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Research: Helping those with career decision-making difficulties

Did you ever find it challenging to decide the right career for yourself?

I did when I was a student and even later in my mid-career. The reality is that many of us, especially when we were still college students, have difficulty in making the decisions regarding the major and our potential career paths. Some of us may still experience such a struggle even after we have completed a degree program.

The difficulty of making a career decision as well as the corresponding psychological and emotional compression have resulted in a frequent job change and high turnover among the recent graduates.

The hospitality and tourism industry, for example, has long been struggling with attracting and retaining talents. The accommodation and food services segment has the highest “quits rate” among all industry sectors, defined as “the number of quits during the entire month as a percent to total employment” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Adolescents and college students are hence highly encouraged to seek career advice at school. Hospitality students often counsel with their professors and instructors, especially those with managerial experiences and good industrial connections.

A good number of professors and instructors, however, might not have gone through formal training in career counseling to assist students with career decision-making difficulties (CDD). Studies that provide insightful information regarding what leads to  CDD can be helpful in this regard.

The research study

The hypothesis

Through a review of the current literature, we proposed one hypothesis for statistical analysis:

Career-decision-making self-efficacy (CDMSE) and career decision-making profiles (CDMP) have the predictive ability of CDD when controlling the background information (i.e., work experience in the hospitality industry, transfer status, upper- or lower-division classes, and work hours). 

The data and the analysis

We administrated a survey with the students enrolled in selected classes from two hospitality programs, one at Cal Poly Pomona and the other at Kent State. We distributed a total of 420 surveys and received 273 valid questionnaires, at a return rate of 65%.

The survey comprises two sections. The first section lists questions about the participants’ background information. The second section includes the questions designed to measure the three key constructs, namely CDD (36 items for 10 difficulty categories), CDMSE (25 items for 5 subscales), and CDMP (36 items for 12 profiles).

The above scales were adopted from the literature in career counseling. After assessing the reliability and validity of the scales, we performed descriptive analysis, correlation analysis, and sequential regression analysis.

Highlights of the findings

Descriptive Statistics

·      In terms of CDD, General Indecisiveness, Lack of Information about Various Occupations, and Dysfunctional Beliefs were considered the top areas that affect students’ decision-making process.
·      Self-Appraisal and Planning were rated the highest among the CDMSE subscales.
·      In CDMP subscales, Aspiration for an Ideal Occupation, Locus of Control, and Effort Invested in the Process received the highest mean scores. At the same time, Information Gathering, Procrastination, and Dependence on Others were rated the lowest.

Results of the correlation analysis

·      Students holding a full-time job during school years rated lower on CDD.
·      The longer work hours students had, the higher they rated on CDMSE.
·      Students who rated higher in CDMSE tended to experience lower CDD.
·      When looking at the subscale of CDMP, CDD is positively related to Procrastination, Information Gathering, Dependence on Others, Desire to Please Others, and Intuitive, but negatively related to Speed of Making the Final Decision, Locus of Control, and Aspiration for an Ideal Occupation.

Results of the sequential regression analysis

·      CDMSE and CDMP explained 27.2% and 25.6% of the variance in CDD, respectively.
·      CDMSE – Goal Selection (negatively or “–”), CDMP – Locus of Control (“–”), CDMP – Effort Invested in the Process (positively or “+”), CDMP – Procrastination (“+”), and CDMP – Speed of Making the Final Decision (“–”) were significant predictors of CDD.

The implications

Now that we have found out the significant contributors to CDD, we can make suggestions to help those struggling with making a career decision. For example, because Lack of Readiness – General Indecisiveness, Lack of Information – Occupations, and Lack of Readiness – Dysfunctional Beliefs were rated the top three subscales affecting CDD, career counselors and advisors may:

·      Support students with workshops regarding decision making
·      Share real examples about how others learn from their mistakes and grow from failures
·      Conduct a series of workshop, ideally each workshop or series for one specific career track (e.g., career tracks in hotels, restaurants, event management, and food retails)
·      Invite alumni or guest speakers of different career tracks to share their work experience and career paths
·      Encourage them to explore multiple career options and let them know there is more than just one way to succeed
·      Avoid adding pressure to students in making a career decision by saying that their destination will solely be determined by their career decision

Referring to the results of the sequential regression analysis, academic programs may

·      Encourage students to gain more work experience if it is not affecting their academic performance, such as taking multiple summer internships
·      Assist students in assessing their interests and provide the career options that align with their interests
·      Provide the career options that align with students’ preferred lifestyle
·      For those who tend to attribute their success to the external factors, share with them the inspirational real-life examples and let them know their hard work can help them reach their goal
·      Encourage those who have already invested much time in the decision-making process to setback from time to time, allowing them to reflect on what they have achieved before making a new move
·      Help those who usually wait until the last minute to set a timetable and make sure they complete the tasks according to the timetable
·      Follow up with those who typically wait until the last minute to do things to ensure they begin completing certain tasks before the deadlines
·      Allow those who can make quick decisions without difficulty to make their own decisions with minimal advising
·      Provide tips on how to make quick decisions for those who are incapable of doing so

Recalling your own experience, did you ever struggle with making a career decision? If so, what challenged did you face when making a career decision? How did you deal with those challenges at the end?

