Becoming a Supervisor: Qualitative Findings on Self-Efficacy Beliefs of Doctoral Student Supervisors-in-Training

Melodie H. Frick, Harriet L. Glosoff

Counselor education doctoral students are influenced by many factors as they train to become supervisors. One of these factors, self-efficacy beliefs, plays an important role in supervisor development. In this phenomenological, qualitative research, 16 counselor education doctoral students participated in focus groups and discussed their experiences and perceptions of self-efficacy as supervisors. Data analyses revealed four themes associated with self-efficacy beliefs: ambivalence in the middle tier of supervision, influential people, receiving performance feedback, and conducting evaluations. Recommendations for counselor education and supervision, as well as future research, are provided.

Keywords: supervision, doctoral students, counselor education, self-efficacy, phenomenological, focus groups

Counselor education programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) require doctoral students to learn supervision theories and practices (CACREP, 2009). Professional literature highlights information on supervision theories (e.g., Bernard & Goodyear, 2009), supervising counselors-in-training (e.g., Woodside, Oberman, Cole, & Carruth, 2007), and effective supervision interventions and styles (e.g., Fernando & Hulse-Killacky, 2005) that assist with supervisor training and development. Until recently, however, few researchers have studied the experiences of counselor education doctoral students as they prepare to become supervisors (Hughes & Kleist, 2005; Limberg et al., 2013; Protivnak & Foss, 2011) or “the transition from supervisee to supervisor” (Rapisarda, Desmond, & Nelson, 2011, p. 121). Specifically, an exploration of factors associated with the self-efficacy beliefs of counselor education doctoral student supervisors is warranted to expand this topic and enhance counselor education training of supervisor development.

Bernard and Goodyear (2009) described supervisor development as a process shaped by changes in self-perceptions and roles, much like counselors-in-training experience in their developmental stages. Researchers have examined factors that may influence supervisors’ development (e.g., experiential learning and the influence of feedback). For example, Nelson, Oliver, and Capps (2006) explored the training experiences of 21 doctoral students in two cohorts of the same counseling program and reported that experiential learning, the use of role-plays, and receiving feedback from both professors and peers were equally as helpful in learning supervision skills as the actual practice of supervising counselors-in-training. Conversely, a supervisor’s development may be negatively influenced by unclear expectations of the supervision process or dual relationships with supervisees, which may lead to role ambiguity (Bernard & Goodyear, 2009). For example, Nilsson and Duan (2007) examined the relationship between role ambiguity and self-efficacy with 69 psychology doctoral student supervisors and found that when participants received clear supervision expectations, they reported higher rates of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is one of the self-regulation functions in Bandura’s social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) and is a factor in Larson’s (1998) social cognitive model of counselor training (SCMCT). Self-efficacy, the differentiated beliefs held by individuals about their capabilities to perform (Bandura, 2006), plays an important role in counselor and supervisor development (Barnes, 2004; Cashwell & Dooley, 2001) and is influenced by many factors (Schunk, 2004). Along with the counselor’s training environment, self-efficacy beliefs may influence a counselor’s learning process and resulting counseling performance (Larson, 1998). Daniels and Larson (2001) conducted a quantitative study with 45 counseling graduate students and found that performance feedback influenced counselors’ self-efficacy beliefs; self-efficacy increased with positive feedback and decreased with negative feedback. Steward (1998), however, identified missing components in the SCMCT, such as the role and level of self-efficacy of the supervisor, the possible influence of a faculty supervisor, and doctoral students giving and receiving feedback to supervisees and members of their cohort. For example, results of both quantitative studies (e.g., Hollingsworth & Fassinger, 2002) and qualitative studies (e.g., Majcher & Daniluk, 2009; Nelson et al., 2006) indicate the importance of mentoring experiences and relationships with faculty supervisors to the development of doctoral students and self-efficacy in their supervisory skills.

During their supervision training, doctoral students are in a unique position of supervising counselors-in-training while also being supervised by faculty. For the purpose of this study, the term middle tier will be used to describe this position. This term is not often used in the counseling literature, but may be compared to the position of middle managers in the business field—people who are subordinate to upper managers while having the responsibility of managing subordinates (Agnes, 2003). Similar to middle managers, doctoral student supervisors tend to have increased responsibility for supervising future counselors, albeit with limited authority in supervisory decisions, and may have experiences similar to middle managers in other disciplines. For example, performance-related feedback as perceived by middle managers appears to influence their role satisfaction and self-efficacy (Reynolds, 2006). In Reynolds’s (2006) study, 353 participants who represented four levels of management in a company in the United States reported that receiving positive feedback from supervisors had an affirming or encouraging effect on their self-efficacy, and that their self-efficacy was reduced after they received negative supervisory feedback. Translated to the field of counselor supervision, these findings suggest that doctoral students who participate in tiered supervision and receive positive performance feedback may have higher self-efficacy.

Findings to date illuminate factors that influence self-efficacy beliefs, such as performance feedback, clear supervisor expectations and mentoring relations. There is a need, however, to examine what other factors enhance or detract from the self-efficacy beliefs of counselor education doctoral student supervisors to ensure effective supervisor development and training. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to build on previous research and further examine the experiences of doctoral students as they train to become supervisors in a tiered supervision model. The overarching research questions that guided this study included: (a) What are the experiences of counselor education doctoral students who work within a tiered supervision training model as they train to become supervisors? and (b) What experiences influenced their sense of self-efficacy as supervisors?

