The purpose of this thesis was twofold; first, to develop and test a model of career outcomes and second, to gain a greater understanding of workers in the 45 years and older age group. To achieve these aims a series of four studies was carried using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. It was decided to concentrate the research on the 45 years and over age group for the following reasons. First, with the anticipated ageing of the population this group is set to become increasingly important in the workforce. Second, although the developmentally based theorists have always taken a lifespan approach, most empirical work in this area has concentrated on the early to middle career stages. Third, recent trends in career development literature have focussed on special groups such as women, ethnic minorities and older workers. This research focuses specifically on the special sub-population, adult workers in mid to late career.
Participants in Studies 3 and 4 which form the main data gathering sections of the research were all drawn from a single organisation, the Queensland Department of Education. The main disadvantage to using a single organisation sample is that the results of the research cannot be generalised across all workers in the 45 years and over age group. By limiting the sample to a single organisation, however, potential problems caused by different work practices and expectations between organisations and industries are removed. Consequently, it becomes possible to compare more accurately the work experiences and outcomes of individuals.
The model which was developed and tested consists of two parts; a core model and an expanded model. The core model comprises five work related variables. It is designed to eliminate, in the first instance, the effects of demographic variables such as age, gender and education on career achievements. On the input side of the model are the influencing variables while on the output side of the model are the success variables. Three variables were developed and measured on the input side of the model: employment age, which refers to the number of years a person has been employed in total; vocational age, the number of years which they have been employed in their current profession; and career type. For the purposes of this thesis a new career type typology was developed which is both non-age and non-gender specific and which allows for both traditio.ial and non-traditional career patterns. On the output side of the model, career outcomes are measured in terms of objective success and subjective success. Objective success is measured in terms of the respondent's job title, job classification and salary. Subjective success refers to the extent to which a person feels that they have been successful in their career and was developed specifically for use in this research. The expanded model uses the core model as its base but introduces additional non-work influences. Specifically, it includes gender, age and education variables.
The models developed for this research were derived from issues raised in the literature. The empirical work designed to test the models was carried out as a series of four progressive research studies. Study 1 focussed on the development of the variable subjective success. After reviewing the literature an existing measure of subjective success was not found. Consequently, a measurement scale had to be designed for use in this research. Thus, the purpose of Study 1 was to develop an appropriate scale and to test it for both reliability and validity.
The focus of Study 2 was the design and pilot study of a questionnaire to be used in the main study. The purpose of Study 2 was first, to check the questionnaire for readability and face validity, and second, to ensure that all the variables from the models were being measured appropriately. Based on feedback from the pilot study sample several changes to the questionnaire were made.
Study 3 was a large scale mail out survey of 284 Queensland Department of Education employees. Its purpose was to test both the core and expanded models of career outcomes and to provide a bank of data describing the typical careers of employees aged 45 years and over. This data was analysed both descriptively and in terms of relationships between key variables. A LISREL analysis was then conducted to determine how well the model derived from the literature explained variations in career outcomes. While the core model alone provided the best explanation of career outcomes, several adjustments were made to the relationships contained in the expanded model to improve the fit.
Study 4 was a qualitative follow up study consisting of 30 in-depth interviews with Departmental personnel. The purpose of these interviews was to expand on some of the findings from the quantitative analysis of the survey data thereby gaining a deeper understanding of the target population. Specifically it focussed on the question of gender differences in perceptions and expectations of success.
Overall the combined findings of these studies indicate that gender continues to be a major influence on long term career outcomes. In particular, those women who have taken time out of the work force to raise families are significantly less successful in objective terms than both men and those women who have experienced continuous careers. Interestingly, however, there were no significant differences between how successful women perceived themselves to be when compared to men despite the clear objective differences.
The question as to why women feel so successful relative to men was the focus of Study 4. From the interviews conducted it emerged that men and women tend to have different expectations of success. Also, it appears that they perceive the pressure to succeed in the work place differently with men feeling that they should continually strive for promotion while women place a stronger emphasis on lifestyle and the intrinsic rewards of work.
In summary, this thesis developed and tested a model of career outcomes on a sample of public sector employees. The findings of these tests, combined with the qualitative findings of Study 4, indicate that while certain experience variables such as time in the work force play an important role in determining final career outcomes, gender remains a significant influence on career success.