Sometimes, it takes more than a little encouragement to get workers to pursue the career of their dreams.
Instead, many people need a more vivid and detailed description of how pursuing their dream career will help make them successful, according to a study published online this week in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology.
This finding was especially evident in people who had the skills and potential to pursue a specific career but who lacked the self-confidence to make a big career change, said Patrick Carroll, author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at The Ohio State University's Lima campus.
"Students who have chronic self-doubt may need an extra boost to pursue the dreams they are certainly able to achieve," Carroll said in a statement. "This study finds that what they really need is a vivid picture of what will happen if they succeed."
For the study, researchers instructed 67 undergraduate business and psychology students at Ohio State University to meet with a career adviser to learn about a fictional new master's degree program in business psychology that would train them for high-paying consulting positions as business psychologists. The goals of the experiment were to get the students interested in the program, and to see how they reacted when they faced varying levels of validation in response to their potential decision to become a business psychologist. [10 Jobs With Amazing Benefits]
To start, the students read information about the program and answered several questions about their grade point average, their self-confidence about becoming a business psychologist, whether they were excited about the possibility of becoming a business psychologist, whether they thought they could be admitted to the business psychology program and whether they intended to apply.
Then, the students were separated into four groups. In one group, the students were shown an information sheet that indicated that there wasn't a GPA requirement, while participants in the other three groups were given sheets indicating the GPA requirement was 0.1 below whatever they had listed as their own GPA.
Researchers then posed as "career advisers" and met with each of the students in the last three groups. In one group, the adviser simply pointed out that the students' GPAs were higher than the requirement. In the second group, the adviser raised the validation slightly by telling the participants that they were exactly what the program was looking for and that it was unlikely they would be rejected if they were to apply.
For students in the last group, the adviser raised the participants' validation even more, by not only telling them that they were qualified and were unlikely to be rejected if they applied, but also that it was likely that they would be accepted with full funding, excel in the program and graduate with numerous job offers.
After the adviser meetings, the participants again filled out forms asking how confident and excited they were about becoming a business psychologist and whether they expected to be admitted. Additionally, the students were given the opportunity to actually apply to the program.
The researchers discovered that the students in the first group and those who were told their GPA exceeded the program requirements didn't embrace their goal of becoming a business psychologist, didn't show any increase in self-confidence related to becoming a business psychologist and were unlikely to apply to the program or even ask for more information.
"Even when students learn that they exceed some external admissions requirement to become a business psychologist, they still have to decide whether that means they should pursue that career dream instead of any others," Carroll said. "They may need more validation than that to pursue this career goal."
However, when the adviser clearly detailed the vivid prospect of success, the students were more open to pursuing their goal of becoming a business psychologist. Specifically, students who were given the most vivid validation were more confident immediately after meeting with the adviser and were more likely to actually apply to the business psychology program.
"Self-confidence played a key role here," Carroll said. "Students felt more confident that they could really be successful as a business psychologist when they received a detailed picture from their adviser."
Sometimes, students have the grades, the motivation and the ability, but simply lack the necessary self-confidence to invest in the pursuit of a realistic new goal, Carroll added.
"This work shows how parents, teachers and counselors can steer students into the right direction to achieve their dreams," Carroll said. "This research is important to understanding how students make revisions in their career goals and decide which career possibilities they should embrace."
The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Originally published on Business News Daily.