Notes for Achievement, Careers, and Work
School of Family and Consumer Sciences 400.404/504    Instructor: D. Witt

Challenge - Concentration - Mastery
Keeping in mind that children and adolescents are developing within the confines of their culture and society, there is the question about whether or not the individual can keep up with social and cultural change. The pace of global change could influence adolescents to adapt to societal and academic pressure, as well as to encourage them identify strategies for reaching their goals. Adolescents’ efforts to investigate roles for themselves have an ongoing influence and appear to be predictive of success in later life. 

Elkind's Hurried Child is one theoretical response to social and global change as it relates to the developing individual. His view (some years ago in fact) is that parents who are feeling pressure to generate family income to the exclusion of individual family member development and feelings of security, have the tendency to produce two "types" of maladapted children:
    • the Hurried Child with demanding, authoritarian parents, is forced to make life decisions early, before he or she is developmentally prepared to do so.
    • and the Spoiled Child with lazy, permissive parents hardly ever makes any decisions.
    • It is Elkind's contention that the healthiest position for a young person to be in is somewhere between these two extremes. Citing the hours teenagers work at part time jobs and the pressure brought on by having to make actual career choices (college majors) by the eighth grade, Elkind sees a real danger that today's teenagers are at-risk for anxiety at the minimum, and possibility stress related illnesses. He cautions parents to offer relief from stress instead of adding to the problem.
Elkind points out that: success in life requires work on the part of both parents and children. He mentions, as a partial solution to the Hurried child, the importance of contracts made between parent and child that will mediate between the teenager's: 
    • individual freedom and individual responsibility
    • commitment and loyalty
    • support and achievement
Such contracts could center around school achievement and educational goals, and the extent to which these are mediated by outside, leisure activities..

Extrinsic motivation (encouraged or discouraged by external consequences) and intrinsic motivation (self-generated curiosity, challenge, or knowledge) represent two major factors that influence adolescent achievement. Motivation can be influenced by the degree to which adolescents believe they are self-determined and have personal choices and responsibilities. One theorist, Csikszentmihalyi, describes flow as optimizing motivation and concentration resulting from agreeable levels of challenge, concentration, and mastery.

Three types of mastery have been identified regarding an individual's response to a challenge:
  • Mastery orientation—focus is on the task, show enthusiasm, generate solution-oriented strategies  Self-efficacy is the belief in an ability to master a situation similar to mastery orientation.
  • Helplessness orientation—focus is on personal inadequacies, difficulties attributed to ability 
  • Performance orientation—focus is on winning and success, not the process and skill development
Parents, Teacher attitudes, and public policy all have both direct and indirect effects on a teenager's responses. When parents and others have high expectations for an adolescent, that adolescent benefits. Mentoring improves adolescents’ mastery in school. College students can be mentors for children and adolescents and play an important role in their lives.

Goal setting, planning, and self-monitoring helps adolescents to:
  • define manageable short-term and long-term goals
  • set specific and challenging goals
  • measure progress toward those goals.
  • manage time effectively
Time Management, in turn, can help adolescents see progress toward accomplishing their goals. Time management means setting priorities and creating times plans, and it is a learning process - a skill. Obstacles to achieving goals include procrastination, anxiety, and the tendency to protect one's self-worth by avoiding failure.

Ethnicity and culture influence on achievement by children and adolescents of minority groups.  - Cultural differences may influence students to demonstrate distinctly different  goals and patterns of achievement. The influence of socioeconomic status, racial prejudice, conflicts in values between minority and majority cultures, and characteristics of mega-system schools in large cities are easily mistaken by both teachers and students to be “ethnic deficits.”  Cross-cultural examinations of adolescent performance clarify the impact of teachers’ focus on academic subjects, number of days in school, parents’ expectations, and assistance for student achievement.  Specifically, U.S. students perform poorly in math and science in cross-cultural comparisons of the top 25 percent of students in industrialized nations.

Achievement - The achievement orientation that characterizes U. S. culture is "meritocracy", at least in principle, in which all citizens are supposed to have an equal opportunity to excel in school and work. As the story goes, only those willing to work hardest will be rewarded the most. Is this true ... in all cases ... in most cases?  There is an argument that idea been superseded by more selfish orientations, and by the notion of privilege and entitlement.  Concepts like competition and self-reliance stem from American Pragmatist philosophy - Wm. James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Dewey. The idea, whether in school, at work, or on the gridiron, is to devastate the competition by being better - to win at all costs. Thus, Achievement Motivation involves the question of why people behave, think, and feel the way they do about getting ahead - What is the reasoning behind competition? McClelland asserts that individuals vary in how much achievement motivation they have - and that such motivation can be measured. He terms it: "n" achievement, or the need for achievement which:
  • develops through interaction with others
  • depends on the competitiveness of those others
  • is reinforced by cultural standards to which the child has been exposed (expectations).
  • and the big factor, after living in a democratic culture, was found to be independence training by parents.
Other theorists added to the concept of Achievement Motivation by considering the Achievement Standards of the Culture.   In order think about achievement standards, we have to decide against what rule or measure we will judge our success? (something your school administrators often fail to do themselves).  What are our models for success?  We often use superlative words like excellence to describe ourselves, when we have little in the way of actual measures of the term.   

