Five-factor personality domains, self-efficacy, career-outcome expectations, and career indecision.
Article Type:
Career development (Psychological aspects)
Career development (Social aspects)
Five-factor personality model (Research)
Self-efficacy (Psychology) (Influence)
Feldt, Ronald C.
Woelfel, Cheryl
Pub Date:
Name: College Student Journal Publisher: Project Innovation (Alabama) Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Project Innovation (Alabama) ISSN: 0146-3934
Date: June, 2009 Source Volume: 43 Source Issue: 2
Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 310 Science & research
Product Code: 9918560 Career Planning
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

Accession Number:
Full Text:
According to social cognitive career theory, decisions to pursue a career may be influenced by self-efficacy expectations and anticipated career outcomes, thus we examined the incremental validity of these constructs beyond gender and personality. 179 undergraduate college students completed a survey, the Career Decision Scale (CDS), and the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). The survey included ratings of the importance of career-related outcomes (e.g., high income) and whether careers of choice or preference would provide such outcomes, in addition to self-efficacy ratings for completion of educational requirements, getting a job, job success, and advancement. Results indicated incremental validity of three domains of the five-factor model, neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness; self-efficacy for getting a job and job success, importance ratings of job outcomes, and job outcome expectations ([R.sub.2] = .25). Our results support hypotheses of social cognitive career theory in terms of the importance of self-efficacy and outcome expectations in predicting career planning.


Social cognitive career theory has much utility for understanding career interest and career choice. It explains interest and choice by including background characteristics (e.g., gender, personality), sociocognitive mechanisms (e.g., self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and goals), and contextual influences (e.g., support for career interests and choices). The theoretical model builds on earlier models and thus includes features of previous models (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994, 2002).

A key concept of the theory is self-efficacy, which is defined as the perceived level of confidence in one's ability to perform various activities related to career planning and development (Lent et al.). It can be specific to processes involved in career planning, and it can be specific to completion of educational requirements and job success. When women and men think about possible career choices, the likelihood of choosing a particular career is influenced by expectations for success in those occupations (Betz & Hackett, 1981; Brooks & Betz, 1990). Women report higher levels of self-efficacy for job success for careers that are female dominated, and men report higher levels of self efficacy for job success when considering careers that are male dominated (Betz & Hackett: Brooks & Betz).

In addition to self-efficacy, outcome expectations are considered to be critical for career interest and career choice. Outcome expectation is defined as an expected consequence of a behavior or action, thus engaging in Behavior X will result in Outcome Y as a consequence. Outcome expectations may be specific to outcomes of academic performance, for example, "'If I get good grades, I will be able to have the career of my choice" (Betz & Voyten, 1997, p. 189). Other outcome expectations may be specific to career planning and career choice, for example, "If I learn more about different careers, I will make a better career decision" (Betz & Voyten, p. 189). Research indicates outcome expectations to be prominent for predicting career indecision and college persistence. Results of one study indicated that measures of self-efficacy and outcome expectations predicted career indecision in women (Betz & Voyten). Outcome expectations related to perceived utility of a college education combined with the goal of completing college have incremental validity for predicting persistence beyond the first year of college (Kahn, Nauta, & Gailbreath, 2002).

Authors of social cognitive career theory (Lent et al., 2002) have acknowledged the contribution of Vroom's (1982) theory to understanding career interest and career choice. In order for one to develop an interest or preference for a particular occupation, one must consider important outcomes, termed outcome valence (e.g., high income) and perceive that having such an occupation will be instrumental in providing the outcome (instrumentality). For example, becoming an engineer will result in a high income. When considering several outcomes and instrumentalities, higher values will result in greater interest. For actually making an occupational choice, another concept of importance is expectancy, the subjective probability that a given act will lead to an outcome. For example, if engineering is a possible choice, what is the subjective probability that one will successfully complete educational requirements (Brooks & Betz)?

For the purpose of our research, we believe that outcome expectations can be better understood by considering specific career or job outcomes such as job satisfaction, income, variety of responsibilities, social status, etc. The advantage of examining specific job outcomes in the analysis of outcome expectations is to increase our understanding of an individual's specific desired outcomes of a chosen career and the perception that the career will provide such outcomes. For example, the following differ in specificity of outcome: (a) "If I choose engineering, then I will get what I want.'" (b) "If I choose engineering, then I will have a high income" (Betz & Voyten, p. 189). The latter example provides a more detailed understanding of an individual's desired outcomes.

