Decisional Difficulties on the Way to Occupational Choice

Posted by: John Stewart on February 21, 2012 4:08 pm

Many clients express concerns about their inability to crystalize a vocational choice.  In the last two blogs we have described two processes, identification and differentiation, that help prepare developing adolescents to make choices about their occupational pursuits.   The process of crystallization enables individuals to form tentative ideas about where they fit into the occupational world.  During this process, previous information and attitudes about self and the occupational world are synthesized and narrowed to form of tentative ideas about occupational choices.  Super saw this expression of tentative choices as an implementation of the self-concept system in the occupational world.  

However, not everyone reaches this phase in their vocational development with all their previous information about self and the work world neither clearly understood nor integrated.  Consequently, due to this individual variability, individual decision-makers may experience difficulties in this crystallization process.  These decisional difficulties may include unrealism, indifference, indecisiveness and indecision (Savickas, 2002).  In this blog we want to focus on indecision.

Both indecisiveness and indecision are experienced as an inability to specify an occupational category or choice.  Generally speaking, indecisiveness is viewed as a personality trait characterized by decision-making difficulties in many areas of life, whereas indecision is viewed resulting from a lack of self-knowledge and/or skills to make a vocational decision. There are a number of issues individuals who experience indecision may face.  They may lack clarity in the self-system and not perceive their self-information with enough clarity to implement their personal traits in the occupational world.  Further, they may possess some attitudes that tend to block their efforts to make decisions.  For example, they may have occupational goals but are unable to achieve them due to lack of financial resources, or they are unable to put forth the effort to reach these goals due to low levels of self-efficacy. Further, they may consider a number of occupational possibilities, all of which lead to the perception of a good fit between their self-system and the work world but not be able to make a choice between them.

One of the ways to deal with indecision is to help individuals view this experience as positive and follow an approach known as planned happenstance. Taking this perspective, counsellors help individuals to recognize that this time in their lives may present positive possibilities due to chance events.  This helps individuals to view chance events as opportunities to look at a number of different paths and viewing this time as a chance to learn from their experiences in their efforts to implement their possible choices.  These chance opportunities enable individuals to continue to explore alternatives and to test their perceived blocks such as lack of self-efficacy. In other words counsellors help them to become more open-minded about their indecision.  Using planned happenstance (Sharf, 2006), counsellors teach individuals to embrace curiosity, persistence and flexibility about exploring new possibilities, taking risks such as engaging in job interviews, and changing attitudes and beliefs.  Ideally, these traits will lead to optimism about the crystallization process. And, by encouraging individuals to pursue new possibilities and/or taking risks, they will experience some positive pay offs in the immediate future.


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.

Sharf, R. S. (20100. Applying career development theory to counseling (5th ed.) (pp. 368-393).   Toronto, ON: Nelson Education, Ltd.

Super, D. (1982). Self-concepts in career development: Theory and findings after thirty years. Paper presented as the 20th International Congress of Applied Psychology, Edinburgh, Scotland.

BY: Jeff Landine and John Stewart

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

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