In the case of the developing teenager, these concepts are personally owned, although they are externally derived, through interaction with:
  • friends who maintain high academic standards
  • classmates in a school that maintains high "academic" standards,
  • groups of peers who maintain standards of dress or behavior (again the importance of the peer group surfaces).
Atkinson described another variable in the recipe for achievement motivation he called Hope for Success: (Hope + Persistence - Fear of Failure = Performance Outcome) which sounds a little like W.I. Thomas' famous self-fulfilling prophecy known as The Situational Hypothesis (Things that are perceived as real will be real in their consequences")

Attribution Theory
(Weiner) - attempts to account for the causes of success and failure - Here people are defined as rational beings that want to know why they are behaving the way they are. Knowing will help the cope effectively with situations that confront them in the future. Thus we attribute causation to our behavior (whether or not the cause is real).  When we do not know the causes of our behavior, or the behavior of others, such behavior will not make sense. We want to be able to attribute qualities to success that are different from the qualities of failure.

Locus of Control (the perceived location of control over our lives. One who makes their own decisions and feels is in control of his/her decisions and behaviors has an Internal Locus of Control.
  • Internal Factors are those events we can control
  • External Factors - what we cannot control
  • Stability factor - is it luck or ability - variable or constant
 David Reisman, following American history up to the 1950s, suggested that American Society has moved from:
  • an Inner Directed Locus of Control (early pioneers, self-reliance, pragmatists) to
  • an Other Directed Locus of Control (from the industrial revolution to the 1950's, working for the good of society and the group) to
  • an Outer Directed Locus (from the 1950's to now, dissatisfaction with oneself, searching for more than life gives us.).
It was also about this time (the 1950s) that social scientists thought they detected Social Class Differences in Motivation. 
  • Middle class kids are more likely to exercise delayed gratification in decision making while
  • Lower / Working class kids are more likely to exercise value stretch without delaying gratification. 
They also thought they noticed Gender Differences where
  • boys are trained to be instrumentally competent while
  • girls are trained to be affectively competent and have lower expectations for success in instrumental fields.
  • By the 1960s "Learned helplessness" emerged as a a clinical term that could be applied to normal life.
  • It is the belief that the rewards received are beyond personal control. Failure is expected and attributed to a vacant talent pool.
Likely, all these theories are mediated by an additional motivating factor - occupational or vocational choice.  For many university students, their happiest day in college is not the day they graduate, but the day they finally decide on their major after thinking it through, talking to classmates, and spending some time with an adviser who cares enough to patiently listen.

Theories of Vocational Choice

Ginsberg's Stages of vocational choicing:
  1. Fantasy stage until 11 yrs. - kids imagine what they want to be without concern for abilities.
  2. Tentative stage - 11-17 yrs - a period of transition as kids are beginning to use evaluative skills to place themselves.
  3. Realistic stage - 17-late 20's - extensive search of available occupations, focusing on the market and specific training relevant to specific jobs.
Super mention's self-concept in relation to vocational choice,.which is developed in adolescence (keep Marcia's Identity Achievement theory here too)..
  1. After some degree of sex-role identity and self-acceptance, around 14-18 years of age, adolescents' ideals about work that "mesh" with what they already know about the world CRYSTALLIZE.
  2. Around 18-20 yrs. they narrow their vocational choices and initiate behavior (SPECIALIZATION) that will enable them to engage in some type of career.
  3. By 21-24 yrs. the IMPLEMENT their education and training - entering the work force.
  4. By 24-35 yrs. they STABILIZE in a specific career.
  5. By 36+ they advance their chosen careers and reach higher within their career status (CONSOLIDATION).
Holland emphasizes personality types/traits and vocational choice: Here individuals attempt to select careers that match their perception of their personality.
    • Realistic / masculine traits, physically strong, practical and little social competence, truckers, farmers, construction workers.
    • Intellectual / oriented toward abstract thought, thinkers and not doers, avoid interpersonal relations and like math and science.
    • Social / feminine traits - verbal stills and interpersonal relations - people (unpaid) professions.
    • Conventional / distaste for unstructured activities - Bank tellers, secretaries, social service workers.
    • Enterprising / leadership through verbalization, dominating people, selling people on either issues or products. Sales, politics and management.
    • Artistic / expression, avoiding interpersonal situations - art and writing.
Despite the persistent view of adults that teenagers are lazy and uninformed, we know that many teenagers actually work more than their studies would allow.  Part time work for teens: 75% of all teens would work if given the opportunity. Among those who do work, average 16-20 hours per week with 10% of them working over 30 hours each week in addition to school.  The benefits of work are developing an increased sense of responsibility, self-esteem, competence, and independence.  The challenges are that jobs are usually repetitive, routine, and low paying.  Studies consistently indicate that students who work more than 20 hours a week will pay for it in terms of academic failure and low achievement, while reports also indicate that more and more teenagers and college students are working more than 20 hours per week.  The dilemma: everything costs more, especially college tuition, and work to help lower the need for student loans interferes with school work, putting the entire college endeavor in jeopardy.

