- Career Exploration Among College Students
College is a significant time for undergraduates to declare majors and choose career paths. For many undergraduates, choosing both a major and a career path is challenging. Among the reasons why undergraduates experience difficulties in this decision-making process, are having too many options, not viewing enough options, and not feeling prepared to make that choice (Gati, Krausz, & Osipow, 1996). It is important for professionals in higher education to not only understand these difficulties, but also to develop and implement strategies to help students accomplish these developmental milestones. In doing so, higher education professionals can promote students’ academic success and contribute to increased retention rates by encouraging students to engage in the behavioral and adaptive components of career exploration and planning.
Previous research has focused on interventions that promote career exploration and discovering why students encounter difficulties in choosing a major. Meta-analyses have demonstrated the effectiveness of classroom interventions (Oliver & Spokane, 1988; Spokane & Oliver, 1983; Whiston, Sexton, & Lasoff, 1998), and research shows that many universities deliver career interventions through dedicated career decision-making courses (Mead & Korschgen, 1994). However, there has been limited research on the behavioral and adaptive components of career exploration and planning specific to career-related interventions. As a result, our study was designed to address this gap by investigating the effectiveness of a major/career planning course that focused on the behavioral and adaptive components through occupational engagement, career adaptability, and student career construction.
The construct of occupational engagement is an integral part of Krieshok, Black, and McKay’s (2009) trilateral model of adaptive career decision-making. According to Cox (2008), occupational engagement is the behavioral component within this model. This component emphasizes the need for individuals to understand the world of work by learning about and participating in various activities to contribute to their fund [End Page 460] of information (Cox, 2008). Our second component, career adaptability, was initially suggested by Super and Knasel (1981) and further investigated by Savickas (1997). Career adaptability is a central component of career construction theory and is defined as “the readiness to cope with the predictable tasks of preparing for and participating in the world role and with the unpredictable adjustments prompted by changes in work and working conditions” (Savickas, 1997, p. 254). Therefore, individuals who are adaptable are able to demonstrate concern about their vocational future, exert control over this future, display curiosity, and display a level of confidence to pursue their aspirations (Savickas, 2013). The third component, student career construction, is also rooted in career construction theory. While career adaptability examines adaptability resources, career construction specifically investigates the adaptive behaviors needed to make career-related decisions (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012).
To target college students at a large public Midwestern university, various recruitment strategies were employed. These strategies included mailing letters to incoming first-year students, describing the major/career planning course during first-year orientation sessions, distributing handouts to all students who frequented common areas on campus (e.g., student union), and creating a Facebook page.
Our study adhered to all the guidelines set forth by the university’s Institutional Review Board. Consent was obtained from all students who expressed an interest in the study regardless of whether or not they completed the surveys. The pretest measures were administered to students enrolled in the major/career planning course during the first two weeks of instruction in the Fall 2011 semester. The posttest measures were administered during the last 2 weeks of instruction of the same semester.
The major/career planning course is a 2-credit course offered by the university that focuses on helping first- and second-year college students choose their majors and plan their future careers.
Fifty-six students (37 females and 19 males) completed both the pretest and posttest measures from the major/career planning course. The age range for students who completed both measures was 18–24. The majority of participants self-identified as White/ Caucasian (n = 42). Other races reported were Asian American (n = 4), Hispanic/ Latina/o (n = 3), Black/African American (n...