three decision difficulties: lack of readiness, lack of information, and inconsistent information. The results indicated the importance of decreasing procrastination at all stages of decision making and the need to promote resilience to deal with decision difficulties.

Keywords: career decision difficulties, resilience, decision-making strategies, career indecision


Large-scale forces such as globalization and rapid technological progress have decreased work stability and security, with new jobs being rapidly created and long-established lines of work becoming obsolete (Guichard & Dumora, 2008). Consequently, career decision making has become increasingly challenging for students pursuing higher education (Guay, Senecal, Gauthier, & Ferner, 2003). Many college students experience career indecision, often manifested in one or more decision-making difficulties (Guay et al, 2003; Kelly & Lee, 2002). These difficulties increase the risk of academic attrition and failure, maladjustment, and personal distress (Feldt et al., 2010). Decision difficulties are associated with anxiety (Santos, 2001), depression (Saunders, Peterson, Sampson, & Reardon, 2000), and low self-esteem (Gati & Amir, 2010). Researchers and practitioners have focused on identifying specific career decision difficulties (Gati, Krausz, & Osipow, 1996; Gati & Tal, 2008), with the goal of helping students to manage their academic and career decisions more effectively. Researchers have also studied a variety of personal characteristics in relation to career decision difficulties to inform the development of more effective counseling interventions. One approach has been to study personality variables in relation to decision difficulties. An emerging alternative approach is to examine decision-making strategies in relation to decision difficulties. Following these lines of research, we examined the relative influence of resilience and decision-making strategies on difficulties experienced at different stages of the career decision-making process.

Personality and Career Decision Difficulties

Initial explorations focused on negative personality characteristics in relation to career indecision. Leong and Chervinko (1996) found perfectionism, self-criticism, and fear of commitment to be related to global career indecision. Kelly and Shin (2009) were the first to examine personality in relation to specific decision difficulties, and they found that neuroticism related to a lack of information problems. Extant research indicates that negative personality characteristics are associated with career decision difficulties.

More recently, researchers have taken a positive approach by examining personality characteristics that may prevent or ameliorate decision difficulties. For example, Albion and Fogarty (2002) found that individuals with more emotional stability perceive fewer career decision difficulties. The study of positive personality characteristics may enable counselors to develop interventions for career decision difficulties. The challenge is to determine the positive characteristics that have the greatest potential to inform career counselors and to contribute to a broader knowledge of personality functioning.

Recent work regarding positive personality' has focused on psychological capital, which includes hope, self-efficacy, optimism, and resiliency. Of these characteristics, there is a precedent for studying resilience in relation to decision problems. Resilient individuals tend to be self-disciplined, take responsibility for their successes and failures, and adapt new strategies for dealing with career decision-making tasks (McMahon, 2007). Therefore, we examined resilience as a positive personality characteristic in relation to career decision difficulties.


Resilience denotes the constellation of personality qualities that enables positive adaptation to adversity (Luthar, 2006). Bonanno (2004) described resilience as the ability to maintain equilibrium in the face of unfavorable circumstances. Wagnild and Young (1993) defined resilience as moderating the negative effects of stress and promoting adjustment to challenging circumstances. Resilience promotes initiative and purposeful action (London & Stumpf, 1986). The essence of resilience is the ability to rebound from stress and resume adaptive functioning in the face of challenges (Luthar, 2006).

We believe that resilience may be related to the ability to resolve career decision problems for two reasons. First, career decision making is a normative task of late adolescence, and resilience has been found to be related to adaptive functioning for this population. For example, Smokowski, Reynolds, and Bezruczko (2000) found that resilient adolescents develop strategies and coping skills to adapt to stressors, including career indecision, and attain positive outcomes. Second, resilience is related to adaptive functioning in work environments. For example, Kotze and Lamb (2012) found that resilient employees in a call center relied more on their personal abilities and less on external support in responding to challenges. Carvalho, Calvo, Martin, Campos, and Castillo (2006) demonstrated that resilience is inversely related to emotional exhaustion from work. For these reasons, we hypothesized that resilience relates positively with the ability to resolve various career decision problems. Advancing the knowledge of the relation of resilience to career decision problems may also enable career counselors to design interventions that can build psychological capital.

Decision Strategies in Relation to Decision Difficulties

Aside from the study of personality in relation to career decision making, there is a significant body of research examining decisional styles, processes, and strategies related to career decision problems. Harren (1979) identified three decision-making styles: rational, avoidant, and dependent. The rational style is an active and planful approach to decision making. The avoidant style is characterized by failure to attain and process career information and postponement of decisions. The dependent style involves ceding responsibility for decisions to external sources, such as significant others. The rational style is viewed favorably because it is a systematic approach that yields information relevant to decisions. The rational decision-making style has been found to be associated with career maturity (Blustein, 1987), career choice certainty (Mau & Jepsen, 1992), career decidedness (Mau, 1995), and problem-solving efficacy (Phillips, Pazienza, & Ferrin, 1984). However, there is no conclusive evidence that the rational style is associated with superior decision-making outcomes (Krieshok, Black, & McKay, 2009; Mau, 1995).

Gati, Landman, Davidovitch, Asulin-Peretz, and Gadassi (2010) suggested that individuals may be described more accurately as using a combination of approaches in career decision making and that it may be more informative to consider a broad set of decision dimensions than to focus on broad styles (e.g., avoidant, dependent, rational). Gati et al. (2010) suggested using the profiles of 11 different decision dimensions. Information gathering reflects the degree of involvement in the collection and organization of information. Information processing refers to the extent of analysis of career information. Locus of control is the degree of one's perceived control over career opportunities. Effort invested in the process reflects the time and effort devoted to career decision making. Procrastination is the delay in involvement in decision-making tasks. Speed of making the final decision reflects the time needed to make a final career decision. Consulting with others refers to the extent of consultation with others during the decision-making process. Dependence on others is the extent of reliance on others for making the career decision. Desire to please others reflects attempts to satisfy the...

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