A comparison of vocational interest types and job satisfaction in adult career development : a study of unskilled workers in Australia

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The career development theory of Holland (1985) maintains that people whose vocational interests have congruence (or "fit") with their work environments will be more satisfied than those whose interests are incongruent. This study investigated whether this theory held for a group of 120 unskilled workers, and for 54 teachers. The key issues were whether interest-job congruence correlated with job satisfaction, and whether the congruence-satisfaction relationship was a function of the congruence measure used. While previous studies showed positive correlations between person-job congruence and satisfaction, most of these used professionallyemployed subjects, and some used students; few researchers investigated the experiences of unskilled workers. A meta-analysis of previous research, carried out in this study revealed an overall mean correlation between congruence and satisfaction of .16, which was very low. Structured interviews in workplaces were used to gather data from the unskilled subjects, and a questionnaire was devised for use with the skilled subject group. The interviews and questionnaires used a card-sort procedure to ascertain subjects' vocational interests, asked questions about subjects' L jobs, collected details on education levels and job tenure, and concluded with a job satisfaction measure. The data gathered were analysed in various ways. Two different interest coding systems, and four congruence measures were applied, to see whether different measures gave differing results. Congruence levels were significantly higher in the skilled subjects than the unskilled subjects when one set of interest codings were used, but were low for both groups when the other codings were applied. Average job satisfaction levels were similar in each group of subjects. When congruence and job satisfaction were correlated, no significant correlations were found, using either subject group, either interest coding method,'or any congruence measure. Similarly, when certain factors (tenure, education levels and gender) were statistically controlled, there were still no significant correlations between congruence and total job satisfaction scores. Certain individual items on the job satisfaction questionnaires showed significant correlation with congruence levels, however, indicating that congruent people were happier than incongruent people with certain aspects of their jobs. On the whole, the results did not support Holland's (1985) theory of vocational choice. The current study suggests that interest may not be a strong predictor of satisfaction, at least in the group of Australian workers sampled. There are implications for career guidance with less academically-inclined people; careers advisers must address other needs as well as interests, in assisting clients to make work and study decisions.
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