Our research extends that of Betz and Voyten by examining the incremental validity of self-efficacy and outcome expectations for predicting career indecision, however, we utilize outcome expectations that include specific career or job outcomes, consistent with Vroom's construct of instrumentality. In addition, we include importance ratings, which is consistent with Vroom's construct of outcome valence. Consistent with social-cognitive career theory, we include input variables such as gender and personality domains of the five-factor model (McCrae & John, 1992; Digman, 1990) known to be related to career decidedness and antecedents of career indecision (Chartrand, Rose, Elliott, Marmarosh, & Caldwell, 1993; Lounsbury, Tatum, Chambers, Owens, & Gibson, 1999). We also include importance of job outcomes and the perceived relationship between job outcomes and the expectancy that a considered career will provide such outcomes. We see this as consistent with informational antecedents of career indecision (Chartrand et al.), i.e., knowing enough about an occupation of interest and whether the occupation is likely to provide valued outcomes. We hypothesized that self-efficacy for four aspects of career development and advancement (completing educational requirements, getting a job, job success, and earning promotions), importance of specific career outcomes, and specific career outcome expectations would show incremental validity after accounting for gender and personality.



A total of 179 undergraduate students (141 women and 38 men) participated. Mean age for women and men was 20.35 years (SD = 4.48) and 21.21 years (SD = 4.88), respectively (p > .05). The number of first-year students, sophomores, juniors, and seniors was 91,22, 37, and 29, respectively.


Participants completed three different instruments. The first was a questionnaire used to report demographic information and a chosen or preferred career. In addition, we used a 7-point rating scale to assess expectations for completing educational requirements, getting a career-related job, being successful in the career, and advancing through promotions (Brooks & Betz): 1 (very unlikely) to 7 (very likely). The survey also included two 7-point rating scales, one for judging the degree of personal importance of 16 career-related outcomes, 1 (very unimportant) to 7 (very important), and the other for judging how likely the career would be instrumental in providing each of the 16 outcomes, 1 (very unlikely) to 7 (very likely). The list included variety in job responsibilities, job security, high income, high prestige and social status, intellectual stimulation, job satisfaction, opportunities for leadership, interesting work, achieve high level of performance, opportunity for personal development, opportunity for part-time or flexible work hours, avoidance of disapproval of the same/opposite sex, ability to manage home and family life, time to engage in satisfying leisure activities, fit of job to personality, opportunities to serve others, opportunities to attain promotions, and work cooperatively with coworkers (Bartol & Manhardt, 1979; Brooks & Betz; Heckert et al., 2002; Jackson, Gardner, & Sullivan, 1972; Manhardt, 1972).

Career Decision Scale (CDS). The CDS (Osipow, Carney, Winer, Yanico, & Koschier. 1976) indecision scale consists of 16 objectively-scored items and 1 open-ended item to measure degree of indecision about career choice. We used the 16-item sum of ratings as the measure of career indecision. Reliability is about .90 for the scale (Osipow, 1987).

NEO-Five Factor Inventory (NEOFFI). The NEO-FFI (Form S, Adult) (Costa & McCrae, 1991) is a 60-item instrument that provides trait-based assessment of the following domains of the five-factor model (Digman, 1990: McCrae & John, 1992): neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Reliability ranges from .75 to .83 across the five factors (Costa & McCrae, 1992).


Participation was completely voluntary; students were recruited in several general education classes. After completion of a consent form, participants completed the questionnaire, the CDS and the NEO-FFI. The procedure required approximately 20-25 min.


Descriptive statistics for CDS indecision score, NEO-FFI domain scores, and self-efficacy ratings are displayed in Table 1. Descriptive statistics for importance ratings and outcome-expectation ratings are displayed in Table 2. We observed gender agreement regarding most important items, with agreement on four of the top five in rank, which included job satisfaction, job security, interesting work, and manage home and family life. In addition, there was extensive agreement across gender in job characteristics considered least important, with agreement on six of the least important job outcomes, which included avoidance of disapproval of the opposite sex, high prestige and social status, opportunity for part-time or flexible work, high income, opportunity to attain promotions, and variety in job responsibilities.

