In one of our previous blogs, Jeff and I outlined three sources of oversight to account for the phenomenon of reality shock, a phenomenon that is used to describe why individuals, who made seemingly “good” decisions to enter an occupation, experienced a great deal of dissatisfaction after working within that occupation. We have chosen to consider reality shock with the “person-environment fit” model; that is, a model that examines the degree to which unique characteristics of the person and the requirements needed by job “fit” together to bring sufficient satisfaction for the person and productivity for the work environment. In our last blog we highlighted some of the difficulties in individuals’ perceptions of what was chosen and what was experienced on the job. We refer to these as sources of oversight that can take place during the time between making, preparing for and entry into the occupation.
In this blog we want to focus on oversight coming from the workplace and the differences between what was anticipated and what was experienced. Individuals choose occupations by considering the benefits or reinforcers that are provided by an occupation. These reinforcers may be intrinsic ones such as satisfying interests and abilities or they may be extrinsic ones such as holidays, pay and employment benefits such as health care or educational study leaves. The source of dissatisfaction may occur when the individuals are implementing their roles and responsibilities on the job, and come to realize that these reinforcers are not as strong as they appeared to be when they made their occupational choice. There may be other factors that produce more dissatisfaction. This discrepancy highlights the need for the individual understanding their reinforcers and how these lead to personal satisfaction on the job. Given the relative young age at which individuals make this choice, it is easy to understand that they may not have had enough life experiences to appreciate this information in their occupational decision-making. As well, it highlights the importance in career planning of helping individuals consider their unique sources of satisfaction and how these relate to the occupation providing these.
The second source of oversight concerns the changing responsibilities of the workplace. Workplace competencies change quickly in this high skilled and technological age and often individuals are not kept abreast of these changes. While the individual may have had some experience in the workplace to help them make their decision, the actual performance of the job’s roles and responsibilies may be much different. For example, every teacher has had many years of experience with schooling but their experience as a student and as a teacher may be quite different. However, the requirements of teaching all students change and demand more and more of teachers’ time. This source of dissatisfaction highlights the need for continually updating the requirements expected in the workplace.
The last source of oversight with this variable lies with those individuals who have to make an alternative choice because they were not admitted to a pre-service education program of their first choice due to competition or lack of meeting the entrance requirements. For example a student may have all the competencies for working in the health professions. Their first choice may have been nursing and the alternate one may have been teaching. However, individuals who did not get into the nursing program but were admitted to a teaching program may not have considered the nature of helping in either occupation. Nurses meet the short-term needs of individuals whereas teachers meet the long-term needs. The difficulty is that in teaching if a teacher encounters students with whom they have some difficulty, they must stay with that student for 10 months while a nurse need only spend one or two weeks with such a patient depending on the nature of the illness and recovery. If the person lacks the long term classroom management skills to develop good working relationships with students, then the person is likely to experience dissatisfaction. This issue highlights the need for individuals to consider carefully the nature of the work required within the occupation and whether they have the skills and motivation to meet these required by the nature of the work being implemented.
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