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Title:Career counseling as an environmental support: Exploring influences on career choice, career decision-making self-efficacy, and career barriers
Author(s):Makela, Julia P.
Director of Research:Bragg, Debra D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bragg, Debra D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bresler, Liora; Cain, Timothy R.; Greene, Jennifer C.
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):career counseling
career intervention outcomes
career decision-making self-efficacy
career barriers
social cognitive career theory
Abstract:This study was motivated by concerns regarding the difficult academic and career choices facing today’s college students as they navigate higher education and encounter career barriers along their paths. Using Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994) as a primary framework, the study sought to understand the role that individual career counseling could play as an environmental support to help students explore options, make choices, set goals, and take the necessary steps to implement their choices and persist to their goals. The research questions examined both the outcomes of participating in individual career counseling (e.g., changes in career decision-making self-efficacy and perceptions of career barriers), and the process of participation as viewed through students’ perspectives (e.g., components of career counseling that students found most helpful). This study employed a quasi-experimental design using mixed methods to examine first-year college students’ interpretations of individual career counseling experiences, as well as the influence of those experiences on career choices, career decision-making self-efficacy (CDMSE), and perceptions of career barriers. Employing a mixed methods approach in data collection and data analysis provided opportunities to (a) build on the primarily quantitative past research through use of preestablished and tested survey instruments to examine career intervention outcomes, (b) develop a deep understanding of students’ experiences via interviews to examine the career choice process, and (c) uncover unique insights by employing the multiple lenses offered by a mixed methods approach. The study targeted first-year college students who had not selected a major or academic focus upon entrance to a large, 4-year public university. A total of 130 students persisted in the study, including 33 in the treatment group and 97 in the control group. The treatment was a structured career development intervention consisting of (a) an initial individual career counseling appointment; (b) a performance accomplishment activity related to the particular student’s unique career development needs; and (c) a second individual career counseling appointment that provided support for reflection on and interpretation of the performance accomplishment activity, as well as discussion of possible next steps. Survey and interview data were collected at three times over the course of a full academic year: (a) prior to the intervention, (b) 2 to 4 weeks following the intervention, and (c) 5 to 6 months following the intervention. Data analysis considered immediate outcomes of individual career counseling participation, the influence of lag time on those outcomes, and student perceptions of what contributed to the outcomes they experienced. The main contribution of this study relates the process of individual career counseling, and the major findings are discussed from two perspectives. First, the components of career counseling that emerged as particularly influential for facilitating students’ career choices are presented, including (a) resource and information delivery; (b) career counselor—client relationships that were marked by a sense of openness, flexibility, demonstrations of genuine interest and attentiveness to students’ stories, and invitations to return for further assistance; and (c) student engagement in performance accomplishment activities related to making and implementing career choices. Second, the areas of the career choice process that were influenced by career counseling are discussed. Comparisons are made to the influences theorized in SCCT, with evidence uncovered that both supports the model proposed by Lent et al. (1994) and suggests potential theoretical expansions for future research. Beyond the process-oriented contributions of this study, findings are presented regarding the observed outcomes of individual career counseling, addressing both the outcomes specifically outlined within the research questions (changes in CDMSE and perceptions of career barriers) and additional insights that emerged within participant interviews, such as making progress on career choice tasks, experiencing affective changes, and motivating future help-seeking intentions and behaviors. Finally, the findings address compelling issues that were not initially central to the study, yet emerged during the data collection and analyses. These issues include (a) client readiness for seeking assistance, (b) potential spaces for career counseling to affect career barrier reduction and connections with environmental supports, and (c) limitations of individual career counseling. Study findings related to the process and outcomes of participating in individual career counseling led to suggestions of potential new theoretical connections regarding the ways in which career counselors influence students. Insights were also gained regarding the role that individual career counseling can play as an environmental support to facilitate the career choice process. Implications are offered for theory, research, and practice.
Issue Date:2011-05-25
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Julia Panke Makela
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-25
Date Deposited:2011-05

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