Can I do this?

Posted by: John Stewart on June 17, 2011 1:09 pm

We have been writing about metadimensions of the self-concept system.  Since individuals have many self-concepts (not just one), it is possible to distinguish between a self-concept and a self-concept system. More specifically, the vocational self-concept system consists of the thoughts individuals have about their perceived traits that are considered important to the work role. In this presentation, we focus on self-efficacy and the ways perceived self-efficacy can influence the vocational decision-making process.

Self-efficacy is defined as individuals’ beliefs about their competencies to perform behaviors necessary to accomplish a particular task. Bandura popularized this construct and it is a major component in Social Cognitive Career Theory.  Further, self-efficacy is used to explain some of the major differences between males and females in their academic and occupational decision-making.

Self-efficacy involves a number of interrelated self-opinions specific to a particular task that is connected to outcome expectations. Outcome expectations are defined as ideas about the results of performing a particular behavior.  These two constructs interact and influence the vocational decision-making process.  Self-efficacy is concerned with perceived competencies whereas outcome expectations focus on possible results of performing certain behaviors.  

Self-efficacy is interrelated with a number of variables important to vocational decision-making including such variables as interest development, perceived abilities, vocational goals, and persistence to achieve these goals (Lent, Brown & Hackett, 2002).  Individuals engage in activities they perform well, which interactively strengthens their opinions of their abilities. When these abilities are related to work, the stronger the perceived abilities, the more persistent the person is likely to be to find ways to use these abilities in performing an occupation.  

Self-efficacy beliefs play a significant role in how individuals use their competencies.  For example, when individuals underestimate their self-efficacy, they tend to give up in their occupational pursuit too easily, avoid challenges, or they set occupational goals that are more easily obtained but not necessarily a good fit between their personal qualities and the needs of the work environment.  Individuals who overestimate their self-efficacy tend to take on tasks for which they are ill prepared and thus increase their chances of failure and discouragement.  Ideally, self-efficacy beliefs that moderately exceed a person’s current competency levels are the best. These confident self-beliefs enable individuals to take on challenges that tend to encourage additional skill development.

The counsellor’s task is to assess self-efficacy beliefs early in the counseling process (Kidd, 2006).  This task can be accomplished by using questions concerned with the client’s perceptions of their ability to accomplish past activities or why certain activities have been avoided.  Self-efficacy can also be assessed using some measures such as the Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale or the Skills Confidence Inventory (Kidd, 2006).  Counsellors help their clients form self-efficacy beliefs based on reasonable evidence about the presence or absence of perceived abilities.  Realistic self-efficacy beliefs serve the client well in making and achieving occupational goals and help to facilitate vocational decision-making.


Kidd, J. M. (2006). Understanding career counseling: Theory, research and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd.

 Savickas, M. L. (2002). Career construction: A developmental theory of vocational behavior. In D. Brown and Associates (Eds.), Career choice and development (4th ed.) (pp. 149-205). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D. & Hackett, G. (2002). Social cognitive career theory. In D. Brown and Associates (Eds), Career choice and development (4th ed.) (pp. 225-311). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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