Bright, J. and Pryor, R., University of New South Wales, Australia
Research is reported from two studies into the role of contextual influences on career choice and decision-making. The current model extends existing theories of vocational choice, (e.g., Social-cognitive approach; Lent, Brown & Hackett, 1994) by emphasising structural and personal environmental influences, and the role of serendipitous factors in influencing career choice. In study one, school leavers completed a survey of vocational influences. Preliminary support for the role of contextual influences on career decision making was found. Fifty-five percent of the respondents indicated that their career plans had been influenced by a chance event. Unplanned influential factors included personal relationships, and positive or negative exposure to work. Social influences such as family, friends, media and teachers were also found to influence University course choice. In study 2, large samples of 1st year undergraduate and 3rd year undergraduate student vocational choices were measured along with a range of measures of the subjective and objective contextual factors. Results are reported that support the contextual theory of vocational choice. That is, parental, family and media influences play an important role in vocational decision making. Differences emerged between the 1st year and 3rd samples that are partially explained in terms of the exposure to chance events and other contextual factors. These data challenge some of the assumptions of the traditional trait-based models.