Evaluation of a goal orientation model of vocational identity

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Date: Dec. 2016
From: Career Development Quarterly(Vol. 64, Issue 4)
Publisher: National Career Development Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 6,687 words
Lexile Measure: 1470L

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The authors tested a model that considered goal orientation (mastery approach, performance approach, and performance avoidance) as an antecedent to vocational identity (career exploration and commitment) and included both career behaviors (career-related strategies) and affect (career distress) as outcomes of vocational identity. The authors also assessed vocational identity as a mediator for consistency with models of career development. The study was survey based with 281 young adult participants (77% women, mean age = 26 years). Mastery and performance approach were associated with more career exploration, which, in turn, was associated with greater use of career-related strategies. Performance avoidance was associated with more career commitment, which was then related to greater distress. The study demonstrated that goal orientation is a potentially important antecedent to vocational identity, which has implications for how practitioners work with young adults with different goal orientations.


Vocational identity is an important construct because it reflects personal agency in the career domain: it represents control over career development processes and behaviors, including exploratory actions, reflection, goal setting, planning, and career goal pursuit (Hirschi, 2011). In industrialized countries, acquiring a vocational identity is one of the most important tasks for young people because it is critical for success in 21st-century labor markets (LaPointe, 2010). Those with a well-developed identity are more likely to be aware of their life and vocational interests; have a realistic appraisal of their capabilities and temperament; and be engaged in setting, monitoring, and making progress toward important, career-related goals (Holland, Daiger, & Power, 1980). However, despite its importance, there has been little theoretical development of the construct of vocational identity, and few studies have explored factors that might foster or impede its development (Skorikov & Vondracek, 2007, 2011). We aimed to contribute to the career literature first by examining goal orientation as an antecedent of vocational identity, and second by testing the direct and indirect effects of goal orientation on career-related strategies and career-specific affect.

Vocational Identity

Vocational identity denotes having "an explicit and relatively stable picture of ... [one's] goals, interests, skills, and suitable occupations" (Holland, 1996, p. 403) and, based on Marcia's (1980) operationalization of Erikson's (1968) identity model, is assessed primarily by using measures of career exploration and commitment (Skorikov & Vondracek, 2007). This approach yields four identity statuses. An identity-achieved status results when career-related commitments are based on extensive self- and environmental exploration. A foreclosed identity status reflects commitments made with insufficient exploration; a moratorium status involves exploration with an inability to commit; and a diffused status results when both exploration and commitment are low. We operationalized vocational identity using measures of career exploration and commitment and assessed their independent associations with other study variables, as assessing statuses would mask underlying mechanisms of the identity process (Skorikov & Vondracek, 2007).

Vocational Identity and Career Strategies

Because vocational identity is the primary mechanism for agency in the career domain, it underpins the integration of self- and world-of-work knowledge, facilitates decision making and goal setting, and drives self-regulatory actions related to achieving goals...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A474548702