Network Research Highlight: Vocational Interests and Fit

By: Keaton Fletcher

Members of the Work Science Center Advisory Council, Tara Behrend and David Blustein, recently published a groundbreaking study, led by Alexander Glosenberg, in the Journal of Vocational Behavior exploring the fit between individuals’ vocational interests and their current careers across the globe. Vocational interests are essentially common aspects of jobs or careers that may be particularly attractive to individuals. One model, RIASEC (Holland, 1997), breaks these potential interests into Realistic (preference for hands-on tasks), Investigative (preference for scientific inquiry), Artistic (preference for ambiguity), Social (preference for interpersonal interactions), Enterprising (preference for business-oriented activities), and Conventional (preference for data manipulation). A second model, the Octant model (Tracey, 2002), has a similar, though more nuanced break down of vocational interests that is not entirely different from RIASEC. Taken together, these models suggest interests may vary along two dimensions, a preference for data versus ideas and a preference for things versus people. Glosenberg and colleagues used these two models and their combined understanding to explore the nature of vocational interests and person-vocation fit.

Using a final sample of over 63,000 employed individuals from 74 countries/territories, the authors found individuals with higher levels of education are more likely to have a career that fits their vocational interests. This is even more so the case in countries highly individualistic countries and countries with high levels of economic development. Further, the authors found that one of the main models of vocational interests may not hold up as well in less economically developed countries, potentially because work focusing on data and ideas is not as accessible as it is in developed countries.

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