We used principal components analysis with Varimax rotation on importance ratings to identify underlying outcome factors, and we used a criterion of a minimum factor loading of .40 to determine which outcomes were significantly loaded on specific factors. Results indicated that five factors accounted for 58.61% of the variance. Loadings for the rotated matrix are reported within parentheses and also in Table 2. Factor 1 included variety of job responsibilities (.60), intellectual stimulation (.71), interesting work (.64), and job satisfaction (.58) (4 items, 13.13%, [alpha] = .59). Factor 2 included opportunities for leadership (.43), opportunities to serve others (.74), fit of job to personality (.64), and work cooperatively with others (.74) (4 items, 12.95%, [alpha] = .68). Factor 3 included high income (.82), high prestige and social status (.68), opportunities for leadership (.40), and opportunities to attain promotions (.72) (4 items, 12.31%, [alpha] = .69). Factor 4 included job security (.62), ability to manage home and family life (.76), time to engage in satisfying leisure activities (.60), and job satisfaction (.44) (4 items, 11.36%, a = .61). Factor 5 included opportunity for part-time or flexible work hours (.78), time for leisure (.46), and avoid disapproval from the opposite sex (.65) (3 items, 8.76%, ct = .46). Three job outcomes were loaded on two factors: job satisfaction, opportunity for leadership, and time for satisfying leisure activities.

We employed hierarchical multiple-regression analysis to examine the incremental validity of each component of the social cognitive model that we measured. Linearity, normality, and homoscedasticity assumptions were tenable. In addition, we found no evidence of multicollinearity among predictors. We entered predictors in the following order: gender, personality domains, expectations for success, factor scores for importance ratings of outcome variables, and outcome expectations. Results are displayed in Table 3. For CDS indecision, R2 was incremented by each of the following variables: gender; five-factor domains of neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness; expectancies for getting a job and being successful at the job, importance ratings on job outcomes for Factors 1 and 2, and outcome expectations for Factors 1 and 2. [R.sub.2] for the final model was [R.sub.2] -.27 (medium effect size). Results were analyzed for subsamples of participants, which included participants who reported a specific career choice (n = 100) as opposed to participants who reported a preferred career rather than a career choice (n = 79). [R.sub.2] for those who reported a career choice versus those who reported a preference was .26 and .25, respectively. In spite of the loss of power on tests of regression coefficients, such tests of outcome expectations were statistically significant for both groups (p < .01), thus supporting the incremental validity of outcome expectations whether students had explicitly reported a choice or a preference.


We intended to provide evidence for the incremental validity of outcome expectations of the underlying dimensions of career or job outcomes, rather than to simply confirm the underlying structure of such outcomes. We employed principal-component analysis with Varimax rotation, which was consistent with those of previous researchers (Bartol & Manhardt, 1979; Heckert et al., 2002; Jackson et al., 1992; Manhardt, 1972). We hypothesized that a predictive model that included importance ratings of career-related outcomes and expectations of the outcomes would result in significant increments in [R.sub.2]. Results supported our hypotheses for some, but not all, principle components concerning "intrinsic" qualities of work (i.e., job satisfaction, intellectual stimulation, variety of responsibilities, and interesting work) and outcomes that are associated with cooperation with others and service to others, opportunities for leadership, and personality-job fit. Results suggest that inclusion of some specific career outcome expectations increases our understanding of career indecision. The factors included in the model are not surprising, given the high proportion of women in our sample who were pursuing service-oriented careers (education, nursing, and social work).

Although the construct of perceived importance of importance of job or career outcomes is not explicitly identified in social cognitive career theory, the construct is relevant to our analysis in that outcomes must be valued in order for perceived relationship between interest or choice and outcome to influence career indecision. One advantage of including it is to identify possible sources of indecision, for example, expecting opportunities to serve others may be deemed important, yet one is not certain that a career of interest or choice will provide such opportunities, thus influencing commitment to the choice and indecision regarding a possible choice. In addition, inclusion of career-specific outcomes in the analysis allows counselors to evaluate the degree of match between what individuals value and what they expect as outcomes of a career choice, in addition to degree of realism of their expectations. As individuals acquire additional information about potential occupational choices, they may consider new choices.

