Growing up, almost all of us have had those conversations with friends about picking careers that align perfectly with our quirks; careers that will help us pursue the adult lives of our dreams where we can finally do whatever we want (I know, I can only laugh now too!). We might have even sat through a personality quiz at school or online with the hopes of being guided to choosing our true, vocational calling.
But what if it’s our careers choices that shape us, and not the other way round? A recent study published in the Psychological Science journal suggests that the occupational choices we make when we’re young could affect who we become years down the line.
Researchers from the University of Illinois in the U.S.A. teamed up with researchers from the University of Tubingen in Germany to find out whether the career paths people take can influence the way their personalities develop.
Brent Roberts, the University of Illinois psychology professor who led the study with the German researchers, says that past research shows that entering the job market, in general, can enhance certain personality traits. Though according to him, not much has been done to study the effects of choosing different career paths on people from the same age group.
The researchers studied two groups of 16-year-olds from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. One group involved teens who sought apprenticeships or other vocational programmes and the other one was for those who chose to stay in school and enter the job market after getting a higher education.
The teens were asked to score themselves on several measures such as vocational interests and personal characteristics at the beginning of the study, and again after six years. The scores were assessed by the research team using a method called propensity score matching. This method allows the team to draw together the information given by the teens from both groups and make comparisons.
University of Tubingen’s Ulrich Trautwein, one of the study’s co-authors, says that many social scientists think that this method lets researchers establish stronger causal conclusions from data that only shows correlation.
After six years, the researchers found that there was more of an increase in self-reporting of traits like conscientiousness amongst the members of the group that pursued vocational training or employment when compared with those who followed academic paths. People from the vocational group also showed less interest in participating in scientific, business or entrepreneurial activities.
Roberts says that these results show that the people who didn’t continue their studies had the tendency to lose interest in career opportunities that would usually be afforded by getting a higher education.
He also says the study presents the best evidence available that career choices influence personalities. Plus, he says that the study is another addition to growing evidence that people’s personalities change throughout their lives, and often as a consequence of their choices.
Source | By Tesneem Ayoub