 

Method

 

Design

A phenomenological research approach was selected to explore how counselor education doctoral students experience and make meaning of their reality (Merriam, 2009), and to provide richer descriptions of the experiences of doctoral student supervisors-in-training, which a quantitative study may not afford. A qualitative design using a constructivist-interpretivist method provided the opportunity to interact with doctoral students via focus groups and follow-up questionnaires to explore their self-constructed realities as counselor supervisors-in-training, and the meaning they placed on their experiences as they supervised master’s-level students while being supervised by faculty supervisors. Focus groups were chosen as part of the design, as they are often used in qualitative research (Kress & Shoffner, 2007; Limberg et al., 2013), and multiple-case sampling increases confidence and robustness in findings (Miles & Huberman, 1994).

 

Participants

Sixteen doctoral students from three CACREP-accredited counselor education programs in the southeastern United States volunteered to participate in this study. These programs were selected due to similarity in supervision training among participants (e.g., all were CACREP-accredited, required students to take at least one supervision course, utilized a full-time cohort design), and were in close proximity to the principal investigator. None of the participants attended the first author’s university or had any relationships with the authors. Criterion sampling was used to select participants that met the criteria of providing supervision to master’s-level counselors-in-training and receiving supervision by faculty supervisors at the time of their participation. The ages of the participants ranged from 27–61 years with a mean age of 36 years (SD = 1.56). Fourteen of the participants were women and two were men; two participants described their race as African-American (12.5%), one participant as Asian-American (6.25%), 12 participants as Caucasian (75%), and one participant as “more than one ethnicity” (6.25%). Seven of the 16 participants reported having 4 months to 12 years of work experience as counselor supervisors (M = 2.5 years, SD = 3.9 years) before beginning their doctoral studies. At the time of this study, all participants had completed a supervision course as part of their doctoral program, were supervising two to six master’s students in the same program (M = 4, SD = 1.2), and received weekly supervision with faculty supervisors in their respective programs.

 

Researcher Positionality

In presenting results of phenomenological research, it is critical to discuss the authors’ characteristics as researchers, as such characteristics influence data collection and analysis. The authors have experience as counselors, counselor educators, and clinical supervisors. Both authors share an interest in understanding how doctoral students move from the role of student to the role of supervisor, especially when providing supervision to master’s students who may experience critical incidents (with their clients or in their own development). The first author became engaged when she saw the different emotional reactions of her cohort when faced with the gatekeeping process, whether the reactions were based on personality, prior supervision experience, or stressors from inside and outside of the counselor education program. She wondered how doctoral students in other programs experienced the aforementioned situations, what kind of structure other programs used to work with critical incidents that involve remediation plans, and if there were ways to improve supervision training. It was critical to account for personal and professional biases throughout the research process to minimize biases in the collection or interpretation of data. Bracketing, therefore, was an important step during analysis (Moustakas, 1994) to reduce researcher biases. The first author accomplished this by meeting with her dissertation committee and with the second author throughout the study, as well as using peer reviewers to assess researcher bias in the design of the study, research questions, and theme development.

 

Quality and Trustworthiness

To strengthen the rigor of this study, the authors addressed credibility, dependability, transferability and confirmability (Merriam, 2009). One way to reinforce credibility is to have prolonged and persistent contact with participants (Hunt, 2011). The first author contacted participants before each focus group to convey the nature, scope and reasons for the study. She facilitated 90-minute focus group discussions and allowed participants to add or change the summary provided at the end of each focus group. Further, information was gathered from each participant through a follow-up questionnaire and afforded the opportunity for participants to contact her through e-mail with additional questions or thoughts.

By keeping an ongoing reflexive journal and analytical memos, the first author addressed dependability by keeping a detailed account throughout the research study, indicating how data were collected and analyzed and how decisions were made (Merriam, 2009). The first author included information on how data were reduced and themes and displays were constructed, and the second author conducted an audit trail on items such as transcripts, analytic memos, reflection notes, and process notes connecting findings to existing literature.

Through the use of rich, thick description of the information provided by participants, the authors made efforts to increase transferability. In addition, they offered a clear account of each stage of the process as well as the demographics of the participants (Hunt, 2011) to promote transferability.

Finally, the first author strengthened confirmability by examining her role as a research instrument. Selected colleagues chosen as peer reviewers (Kline, 2008), along with the first author’s dissertation committee members, had access to the audit trail and discussed and questioned the authors’ decisions, further increasing the integrity of the design. Two doctoral students who had provided supervision and had completed courses in qualitative research, but who had no connection to the research study, volunteered to serve as peer reviewers. They reviewed the focus group protocol for researcher bias, read the focus group transcripts (with pseudonyms inserted) and questionnaires, and the emergent themes, to confirm or contest the interpretation of the data. Further, they reviewed the quotes chosen to support themes for richness of description and provided feedback regarding the textural-structural descriptions as they were being developed. Their recommendations, such as not having emotional reactions to participants’ comments, guided the authors in data collection and analysis.

 

Data Collection

Upon receiving approval from the university’s Institutional Review Board, the first author contacted the directors of three CACREP-accredited counselor education programs and discussed the purpose of the study, participants’ rights, and logistical needs. Program directors disseminated an e-mail about this study to their doctoral students, instructing volunteer participants to contact the first author about participating in the focus groups.

