According to Holland’s (1997) theory of vocational choices, congruence between personality and occupational environment makes possible optimal development of a person’s abilities and will result in fairly long-term satisfaction, motivation, and stable career path. Persons with a more advanced identity development – that is, people who are more aware of their interests and skills – are in addition better able to make more congruent career choices. This study tested these theses, following Marcia’s (1993) ego identity status model.
The study data was from the longitudinal study, “Pathways from Late Childhood to Adulthood (LifE),” which provides data on the life courses of 1,527 persons from the age of 12 to 35.
The study found that the pace of identity development depended upon duration of schooling: Persons who were in school for more years showed a less advanced occupational identity development. Also when controlling for this school system effect, identity development in adolescence predicted the continuity (discontinuity) of career course: Identity diffusion led to more career changes; identity foreclosure led to more constancy.
In general, from the point of view of similarity among occupations, careers are characterized by marked continuity. After 20 years, 75% of the participants were still working in the same or only slightly different fields of work. If changes in the occupational field were made, they more frequently reflected status-related career than any subject-matter reorientation in the narrower sense.
No associations could be demonstrated between the interplay of identity development and career choice and indicators of occupational success such as satisfaction or motivation. Apparently there are many routes to desired vocational situations.