Note: This article is also available on; the picture was downloaded from Blog Arc Optimizer


  1. Miu Hishii – HRT 3020 Section #03
    This article is very interesting for me because actually I am feeling difficulty in career decision making now. First, I envy students in the US because they tend to have a good connection with their professors and closer with them than university students in Japan. In addition, Cal Poly students have some opportunities to know about the job through programs as you mentioned. Of course, I understand that there are differences between the US and Japan in the aspect of the way of job hunting. But we students in Japan have to do more efforts to know the detail of the job and get connection diligently than students in the US. Then I think students in the US including CPP should notice the goodness of the condition and use it effectively.

  2. Amelia ChattertonApril 12, 2020 at 2:30 PM

    I found this article to be interesting for many personal reasons. I may not be able to speak for all, but some of us still struggle and wonder if this career is right for us, especially with the extreme downturn from the global pandemic that restricts almost everything hospitality based. Though while I agree that I can be difficult for people to pick a career or make a clear decision, I would like to see further research into the subscales of CDMP. With so little data, it would be hard to not personal or stigmas into what is positively related to CDD, or use of other data research. When it comes to having, a difficult time picking a career, it may not be that we have a hard time picking, but having a hard time committing. A factor I would like to be considered for this would be something dealing with the generational attention span, and characteristic traits that may be a factor in CDD.

    Amelia Chatterton
    HRT 3020-01

  3. Kodi Tang- HRT 3020 Sec 3
    I found this article very interesting as I have struggled with a major career decision in my first year at CPP. I orginally was on a straight path from middle school to attend a military academy whether it be West Point or the equivalent in other branches. However, this all changed when the opportunity didn't turn out the way I wanted. The major challenge I dealt with during that time was my passion as I was very passionate about cooking and food since I trained as a sous but was also very passionate and loved leading and adventure. Another major challenge was the big what if in either fields and what my future with. In the end what helped me deal with those with was just to explore more in both areas and seak guidance from mentors on both sides. I believe that this study should be more prevalent to educators at all levels as it would comepletely change how our education system prepares our youth for the " real world".

  4. Victoria Macias- HRT 3020 Sec. 01

    This article hits close to home because, in my second year of college, I had changed my major from Biology to Hospitality, which was completely different. The task of choosing a specific career path that will affect your life for an 18-year-old can seem very daunting, especially when students do not have that support. One thing that worked for me was taking a personality test to see which career paths best suit me and my work style. Once I saw that the hospitality industry was the one most compatible, I took a trip to the Collins College. As soon as I got there, I was welcomed immediately, and that is when I knew I wanted to change my major officially.

  5. Sarah Navarro- HRT 3020 Sec. 1
    This article was really interesting because many people are able to relate. I had a difficult time picking my major before coming to Cal Poly Pomona. This was because I didn't have much knowledge about all the other majors out there. My high school had workshops about majors but they would only focus on the most common majors. I would feel lost. I was almost close to being a business major. Thankfully, I was able to learn about hospitality after doing much research with my brother. Occasionally, I do question if I picked the right major for myself. However, I am quickly reminded why I picked this major when I step onto Collins College.

  6. Bianca Medina - HRT 3020 Section 2

    Reading this article made me realize I am not alone. I knew I wanted to do something within the hospitality industry, but the difficulty was to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to start off with serving or hosting, but had a hard time reaching out for interviews. I first started with customer service in retail to work out my communication skills (worked as a cashier for one), from there it gave me a boost on how to deal with individuals in the real world. I still have a lot to learn but as more time goes on, the more opportunities and experience I will face.

  7. David Barillas 3020-02April 19, 2020 at 8:04 PM

    Reading this study was fairly interesting as I too have struggled with this very problem. I think that it is an important thing to research because if we are able to pinpoint why our students are indecisive then we can combat it. Through helping students decide on careers we are not only helping them, but also invigorating our industry by providing more knowledgeable and new people. I found it interesting that those that held a full time job had a lesser career decision making difficulties than that of their peers.


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