Within a two-week period, she conducted three focus groups—one at each counselor education program site. Each focus group included five to six participants and lasted approximately 90 minutes. She employed a semi-structured interview protocol consisting of 17 questions (see Appendix). The questions were based on an extensive literature review on counselor and supervisor self-efficacy studies (e.g., Bandura, 2006; Cashwell & Dooley, 2001; Corrigan & Schmidt, 1983; Fernando & Hulse-Killacky, 2005; Gore, 2006; Israelashvili & Socher, 2007; Steward, 1998; Tang et al., 2004). The initial questions were open and general at first, so as to not lead or bias the participants in their responses. As the focus groups continued, the first author explored more specific information about participants’ experiences as doctoral student supervisors, focusing questions around their responses (Kline, 2008). Conducting a semi-structured interview with participants ensured that she asked specific questions and addressed predetermined topics related to the focus of the study, while also allowing for freedom to follow up on relevant information provided by participants during the focus groups.

Approximately six to eight weeks after each focus group, participants received a follow-up questionnaire consisting of four questions: (a) What factors (inside and outside of the program) influence your perceptions of your abilities as a supervisor? (b) How do you feel about working in the middle tier of supervision (i.e., working between a faculty supervisor and the counselors-in-training that you supervise)? (c) What, if anything, could help you feel more competent as a supervisor? (d) How can your supervision training be improved? The purpose of the follow-up questions was to explore participants’ responses after they gained more experiences as supervisors and to provide a means for them to respond to questions about their supervisory experiences privately, without concern of peer judgment.

 

Data Analysis

 

Data analysis began during the transcription process, with analysis occurring simultaneously with the collection of the data. The first author transcribed, verbatim, the recording of each focus group and changed participant names to protect their anonymity. Data analysis was then conducted in three stages: first, data were analyzed to identify significant issues within each focus group; second, data were cross-analyzed to identify common themes across all three focus groups; and third, follow-up questionnaires were analyzed to corroborate established themes and to identify additional, or different themes.

During data analysis, a Miles and Huberman (1994) approach was employed by using initial codes from focus-group question themes. Inductive analysis occurred with immersion in the data by reading and rereading focus group transcripts. It was during this immersion process that the first author began to identify core ideas and differentiate meanings and emergent themes for each focus group. She accomplished data reduction by identifying themes in participants’ answers to the interview protocol and focus group discussions until saturation was reached, and displayed narrative data in a figure to organize and compare developed themes. Finally, she used deductive verification of findings with previous research literature. During within-group analysis, she identified themes if more than half (i.e., more than three participants) of a focus group reported similar experiences, feelings or beliefs. Likewise, in across-group analyses, she confirmed themes if statements made by more than half (more than eight) of the participants matched. There were three cases in which the peer reviewers and the first author had differences of opinion on theme development. In those cases, she made changes guided by the suggestions of the peer reviewers. In addition, she sent the final list of themes related to the research questions to the second author and other members of the dissertation committee for purposes of confirmability.

 

Results

 

Results of this phenomenological study revealed several themes associated with doctoral students’ perceptions of self-efficacy as supervisors (see Figure 1). Cross-group analyses are provided with participant quotes that are most relevant to each theme being discussed. Considerable overlap of four themes emerged across groups: ambivalence in the middle tier of supervision, influential people, receiving feedback, and conducting evaluations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1. Emergent themes of doctoral student supervisors’ self-efficacy beliefs. Factors identified by doctoral student as affecting their self-efficacy as supervisors are represented with directional, bold-case arrows from each theme toward supervisor self-efficacy; below themes are sub-themes in each group connected with non-directional lines.

 

Ambivalence in the Middle Tier of Supervision

All participants noted how working in the middle tier of supervision brought up issues about their roles and perceptions about their capabilities as supervisors. All 16 participants reported feeling ambivalent about working in the middle tier, especially in relation to their role as supervisors and about dealing with critical incidents with supervisees involving the need for remediation. What follows is a presentation of representative quotations from one or two participants in the emergent sub-themes of role uncertainty and critical incidents/remediation.

 

Role Uncertainty. Participants raised the issue of role uncertainty in all three focus groups. For example, one participant described how it felt to be in the middle tier by stating the following:

I think that’s exactly how it feels [to be in the middle] sometimes….not really knowing how much you know, what does my voice really mean? How much of a say do we have if we have big concerns? And is what I recognize really a big concern? So I think kind of knowing that we have this piece of responsibility but then not really knowing how much authority or how much say-so we have in things, or even do I have the knowledge and experience to have much say-so?

Further, another participant expressed uncertainty regarding her middle-tier supervisory role as follows:

[I feel a] lack of power, not having real and true authority over what is happening or if something does happen, being able to make those concrete decisions…Where do I really fit in here? What am I really able to do with this supervisee?…kind of a little middle child, you know really not knowing where your identity really and truly is.  You’re trying to figure out who you really are.

Participants also indicated difficulty discerning their role when supervising counselors-in-training who were from different specialty areas such as college counseling, mental health counseling, and school counseling. All participants stated that they had not had any specific counseling or supervision training in different tracks, which was bothersome for nine participants who supervised students in specialties other than their own. For example, one participant stated the following:

I’m a mental health counselor and worked in the community and I have two school counselor interns, and so it was one of my very first questions was like, what do I do with these people? ’Cause I’m not aware of the differences and what I should be guiding them on anything.

