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Trait emotional intelligence in the career decision-making process of Slovak adolescents

Eva Sollarova and Lada Kaliska

Introduction to trait emotional intelligence in the career decision-making process

Career decision-making is typically a stressful experience often manifested by decision-making difficulties. It is especially important at the end of the adolescence period when high-school students face the challenges of making a choice regarding their future studies or a work profession. Career decisionmaking combined with personality variables is a well-researched empirical area. However, there is a place for further exploration by incorporating the emotional intelligence (El) construct in relation to career decision-making constructs. The exploration of the relationships between El and career decision-making is important as the resulting information can contribute to both research-based knowledge for vocational psychology and to career guidance practice.

Career indecision is defined as difficulties encountered by individuals while making career-related decisions and refers to all problems and challenges that need to be addressed prior to, during, or after the decision-making process (Saka, Gati, & Kelly, 2008, p. 403). A differentiation can be made between temporary, developmental indecision and more pervasive, chronic indecisiveness derived predominantly from personality and emotional factors. Di Fabio, Palazzeschi, Asulin-Peretz, and Gati (2013) describe the first construct, indecision, as momentary or short-term issues blocking individuals from decisionmaking. The construct of indecisiveness is described as a more chronic and consistent issue that hinders individuals’ abilities to make decisions in various contexts and situations and is considered closer to a trait than a state. A large body of evidence has provided support for the assumption that indecisiveness leads to many deficits in the decision-making process. Research has shown that indecisive individuals need more information before making decisions and report lower decision-making self-efficacy (Rassin, Muris, Franken, Smit, and Wong, 2007).

In a meta-analytical study of difficulties in career decision-making, Martincin and Stead (2015) included both indecision and indecisiveness as their topic of interest. They considered the concept of difficulties in career decision-making as “an umbrella term for anyone who is having trouble making a decision, whether this is a transient state of indecision or a pattern of difficulties resulting in indecisiveness” (p. 4).

Career indecision denotes problems during the career decision-making process, and it has various sources that are included in the definitions or taxonomies of career decision-making difficulties domain or career indecision (Kelly & Lee, 2002). One of the most studied taxonomies is the one created by Gati, Krausz, and Osipow (1996) whose model differentiates between career decision-making difficulties that may occur before and after the start of the career decision-making process. The first type refers to a lack of readiness in which the person is not able to initiate the decision-making process. The second type can be subdivided into a lack of information (the person does not possess the information necessary to make an informed career choice) and inconsistent information (the person perceives inconsistencies in the information used in determining career choice). The approach as well as the measure created (the Career Decision-Making Difficulties Questionnaire (CDDQ)), reflect mostly developmental indecision parameters of career indecision. On the other hand, Saka et al. (2008) developed a theoretical framework for analyzing the emotional and personality-related aspects of career decision-making difficulties. Based on the existing literature, they located variables consistently found to be correlated with career indecision and indecisiveness. They proposed a hierarchical taxonomy with three major clusters of difficulties - pessimistic views, anxiety, and self-concept/identity - which are subdivided into 11 specific categories based on finer distinctions. The first major cluster - pessimistic views - refers to negative cognitive biases and perceptions. The second major cluster - anxiety - refers to the possible effects of anxiety on specific aspects of the decision-making process. The third major cluster - self- concept and identity - refers to the developmental personality aspects of an individual. Based on the proposed model, Saka et al. developed the Emotional and Personality Career Difficulties Scale (EPCD) and empirically verified the above-mentioned model (in Slovakia this was verified by Sollarova, 2016, 2017)

The literature reveals a growing interest in studying the individual variables associated with the career decision-making process. In the search for variables that potentially affect the career decision-making process, the importance of self-perceptions, or how the individual views himself or herself, has emerged as a recent focus of research. In this regard, an interesting area of research has focused on “core self-evaluation” (CSE; Judge, Locke, & Durham, 1997), which is closely related to positive self-concept. Core self-evaluation refers to a higher-order concept typically defined by four key factors: (a) selfesteem, (b) generalized self-efficacy, (c) the tendency to have a negative cognitive and explanatory style, and (d) the locus of control (Judge et al., 1997). The research has provided evidence that CSE seems to be important in the career decision-making process (Di Fabio, Palazzeschi, & Bar-On, 2012) and empirical findings have confirmed a negative relationship between CSE and career indecision (DiFabio & Palazzeschi, 2012).

The concept of self-efficacy offers the potential to be studied both as personality-related as well as a career-related variable in the process of career decision-making. Self-efficacy is regarded as a self-evaluation that leads to a belief in one’s own abilities to complete tasks or attain a defined level of achievement (Bandura, 1997). Bandura’s concept of self-efficacy was integrated into the career decision-making process by Hacket and Betz (1981) and defined as “career decision self-efficacy" explained as an individual’s belief that s/he is capable of successfully completing the tasks and specific behaviors required in career decision-making (Taylor & Betz, 1983). The concept is based on the theory of self-efficacy and the theory of career maturity synthesized by Taylor and Betz (1983) who constructed the Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale (CDSE) based on this conceptualization. The construct is defined based on the behavioral indicators that characterize the five areas of competency for making career choices - accurate self-appraisal, gathering occupational information, goal selection, making plans for the future, and problem-solving. The research by Betz and Klein Voyten (1997) and Jaensch, Hirschi, and Freund (2015) showed that career decision self-efficacy acts as a significant predictor of career indecision. A meta-analysis by Choi et al. (2012) investigated the relationship between career decision-making self-efficacy and a selection of related variables including gender, age, race, self-esteem, vocational identity, career barriers, peer support, vocational outcome expectations, and career indecision. Self-esteem, vocational identity, peer support, vocational outcome expectations, and career indecision were all found to be correlated statistically significantly with career decision-making self-efficacy. Career indecision was found to have a strong negative correlation with career decision-making self- efficacy. Choi et al.’s (2012) work demonstrated that personality aspects can play a key role in career decision-making self-efficacy.

Apart from personality traits, the specific role of the career decisionmaking process is generally recognized and agreed upon among researchers (Martincin & Stead, 2015). Emotional intelligence (El) represents an additional potentially critical variable in the career decision-making process (Di Fabio & Palazzeschi, 2009), yet is rarely studied. In studying the role of El in career decision-making difficulties, Mayer and Salovey’s ability-based model, and Bar On’s mixed model linking El with personality and abilities, have been mostly investigated (Dahl, Austin, Wagner, & Lukas, 2008; Di Fabio & Palazzeschi, 2009; Di Fabio et al., 2012; Pilarik, 2015; Puffer, 2011). The studies indicate that El is inversely associated with decision-making difficulties and that El also explains a significant percentage of the incremental variance when compared with personality traits in explaining the impact on the career decision-making difficulties involved in Gati’s model (Di Fabio & Palazzeschi, 2009: Sollarova & Kaliska, 2018). In another study, Di Fabio et al. (2012) examined the role of personality traits, core self-evaluation, and El in career decision-making difficulties. It was found that El adds significant incremental variance compared with personality traits and core self-evaluation in predicting career decision-making difficulties.

 
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