Scientific approach to choosing the right career path

Scientific approach to choosing the right career path

Choosing a career is one of those momentous decisions that can change the course of your life. Such an important decision deserves considerable time and introspection. Ample information and self-examination can help you choose a satisfying career that you will enjoy for years to come. Especially since these days we have such a plethora of careers to choose from , its important we make informed choices. My attempt has been to throw light on a scientific approach to career choices which is validated with researched theories.

As Albert Bandura a Psychologist emphasizes on Self efficacy as important for a good career path. Perceived self-efficacy is defined as people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. Such beliefs produce these diverse effects through four major processes. They include cognitive, motivational, affective and selection processes.

A strong sense of efficacy enhances human accomplishment and personal well-being in many ways. People with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided. Such an efficacious outlook fosters intrinsic interest and deep engrossment in activities. They set themselves challenging goals and maintain strong commitment to them. They heighten and sustain their efforts in the face of failure. They quickly recover their sense of efficacy after failures or setbacks. They attribute failure to insufficient effort or deficient knowledge and skills which are acquirable. They approach threatening situations with assurance that they can exercise control over them. Such an efficacious outlook produces personal accomplishments, reduces stress and lowers vulnerability to depression

 Many times people make a mistake while choosing their career according to their interest only. It is very important to understand that interest and aptitude are two different things. In a nutshell, having interest in a particular subject or career does not necessarily mean that an individual has the aptitude or potential to perform well in that particular area and achieve success.

Hence, it becomes very important to choose a career in which you have both the necessary degrees of interest and potential in order to achieve success. Utilize the power of career assessment before you delve into a particular career option or career path. This is what will ensure that you grow and develop your abilities along through the career option that best suits the development of your aptitude. Every career option requires a particular aptitude combination that  should match with the individual’s potential ability to grow with that  career.

Aptitude is basically defined as an innate, learned or acquired  ability of an individual to perform certain tasks. Aptitude tests  inculcate many factors like Numerical reasoning, verbal  reasoning, abstract reasoning, speed, accuracy, and other such  abilities.

Research and a review of related literature throws light on Career Development Theories  as being significant thresholds of valid career choices. 2 major theories are,

Trait-Factor Theory: The Trait-Factor theory of career development goes as far back as the early 1900’s and is associated mostly strongly with vocational theorists Frank Parsons and E.G. Williamson. Some of the basic assumptions that underlie this theory are:

Every person has a unique pattern of traits made up of their interests, values, abilities and personality characteristics, these traits can be objectively identified and profiled to represent an individual’s potential

Every occupation is made up of factors required for the successful performance of that occupation. These factors can be objectively identified and represented as an occupational profile

It is possible to identify a fit or match between individual traits and job factors using a straight forward problem-solving/decision making process.

The closer the match between personal traits and job factors the greater the likelihood for successful job performance and satisfaction.

Holland’s Career Typology Theory: An off-shoot of the trait-factor theory can be seen in the work of John Holland. Like the trait-factor approach, Holland’s Career Typology focuses on individual characteristics and occupational task. Holland’s theory expanded the concept of personality types and posited that:

Personalities fall into six broad categories: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional (often referred to as RIASEC).

Since certain personalities are attracted to certain jobs, the work environments then reflect this personality and can be clustered into six similar populations (RIASEC)

Although each individual is made up of all six types, one type is usually dominant. Most personalities tend to resemble up to three of the six personality factors. 

Personalities can be matched with similar combinations of work environments using a problem-solving approach.

The closer the match of personality to job, the greater the satisfaction

Holland’s Career Typology takes a cognitive, problem solving approach to career planning and this model has been extremely influential in vocational counselling

Thus the most practical and research based approach to career choices will include a good battery of Aptitude testing after you have narrowed down your interests . A comprehensive aptitude battery will include an Aptitude test , ( keeping in mind the trait theory ), an Interest and personality inventory ( keeping in mind Holland’s career typology) and a cognitive test to tap potential.

Finally as  Albert Bandura says  people who doubt their capabilities shy away from difficult tasks which they view as personal threats. They have low aspirations and weak commitment to the goals they choose to pursue. When faced with difficult tasks, they dwell on their personal deficiencies, on the obstacles they will encounter, and all kinds of adverse outcomes rather than concentrate on how to perform successfully. They slacken their efforts and give up quickly in the face of difficulties. They are slow to recover their sense of efficacy following failure or setbacks. Because they view insufficient performance as deficient aptitude it does not require much failure for them to lose faith in their capabilities. They fall easy victim to stress and depression.

So in order to succeed first understand yourself, your areas of strengths and weakness, make informed decisions and believe in yourself. Have realistic goals and be patient and have faith in yourself and be goal driven. All the best.

References :  1) Arnold, J. (2004). The congruence problem in John Holland’s theory of vocational decisions. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 77.   2) Holland, J.L. (1997). Making vocational choices.   National Guidance Research Forum, ‘Guidance Practice – Matching Theories (Trait/Factor)’, accessed December 2008, (www.guidance-research.org).   Parsons, F, ‘Choosing a Vocation’, accessed December 2008, (www.leonardoevangelista.it).  3)  Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).)


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Dr Yajyoti Singh

Ph.D, Sp. Edu & Developmental Psychologist.

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