Another participant noted how having more information on the different counseling tracks (e.g., mental health, school, college) would be helpful:

We’re going to be counselor educators. We may find ourselves having to supervise people in various tracks and I could see how it would be helpful for us to all have a little bit more information on a variety of tracks so that we could know what to offer, or how things are a little bit different.

Working in the middle tier of supervision appeared to be vexing for focus group participants. They expressed feelings of uncertainty, especially in dealing with critical incidents or remediation of supervisees. In addition to defining their roles as supervisors in the middle tier, another sub-theme emerged in which participants identified how they wanted to have a better understanding of how remediation plans work and have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty supervisors in addressing critical incidents with supervisees.

 

Critical Incidents/Remediation. Part of the focus group discussion centered on what critical incidents participants had with their supervisees and how comfortable they were, or would be, in implementing remediation plans with their supervisees. All participants expressed concerns about their roles as supervisors when remediation plans were required for master’s students in their respective programs and were uncertain of how the remediation process worked in their programs. Thirteen of the 16 participants expressed a desire to be a part of the remediation process of their supervisees in collaboration with faculty supervisors. They discussed seeing this as an important way to learn from the process, assuming that as future supervisors and counselor educators they will need to be the ones to implement such remediation plans. For example, one participant explained the following:

If we are in the position to provide supervision and we’re doing this to enhance our professional development so in the hopes that one day we’re going to be in the position of counselor educators, let’s say faculty supervisors, my concern with that is how are we going to know what to do unless we are involved [in the remediation process] now? And so I feel like that should be something that we’re provided that opportunity to do it.

Another participant indicated that she felt not being part of the remediation process took away the doctoral student supervisors’ credibility:

I don’t have my license yet, and I’m not sure how that plays into when there is an issue with a supervisee, but I know when there is an issue, there is something we have to do if you have a supervisee who is not performing as well, then that’s kind of taken out of your hands and given to a faculty. So they’re like, ‘Yeah you are capable of providing supervision,’ but when there’s an issue it seems like you’re no longer capable.

Another participant noted wanting “to see us do more of the cases where we need to do remediation” in order to be better prepared in identifying critical incidents, thus feeling more capable in the role as supervisor. Discussion on the middle tier proved to be a topic participants both related to and had concerns about. In addition to talking about critical incidents and the remediation process, another emergent theme included people within the participants’ training programs who were influential to their self-efficacy beliefs as supervisors.

 

Influential People

When asked about influences they had from inside and outside of their training programs, all participants identified people and things (e.g., previous work experience, support of significant others, conferences, spiritual meditation, supervision literature) as factors that affected their perceived abilities as supervisors. The specific factors most often identified by more than half of the participants, however, were the influence of supervisors and supervisees in their training programs.

 

Supervisors. All participants indicated that interactions with current and previous supervisors influenced their self-efficacy as supervisors. Ten participants reported supervisors modeling their supervision style and techniques as influential. For example, in regard to watching supervision tapes of the faculty supervisors, one participant stated that it has “been helpful for me to see the stance that they [faculty supervisors] take and the model that they use” when developing her own supervision skills. Seven participants also indicated having the space to grow as supervisors as a positive influence on their self-efficacy. One participant explained as follows:

I know people at other universities and it’s like boot camp, they [faculty supervisors] break them down and build them up in their own image like they’re gods. And I don’t feel that here. I feel like I’m able to be who I am and they’re supportive and helping me develop who I am.

In addition to the information provided during the focus groups, 11 focus group participants reiterated on their follow-up questionnaires that faculty supervisors had a positive influence on the development of their self-efficacy. For example, for one participant, “a lot of support from faculty supervisors in terms of their accessibility and willingness to answer questions” was a factor in strengthening her perception of her abilities as a counselor supervisor. Participants also noted the importance of working with their supervisees as beneficial and influential to their perceptions of self-efficacy as supervisors.

 

Supervisees. All participants in the focus groups discussed supervising counselors-in-training as having both direct and vicarious influences on their self-efficacy. One participant stated that having the direct experience of supervising counselors-in-training at different levels of training (e.g., pre-practicum, practicum, internship) was something that “really helped me to develop my ability as a supervisor.” In addition, one participant described a supervision session that influenced him as a supervisor: “When there are those ‘aha’ moments that either you both experience or they experience. That usually feels pretty good. So that’s when I feel the most competent, I think as a supervisor.” Further, another participant described a time when she felt competent as a supervisor: “When [the supervisees] reflect that they have taken what we’ve talked about and actually tried to implement it or it’s influenced their work, that’s when I have felt closest to competence.” In addition to working relations with supervisors and supervisees, receiving feedback was noted as an emergent theme and influential to the growth of the doctoral student supervisors.

 

Receiving Feedback

Of all of the emergent themes, performance feedback appeared to have the most overlap across focus groups. The authors asked participants how they felt about receiving feedback on their supervisory skills. Sub-themes emerged when participants identified receiving feedback from their supervisors, supervisees and peers as shaping to their self-efficacy beliefs as supervisors.