Generalizability of our results may be limited because our sample was predominately comprised of Caucasian women with service-oriented professional career plans (education, nursing, social work, and counseling psychology). However, the results do show that knowledge of ratings of importance of career outcomes and outcome expectations, in addition to self-efficacy, may help us to better understand antecedents of career indecision. This research should help to guide subsequent research in which the constructs of social cognitive career theory are tested. Future work demands with more diverse samples and with other career interests (e.g., business, biology, engineering). In addition, the analysis should include measures of the degree of discrepancy between importance and outcome expectations to determine whether a reliable relationship exists between amount of discrepancy and career indecision. For example, when one considers leadership opportunities to be important, yet expect little opportunity given the career of interest, career indecision may be a consequence. When such discrepancies are present with several important outcomes, the degree of career indecision may increase.

Author Note

This study was supported by funding from the R. J. McElroy Student/Faculty Research Program. Correspondence should be sent to Ronald C. Feldt, Department of Psychology, Mount Mercy College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 52402. E-mail:


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Mount Mercy College
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics for CDS Indecision Score, Personality Domains,
and Self-Efficacy Ratings

                                     M         SD         r

Career Indecision (CDS)            27.59      8.61
Five-Factor Domains (NEO-FFI)
  Neuroticism                      22.34      7.67      .16 *
  Extraversion                     31.33      5.48     -.03
  Openness                         27.05      5.93     -.03
  Agreeableness                    33.03      5.81     -.19 **
  Conscientiousness                32.72      6.52     -.15 *
  Complete Education                6.38      1.00     -.11
  Find a Job                        5.80      1.16     -.32 ***
  Job Success                       6.09      0.96     -.22 **
  Advancement                       5.78      1.12     -.13

* p <.05, ** p<.01, *** p <.001

Table 2
Descriptive Statistics for Importance and Outcome-Expectation Ratings
and Factor Loadings (a)

                                    Outcome Ratings (b)
                    Importance      Expectation
                    M       SD      M       SD

Variety             5.50    1.04    5.59    1.17
Job Security        6.45    0.71    5.66    1.15
High Income         5.19    1.31    4.68    1.57
Prestige/Status     4.45    1.36    4.43    1.45
Intellectual        5.69    1.00    5.70    1.09
Satisfaction        6.59    0.66    6.08    0.88
Leadership          5.63    1.04    5.68    1.16
Interesting         6.49    0.67    6.35    0.76
Work Schedule       4.82    1.50    4.12    1.67
Disapproval         3.91    1.97    4.35    1.76
Home/Family         6.41    0.90    5.41    1.25
Leisure             5.87    1.09    5.19    1.14
Personality Fit     6.21    0.83    6.05    0.95
Serve Others        5.98    1.19    6.32    1.08
Promotions          5.53    1.15    5.11    1.24
Cooperation         6.09    0.99    6.04    0.98

                         Rotated Component Loadings
                     1        2       3       4       5

Variety              .60     .11     .17    -.16     .25
Job Security         .23     .07     .19     .63    -.09
High Income         -.04    -.13     .82     .25    -.01
Prestige/Status      .14     .33     .69    -.15     .04
Intellectual         .71     .16     .05     .06    -.07
Satisfaction        -.62    -.13     .08    -.41    -.02
Leadership           .37     .43     .40     .01     .13
Interesting          .64     .13     .05     .11     .03
Work Schedule        .23    -.13    -.04     .10     .79
Disapproval         -.20     .29     .23     .03     .66
Home/Family          .06    -.24    -.11    -.77    -.10
Leisure              .09     .08     .07     .60     .45
Personality Fit      .33     .65     .11     .11     .00
Serve Others         .13     .75     .06     .09    -.02
Promotions           .10     .11     .71     .34     .17
Cooperation         -.08    -.73    -.02    -.20    -.10

(a) Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis with orthogonal
rotation (Varimax)

(b) Outcome Ratings include 7-point rating scales

Table 3
Results of Hierarchical Multiple-Regression Analysis for Prediction of
Career Indecision

Step  Predictor                  [R.sup.2]  [DELTA][R.sup.2]   [DELTA]F

1     Gender                        .02           .02          3.96 *

2     Personality Domains (a)       .07           .05          2.88 *

3     Self-Efficacy (b)             .19           .12          6.40 ***

4     Factor Scores (1 & 2          .22           .03          3.07 *
      Importance Ratings)

5     Job Outcome Expectations      .27           .05          6.14 **
      (Factors 1 & 2)

(a) Includes neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness

(b) for getting a job and job success

* p<.05, ** p<.01, *** p<.001
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