In terms of actual growth in vocational fields (see http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2007/dec/wk5/art04.htm) The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees growth in your fields of study - specifically over the 2006-16 decade, professional and related occupations and service occupations are expected to grow faster than any other occupational group. Employment in each of those two major occupational groups is projected to increase by 17 percent, compared with 10 percent for overall employment. Within professional and related occupations, computer and mathematical science occupations are projected to grow by 25 percent—more than twice as fast as the average for all occupations. But growth is projected to be slower than it was during the previous decade as the software industry matures and as routine work is increasingly outsourced abroad. Fast growth in community and social services occupations reflects an aging population expected to require assistance from social service workers.

This accounts for over half the growth in expected 8.1 million jobs.  Of course, these projections are from 2007 before the breakdown of some of our financial institutions in late 2008. This brings up an important set of points to make. 

How to Get a Job after finishing college with a degree in Family or Child Development. 
First some points to which all college graduates should attend:

Interpersonal Skills Development
Develop a Professional Appearance for interviews - neat clean clothes appropriate for the work, a nice smile, and pay attention to patterns of speech. Employers are going to be ready to train you to do the specific work they need, and they are counting on you to be ready to learn the practical aspects of the job.  Be ready to sell yourself as that person - bright, eager to learn, ready to give back to the community.
Consider the values they are looking for (taken from a job performance questionnaire): :


  •     How well does the worker complete tasks?
  •     Does the employee satisfy your performance standards?
  •     Works independently
  •     Works at job consistently
  •     Works at expected rate
  •     Completes acceptable work
  •     Carries out instructions
  •     Provides timely information about absence, tardiness, or desired time off
  •     Provides job-related information to other employees
  •     Does not disrupt or interrupt others
  •     Seeks clarification for instructions
  •     Gets necessary information
  •     Arrives at work on time
  •     Anticipates what needs to be done next
  •     Offers help to co-workers
  •     Responds appropriately to criticism
  •     Expresses appreciation to co-workers
  •     Conversation does not interfere with work
  •     Apologizes as necessary
  •     Acknowledges what others are saying
  •     Uses social amenities
Develop basic computer skills word processing, typing skills, and maybe some familiarity with a spreadsheet are almost a necessity.
Develop organization skills by learning to work efficiently
Learn to visualize

Your Credentials:
Major, Minors, and Certificates for Special Training.
Use your time in college to acquire more than one credential (your diploma). Use your elective credits to qualify for majors, minors, and certification programs.
Use your internship to gain entry into the work that you want to do.
Volunteer your time in places that interest you. Young people are usually, by definition, inexperienced. Your internship is a way to get experience fast. Read the want-ads in the newspaper long before you need a job.
Find the jobs you think you'd like to have, and arrange for a pre-employment interview. Find out what it takes from the specific employer's point of view.

Resume and Samples of your abilities
Make up a portfolio of your skills, written work, special projects (such as your internship report), and be ready to supply a copy on request.
Put together a professional page on the internet that includes your resume, and portfolio.

As you begin to look for employment, use all your resources, friends who have jobs, newspapers, the people you know through internship and volunteer contacts.
And don't forget your advisers, major professors, internship supervisors, and others who know you and your work ethic. 

Start looking for your job before you need it by asking for pre-employment interviews. When ready, go on all job interviews, whether or not you think you'd like to have the job.
Take the best job you can get and be ready to move up and away from it as better ones come along.

Some people have a resume that reads like this: For the last five years, I have been in college. It was fun and now it is time for me to go to work. I need a job, so please hire me.
Other's have this