 

Supervisors. Fifteen participants discussed the process of receiving performance feedback from faculty as an important factor in their self-efficacy. Overall, participants reported receiving constructive feedback as critical to their learning, albeit with mixed reactions. One participant noted that “at the time it feels kind of crappy, but you learn something from it and you’re a better supervisor.” Some participants indicated how they valued their supervisors’ feedback and they preferred specific feedback over vague feedback. For example, as one participant explained, “I kind of just hang on her every word….it is important. I anticipate and look forward to that and am even somewhat disappointed if she kind of dances around an issue.” Constructive feedback was most preferred across all participants. In addition to the impact of receiving feedback from supervisors, participants commented on being influenced by the feedback they received from their supervisees.

 

Supervisees. Thirteen focus group participants reported that receiving performance evaluations from supervisees affected their sense of self-efficacy as supervisors and appeared to be beneficial to all participants. Participants indicated that they were more influenced by specific rather than general feedback, and they preferred receiving written feedback from their supervisees rather than having supervisees subjectively rate their performance with a number. One participant commented that “it’s more helpful for me when [supervisees] include written feedback versus just doing the number [rating]…something that’s more constructive.” Further, a participant described how receiving constructive feedback from supervisees influenced his self-efficacy as a supervisor:

I’d say it affects me a little bit. I’m thinking of some evaluations that I have received and some of them make me feel like I have that self-efficacy that I can do this. And then the other side, there have been some constructive comments as well, and some of those I think do influence me and help me develop.

Similar to feedback received from supervisors and supervisees, participants reiterated their preference in receiving clear and constructive feedback. Focus group participants also described receiving feedback from their peers as being influential in the development of their supervision skills.

 

Peers. Eleven participants shared that feedback received from peers was influential in shaping the perception of their skills and how they conducted supervision sessions. Participants described viewing videotapes of supervision sessions in group supervision and receiving feedback from peers on their taped supervision sessions as positive influences. For example, one participant stated that “there was one point in one of our classes when I’d shown a tape and I got some very… specific positive feedback [from peers] that made me feel really good, like made me feel more competent.” Another participant noted how much peers had helped her increase her comfort level in evaluating her supervisees: “I had a huge problem with evaluation when we started out….in supervision, my group really worked on that issue with me and I feel like I’m in a much better place.”

Performance feedback from faculty supervisors, supervisees, and peers was a common theme in all three focus groups and instrumental in the development of supervisory style and self-efficacy as supervisors. Constructive and specific feedback appeared to more positively influence participants’ self-efficacy than vague or unclear subjective rating scales. In addition to receiving performance feedback, another theme emerged when participants identified issues with providing supervisees’ performance evaluations.

 

Conducting Evaluations

Participants viewed evaluating supervisees with mixed emotions and believed that this process affected their self-efficacy beliefs as supervisors. Thirteen participants reported having difficulty providing supervisees with evaluative feedback. For example, one participant stated the following:

I had a huge problem with evaluation when we started out. It’s something I don’t like. I feel like I’m judging someone….And after, I guess, my fifth semester….I don’t feel like I’m judging them so much as it is a necessity of what we have to do, and as a gatekeeper we have to do this. And I see it more as a way of helping them grow now.

Conversely, one participant, who had experience as a supervisor before starting the doctoral counselor education program stated, “I didn’t really have too much discomfort with evaluating supervisees because of the fact that I was a previous supervisor before I got into this program.” Other participants, who either had previous experience with supervisory positions or who had been in the program for a longer period of time, confirmed this sentiment—that with more experience the anxiety-provoking feelings subsided.

All focus group participants, however, reported a lack of adequate instruction on how to conduct evaluations of supervisee performance. For example, participants indicated a lack of training on evaluating supervisees’ tapes of counseling sessions and in providing formal summative evaluations. One participant addressed how receiving more specific training in evaluating supervisees would have helped her feel more competent as a supervisor:

I felt like I had different experiences with different supervisors of how supervision was given, but I still felt like I didn’t know how to give the feedback or what all my options were, it would have just helped my confidence… to get that sort of encouragement that I’m on the right track or, so maybe more modeling specifically of how to do an evaluation and how to do a tape review.

All focus group participants raised the issue of using Likert-type questions as part of the evaluation process, specifically the subjectivity of interpretation of the scales in relation to supervisee performance and how supervisors used them differently. For example, a participant stated, “I wish there had been a little bit more concrete training in how to do an evaluation.” A second participant expanded this notion:

I would say about that scale it’s not only subjective but then our students, I think, talk to each other and then we’ve all evaluated them sometimes using the same form and given them a different number ’cause we interpret it differently…. It seems like another thing that sets us up for this weird ‘in the middle’ relationship because we’re not faculty.

Discussions about providing performance evaluations seemed to be one of the most vibrant parts of focus group discussions. Thus, it appears that having the support of influential people (e.g., supervisors and supervisees) and feedback from supervisors, supervisees and peers was helpful. Having more instruction on conducting evaluations and clarifying their role identity and expectations, however, would increase their sense of self as supervisors in the middle tier of supervision.

