A while ago I came across a fascinating article entitled ‘Graduates’ Construction Systems and Career Development’ by Valerie Fournier (Human Relations 50(4) 1997). The research used a technique from Personal Construct Psychology called the Repertory Grid to elicit the constructs (mental frameworks) through which graduates viewed themselves in the world of work. Fournier examined the graduates as they started their careers, after six months and then after four years.
She then compared the graduates whose careers had been successful with those who were less successful. She used objective measures of success (i.e. promotions) and subjective measures (i.e. reported career satisfaction).
What she found was that the successful and less successful groups started out their careers with different ideas about themselves and their interaction with the working world. Those who were less successful were more likely to construe themselves in terms of achievements and work competence. The successful graduates were more likely to use constructs related to social behaviour, adjustment and flexibility. Fournier tentatively concluded that career success may be more likely for those graduates who approach the world of work anticipating the importance of social relationships, understanding office politics and preparing to learn and adapt.
One problem with this research stems from the fact that the graduates that Fournier followed entered an organisation that subsequently went through a period of restructuring. This may have skewed the results. Although, it could make them even more relevant in the current economic climate.
I have made some attempts to track down any similar research without much success so far.
- How are we preparing graduates to be successful in the world of work?
- If we concentrate on a skills agenda linked to work competence in our employability education are we reinforcing dangerous constructs?
- Should we, instead, be focusing on looking at preparing students for the transition to work by helping them to think in terms of navigating the social structures in the workplace possibly using Emotional Intelligence?
- Why don’t we use Personal Construct Psychology more in careers work?
- See this article by Marcus Offer on the use of PCT and the Repertory Grid in career choice and vocational guidance.
- PCP-net – Articles and resources related to Personal Construct Psychology. Includes a free on-line journal.
- Here is a career decision making exercise I developed based on a simplified version of the Repertory Grid technique. I’m happy for you to use it, but please acknowledge The Careers Group and please let me know how it worked.