Things that Go Bump in the Process: Cognitive Processes

Posted by: Jeffrey Landine on May 22, 2013 3:59 pm

This is our last blog in the series of helping to understand the sources of factors that help us to understand the phenomenon of reality shock. In the first three blogs, we introduced the concept of reality shock, outlined a theory to help explain the sources of oversight that lead to dissatisfaction, and identified three such sources. In this blog, we deal with the last of these sources that of the cognitive processes used to make the “fit” between what the individual brings and what the occupational environment requires. 

One of these processes involves the cognitive processes of assimilation and differentiation of occupational information.  For example, individuals, who have interests and abilities that orient them to choose work in the helping professions may neglect to consider the implication of their lack of control over the outcomes of their care. In health institutions, individuals admitted to health care facilities usually have relatively short stays, or they may experience death while there. Individuals, who work in these institutions, may find that the intrinsic reinforcement that comes from seeing their inputs leading to successful outcomes may experience dissatisfaction when working in such health care environments. Due to the patterns of care, health professionals often do not see patients throughout their illness, and do not know their recovery patterns. This lack of knowledge may lead to a source of dissatisfaction, because they may not receive the rewards of knowing that their inputs have led to successful outcomes. This source of dissatisfaction brings into focus the need for individuals to assimilate and differentiate the information used to make occupational decisions and the activities that provide them with intrinsic rewards. 

The second source of oversight lies with the lack of reality testing of the occupational roles and responsibilities. Individuals need to demonstrate realistic indicators of the competencies needed for success in the occupation before they make an occupational decision. If such individuals who rely on what they think they have versus what they can perform, they run the risk of not being able to perform the roles and responsibilities to the degree of competence needed for productivity on the job. For example, students aspiring to work with animals need to demonstrate favorable experience of working with both large and small animals before entering the workplace. This issue highlights the need for career counsellors to help individuals identify the skills needed in the occupation and the sources of evidence that indicate their clients can master these skills. Without these two components, individuals run the risk of entering the occupation with lots of declarative knowledge but little procedural knowledge of how to apply the information.

The last source of oversight concerns the individual and the factors they choose for making their decision about an occupation. There are a number of factors to consider when making an occupational choice, such as occupational interest, ability, educational requirements, salary, future prospects, mobility, duties required on the job, benefits offered. For example, if a student mainly focuses on the factor of future prospects for an occupation and not their occupational interest in the line of work, they may choose an occupation that they are able to prepare for and enter only to find that they made an occupational choice based on factors that may not produce much satisfaction. We suggest that individuals place emphasis on factors like occupational interest, ability, values and lifestyle when making choices. We think these factors lead to optimizing the fit between the individual and his/her occupational environment.

Occupational decision making can be viewed as a projection of the individual into the future.  Individuals make choices based on what they think will bring them satisfaction and productivity in the work site. We suggest that career counsellors help their clients identify the indicators from the client’s background including declarative and procedural knowledge that point to the tasks required in the chosen work environment. By doing this, career counsellors help their clients to understand and perceive the “fit” between the individual’s characteristics and the needs of the work environment.

BY:  John Stewart and Jeff Landine

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

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