 

Discussion

 

The purpose of this study was to explore what counselor education doctoral students experienced working in the middle tier of supervision and how their experiences related to their sense of self-efficacy as beginning supervisors. Data analysis revealed alignment with previous research that self-efficacy of an individual or group is influenced by extrinsic and intrinsic factors, direct and vicarious experiences, incentives, performance achievements, and verbal persuasion (Bandura, 1986), and that a person’s self-efficacy may increase from four experiential sources: mastery, modeling, social persuasion, and affective arousal (Larson, 1998). For example, participants identified factors that influence their self-efficacy as supervisors such as the direct experience of supervising counselors-in-training (mastery) as “shaping,” and how they learned vicariously from others in supervision classes. Participants also noted the positive influence of observing faculty supervision sessions (modeling) and receiving constructive feedback by supervisors, supervisees, and peers (verbal persuasion). In addition, participants described competent moments with their supervisees as empowering performance achievements, especially when they observed growth of their supervisees resulting from exchanges in their supervision sessions. Further, participants indicated social persuasion via support from their peers and future careers as counselor supervisors and counselor educators were incentives that influenced their learning experiences. Finally, participants discussed how feelings of anxiety and self-doubt (affective arousal) when giving performance evaluations to supervisees influenced their self-efficacy as supervisors.

Results from this study also support previous research on receiving constructive feedback, structural support, role ambiguity, and clear supervision goals from supervisors as influential factors on self-efficacy beliefs (Bernard & Goodyear, 2009; Nilsson & Duan, 2007; Reynolds, 2006). In addition, participants’ difficulty in conducting evaluations due to feeling judgmental and having a lack of clear instructions on evaluation methods are congruent with supervision literature (e.g., Corey, Haynes, Moulton, & Muratori, 2010; Falender & Shafranske, 2004). Finally, participants’ responses bolster previous research findings that receiving support from mentoring relationships and having trusting relationships with peers positively influence self-efficacy (Hollingsworth & Fassinger, 2002; Wong-Wylie, 2007).

 

Implications for Practice

The comments from participants across the three focus groups underscore the importance of receiving constructive and specific feedback from their faculty supervisors. Providing specific feedback requires that faculty supervisors employ methods of direct observation of the doctoral student’s work with supervisees (e.g., live observation, recorded sessions) rather than relying solely on self-report. Participants also wanted more information on how to effectively and consistently evaluate supervisee performance, especially those involving Likert-type questions, and how to effectively supervise master’s students who are studying in different areas of concentration (e.g., mental health, school counseling, and college counseling). Counselor educators could include modules addressing these topics before or during the time that doctoral supervisors work with master’s students, providing both information and opportunities to practice or role-play specific scenarios.

In response to questions about dealing with critical incidents in supervision, participants across groups discussed the importance of being prepared in handling remediation issues and wanting specific examples of remediation cases as well as clarity regarding their role in remediation processes. Previous research findings indicate teaching about critical incidents prior to engaging in job requirements as effective (Collins & Pieterse, 2007; Halpern, Gurevich, Schwartz, & Brazeau, 2009). As such, faculty supervisors may consider providing opportunities to role-play and share tapes of supervision sessions with master’s students in which faculty (or other doctoral students) effectively address critical incidents. In addition, faculty could share strategies with doctoral student supervisors on the design and implementation of remediation plans, responsibilities of faculty and school administrators, the extent to which doctoral student supervisors may be involved in the remediation process (e.g., no involvement, co-supervise with faculty, or full responsibility), and the ethical and legal factors that may impact the supervisors’ involvement. Participants viewed being included in the development and implementation of remediation plans for master’s supervisees as important for their development even though some participants experienced initial discomfort in evaluating supervisees. This further indicates the importance of fostering supportive working relationships that promote students’ growth and satisfaction in supervision training.

 

Limitations

Findings from this study are beneficial to counselor doctoral students, counselor supervisors, and supervisors in various fields.  Limitations, however, exist in this study. The first is researcher perspective. The authors’ collective experiences influenced the inclusion of questions related to critical incidents and working in the middle tier of supervision. However, the first author made efforts to discern researcher bias by first examining her role as a research instrument before and throughout conducting this study, by triangulating sources, and by processing the interview protocol and analysis with peer reviewers and dissertation committee members. A second limitation is participant bias. Participants’ responses were based on their perceptions of events and recall. Situations participants experienced could have been colored or exaggerated and participants may have chosen safe responses in order to save face in front of their peers or in fear that faculty would be privy to their responses—an occurrence that may happen when using focus groups. The first author addressed this limitation by using follow-up questionnaires to provide participants an opportunity to express their views without their peers’ knowledge, and she reinforced confidentiality at the beginning of each focus group.

 

Recommendations for Future Research

Findings from this study suggest possible directions for future research. The first recommendation is to expand to a more diverse sample. The participants in this study were predominantly White (75%) and female (87.5%) from one region in the United States. As with all qualitative research, the findings from this study are not meant to be generalized to a wider group, and increasing the number of focus groups may offer a greater understanding as to the applicability of the current findings to doctoral student supervisors not represented in the current study. A second recommendation is to conduct a longitudinal study by following one or more cohorts of doctoral student supervisors throughout their supervision training to identify stages of growth and transition as supervisors, focusing on those factors that influence participants’ self-efficacy and supervisor development.

 

Conclusion

 

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to expand previous research on counselor supervision and to provide a view of doctoral student supervisors’ experiences as they train in a tiered supervision model. Findings revealed factors that may be associated with self-efficacy beliefs of doctoral students as they prepare to become counseling supervisors. Recommendations may assist faculty supervisors when considering training protocols and doctoral students as they develop their identities as supervisors.

