The role of social context and serendipitous events in career decision making

Jim E. H. Bright, Robert G. L. Pryor, Sharon Wilkenfeld, Joanna Earl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


The role of contextual and unplanned factors on career decision-making was explored. Six hundred and fifty one university students at all levels were surveyed to collect data on career intentions, current enrolments, perceptions of influence of family, friends, teachers and the media, the role of serendipitous events and the education and current work of their family members. Results indicated that students perceived family and teachers to be significant influences on their career decisions. Furthermore, distal influences such as the media and web-based information were also significant. Students' current course enrolments and career intentions were significantly more likely to be in interest categories congruent with their father's job. Unplanned and serendipitous events were very commonly perceived to influence career decisions. The results are interpreted as providing support for an open systems theory of career decision-making. Practical counselling and future research implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-36
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


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