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Person-environment congruence in relation to career change and career persistenceIntroductionStudies failing to support Holland rsquo s propositionsSummary of empirical findingsLimitations in the research and significance of the current studyMethodsSampleMeasuresParticipant informationVocational personalityVocational environmentCongruenceCareer change/career persistence intentProcedureResultsDiscussionReferencesPerson-environment congruence in relationto career change and career persistenceRoss Donohue*Department of Management, Monash University, Caulfield, AustraliaReceived 3 June 2005Available online 21 February 2006AbstractThis study examined Holland’s theoretical proposition, that personality-work environment con-gruence influences career stability and change, with a sample of 212 career changers (respondentswho expressed an intent to change career and had engaged in preliminary career change activity)and 249 career persisters (respondents who indicated an intent to remain in their current career).Independent groups ANCOVA (controlling for age and current career tenure) indicated that careerpersisters scored higher on congruence than career changers, however, the effect size was within thesmall to medium range. Repeated-measures ANCOVA indicated, with a medium effect size, thatcareer changers moved towards careers that were more congruent with their personality profiles thantheir current careers. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.Ó 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.Keywords: Congruence; Career change; Career persistence1. IntroductionHolland’s (1997) theory proposes that people are attracted to work environments thatconform to their personality orientation. Holland referred to the alignment between per-sonality and work environment, as congrue nce. He proposed that individuals, whose per-sonalities are poorly matched to their work environments, are more likely to changecareers than their congruent counterparts. Additionally, Holland hypothesized that when0001-8791/$ - see front matter Ó 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2005.11.002*Fax: +61 3 9903 2718.E-mail address: [email protected] of Vocational Behavior 68 (2006) 504–515www.elsevier.com/locate/jvbpeople change careers, they tend to move towards more congruent environments. The pur-pose of the current study was to examine the validity of these two propositions.While Holland’s (1997) theory has attracted con siderable research attention, the major-ity of these studies have tended to focus on the influence of congruence on job satisfactionor performance. Although research examining congruence and career choice has generallybeen supportive of Holland’s (1973) framework, studies investigating congruence andcareer change/career persistence have produced mixed findings.Bruch and Krieshok (1981) attempted to examine the congruence hypothesis in relationto vocational change and persistence in a study involving 158 male freshmen engineeringstudents. In this study, the personality orientation of participants was assessed via the VPI.As the engineering curriculum emphasized theoretical mathematics and science, partici-pants were deemed to be studying in a congruent environment if their VPI high-point codewas Investigative. Participants with other high-point codes were classified as incongruent.Bruch and Krieshok tracked participants in three successive classes for 2 years. The resultsof the study indicated that congruent participants were significantly more likely to persistin their classes than those who were incongruent.Rose and Elton (1982) conducted a study involving 280 college women with stablevocational choices and 327 college women with unstable vocational choices over a 4-yearperiod. In this study, congru ence was operationalized as the match between participants’highest score on the VPI and the primary Holland code for their intende d major as a fresh-man at college. In order to be classified as vocationally stabl e, participants had to haveremained within their field major over the 4 years of their studies. Rose and Elton foundthat 39% of women in the stable group had made congruent vocational choices, while only19% of women in the unstable group had made congruent vocational choices. They sug-gested that these findings provided tentative support for the notion that congruence isinfluential in the prediction of career change and persistence.Martin and Bartol (1986) examined Holland’s (1985a) proposition regarding congru-ence and career change with a sample of 168 new MBA students. In this study, Hollandcodes that matched participants’ individual major study area, within their business degree,were used as a measure of environment and VPI scores were employed to assess person-ality. The Iachan Index (Iachan, 1984), a 28 level measure based on comparisons of par-ticipants’ three-letter personality codes and their three-letter environment codes, wasemployed to determine congruence. A modest, though significant, correlation (r = .16,p < .05) was found between congruence and MBA program completion.Gottfredson and Holland (1990) conducted a study examining congruence in relation tocareer change with a sample of 126 bank tellers over a 4-month period. In this study, par-ticipants’ personal ity types were assessed through admini stration of the VPI, while thebank teller code (CES) was derived from the Occupations Finder (Holland, 1985c). Cor-relation analysis indicated that, although congruence was positively related to persistence(r = .13, p < .05), the strength of the association was weak.Similarly, Meir, Esformes, and Friedland (1994) examined 774 predominantly male jobcandidates seeking employment in business, organizational, and technology fields. In thisstudy, vocational interest was assessed via the Course Interest Inventory (CII; Meir, 1975)and occupations were categorized according to Roe’s (1956) classification system (a typol-ogy which is similar, though not identical to Holla nd’s framework). Participants wereassigned congruence scores based on the proximal distance between their highest interestscore on the CII and their field of occu pation. Congruence was positively related to careerR. Donohue / Journal of Vocational Behavior 68 (2006) 504–515 505stability (persistence) for those employed in business (r = .23, p < .05) and technology(r = .19, p < .05) fields, but not for those employed in


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