 

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Appendix

Focus Group Protocol

    1. How is your program designed to provide supervision training?
    2. What factors influence your perceptions of your abilities as supervisors?

Prompt: colleagues, professors, equipment, schedules, age, cultural factors such as gender, ethnicity, social class, whether you have had prior or no prior experience as supervisors.

    1. How does it feel to evaluate the supervisees’ performance?
    2. How, if at all, do your supervisees provide you with feedback about your performance?
    3. How do you feel about evaluations from your supervisees?

Prompt: How, if at all, do you think or feel supervisees’ evaluations influence how you perceive your skills as a supervisor?

    1. How, if at all, do your supervisors provide you with feedback about your performance?
    2. How do you feel about evaluations from your faculty supervisor?

Prompt: In what ways, if any, do evaluations from your faculty supervisor influence how you perceive your skills as a supervisor?

    1. What strengths or supports do you have in your program that guide you as a supervisor?
    2. What barriers or obstacles do you experience as a supervisor?
    3. What influences do you have from outside of the program that affect how you feel in your role as a supervisor?
    4. How does it feel to be in the middle tier of supervision: working between a faculty supervisor and master’s-level supervisee?

Prompt: Empowered, stuck in the middle, neutral, powerless.

    1. What, if any, critical incidents have you encountered in supervision?

Prompt: Supervisee that has a client who was suicidal or it becomes clear to you that a supervisee has not developed basic skills needed to work with current clients.

  1. If a critical incident occurred, or would occur in the future, what procedures did you or would you follow? How comfortable do you feel in having the responsibility of dealing with critical incidents?
  2. If not already mentioned by participants, ask if they have been faced with a situation in which their supervisee was not performing adequately/up to program expectations. If yes, ask them to describe their role in any remediation plan that was developed. If no, ask what concerns come to mind when they think about the possibility of dealing with such a situation.
  3. Describe a time when you felt least competent as a supervisor.
  4. Describe a time when you felt the most competent as a supervisor.
  5. How could supervision training be improved, especially in terms of anything that could help you feel more competent as a supervisor?

Melodie H. Frick, NCC, is an Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University. Harriett L. Glosoff, NCC, is a Professor at Montclair State University. Correspondence can be addressed to Melodie H. Frick, 91 Killian Building Lane, Room 204, Cullowhee, NC, 28723,  mhfrick@email.wcu.edu.

Assessing the Career-Development Needs of Student Veterans: A Proposal for Career Interventions

Seth Hayden, Kathy Ledwith, Shengli Dong, Mary Buzzetta

Student veterans often encounter unique challenges related to career development. The significant number of student veterans entering postsecondary environments requires career-development professionals addressing the needs of this population to decide upon appropriate career intervention topics. This study utilized a career-needs assessment survey to determine the appropriate needs of student veterans in a university setting. Student veterans indicated a desire to focus on the following topics within career intervention: transitioning military experience to civilian work, developing skills in résumé-building and networking, and negotiating job offers. Results of the needs survey can be used in the development of a career-related assessment.

Keywords: student veterans, career development, needs assessment, military, career-related assessment

 

     In 2013, there were 21.4 million male and female veterans aged 18 and older in the civilian noninstitutional population (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014a). The post-9/11 GI Bill, authorized by Congress in 2008, has contributed to a large number of veterans seeking postsecondary degrees (Sander, 2012). Since 2008, more than 817,000 military veterans have used the bill to attend U.S. colleges (Sander, 2013). Student veterans face many challenges on college campuses, including transition issues, relational challenges, feelings of isolation, and lingering effects of combat-related injuries (Green & Hayden, 2013).

 

     One of the most significant concerns is that veterans typically experience unemployment at a higher rate than their civilian counterparts (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014b). In 2013, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II-era veterans was 10.1 %; Gulf War I-era veterans 5.5%; and World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans 5.5% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014b). Younger veterans in particular struggled with unemployment. As of 2013, about 2.8 million of the nation’s veterans had served during the Gulf War II era (September 2001–present; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014a). The unemployment rate for the Gulf War II-era veterans (10.1%) is significantly higher than their civilian counterparts (6.8%; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014b). As young military personnel continue to return to college campuses, it is important to address the career-readiness needs of this population utilizing evidence-based practices.

 

Cognitive Information Processing

 

     The Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) approach to career decision making (Sampson, Reardon, Peterson, & Lenz, 2004) has been suggested as a way to aid veterans as they transition into the civilian workforce (Bullock, Braud, Andrews, & Phillips, 2009; Buzzetta & Rowe, 2012; Clemens & Milsom, 2008; Hayden, Green, & Dorsett, in press; Phillips, Braud, Andrews, & Bullock, 2007; Stein-McCormick, Osborn, Hayden, & Van Hoose, 2013). The CIP approach is designed to assist individuals in making both current and future career choices (Sampson et al., 2004; Buzzetta & Rowe, 2012). This theoretical approach states that career problem solving and decision making are skills that can be learned and practiced (Sampson et al., 2004). Once clients have improved their problem-solving and decision-making skills, then they can apply these same skills to choices they make in the future. According to the CIP approach, the key aspects of career problem solving and decision making are self-knowledge, occupational knowledge, decision-making skills, and metacognitions (Sampson et al., 2004). Engels and Harris (2002) suggest that military individuals would benefit from understanding their self-knowledge, occupational information and decision-making skills.

 

Pyramid of Information Processing

     The CIP approach consists of two key components: the pyramid of information processing, or the knowing, and the CASVE cycle, or the doing. The interactive elements are analogous to a recipe used in cooking. The pyramid is like the ingredients for the dish, while the CASVE cycle reflects the necessary steps to make the dish. Both are critical for effective career decision making and problem solving (Sampson et al., 2004). The pyramid of information processing includes three domains involved in career decision making: knowledge, decision-making skills, and executive processing (Sampson et al., 2004). Sampson et al. (2004) theorized that all components of the pyramid are affected by dysfunctional thinking and negative self-talk. The knowledge domain consists of two main areas: self-knowledge and occupational knowledge. Self-knowledge is the cornerstone of a client’s career-planning process, and is comprised of an individual’s knowledge of his or her values, interests, skills, and employment preferences (Reardon, Lenz, Peterson, & Sampson, 2012; Sampson et al., 2004). Occupational knowledge is the second cornerstone of a client’s career-planning process; it encompasses knowledge of options, including educational, leisure, and occupational alternatives, as well as how occupations can be organized.

 

     The decision-making skills domain consists of a systematic process to help clients improve their problem-solving and decision-making skills, and includes the CASVE cycle, which is a multi-phase decision-making process, intended to increase client awareness and improve a client’s decision-making skills. The executive processing domain includes metacognitions, which include an individual’s thoughts about the decision-making process. There are three cognitive strategies included in the executive processing domain: self-talk, self-awareness, and monitoring and controlling an individual’s progress in the problem-solving process. Metacognitions can include dysfunctional career thinking, which can present problems in career decision making, influence other domains in the pyramid, and impact individuals’ perceptions of their capabilities to perform well (Sampson et al., 2004).

 

CASVE Cycle

     The CASVE cycle is used as a means of approaching a career problem or decision, and consists of five sequential stages (communication, analysis, synthesis, valuing, and execution), with repeated circuits when the problem still exists or new problems arise (Sampson et al., 2004). An individual enters the CASVE cycle after receiving either internal or external cues that he or she must make a career decision. In the communication stage, individuals are required to examine these prompts, and identify a gap that exists between where they are currently and where they would like to be. In the analysis phase, individuals clarify their existing self-knowledge by determining their occupational preferences, abilities, interests and values. The process of clarifying existing knowledge and gaining new information about potential options also is included. In the synthesis phase, individuals narrow down and further develop the options they are considering.

 

     In the valuing phase, individuals assess the costs and benefits of each remaining alternative. This task involves prioritizing the alternatives, as well as selecting a tentative primary and secondary choice. In the execution phase, individuals create and commit to a plan of action for accomplishing their first choice. Upon completion of the execution phase, individuals return to the communication phase to determine whether the gap has been filled. The CASVE cycle is recursive in nature. Therefore, if the gap has not been removed and problems still exist, an individual will progress through the CASVE cycle again (Sampson et al., 2004).

 

Negative Thinking

     Several studies have found that negative thoughts are related to career decision-making difficulties (Kleiman et al., 2004; Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1996; Sampson et al., 2004). Kleiman et al. (2004) examined the relationship between dysfunctional thoughts and an individual’s degree of career decidedness in a sample of 192 college students enrolled in an undergraduate career-planning course. The researchers found that dysfunctional thinking during the decision-making process can negatively influence rational decisions. Assessing for dysfunctional career thoughts and working with individuals to reduce negative career thinking can have a positive impact on the knowledge and decision-making skills domains of the pyramid of information processing. More importantly, utilizing a theoretical approach can provide a structure in which to address the needs of student veterans.

 

Needs Assessment Survey

 

     In order to address the needs of student veterans, counselors must first assess what these needs are. Student veterans offer a unique subset of our veteran population in that they operate within an educational environment while possessing diverse life experiences, and are therefore often unique in relation to their peers (Cook & Kim, 2009). Given the aforementioned employment difficulties for younger veterans (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014b), a need for career-focused interventions designed to assist this population is apparent.

 

     While various supportive services for veterans are available, determining an appropriate allocation of resources and time to address the needs of this population can enhance the quality of services. To match intervention with need, the authors created a needs survey designed to inform the development of a theoretically based career intervention, the purpose of which is assisting student veterans in developing skills in career decision making and problem solving.

 

Sample

     The sample for this needs assessment was collected from a sample of student veterans attending a large southeastern university (n = 92). Currently, this university has approximately 317 student veterans enrolled and receiving educational benefits through either the Montgomery GI Bill or post-9/11 GI Bill. This means of identifying veterans is imperfect, as there may be student veterans attending the university who do not utilize educational benefits. However, this is a common method of identifying veterans within university settings (University of Arizona, 2007). The participants were asked to complete the needs survey by both the university veterans association and the veterans benefit officer. Both social media and e-mail were used to elicit participation.

 

     All 317 identified members of the population receiving education benefits were provided the opportunity to respond to the survey, via both an e-mail request with the electronic survey attached and a post on the student veteran organization’s social media Web page. A total of 92 (29%) completed surveys were collected. Of the 92 respondents, a majority identified as graduate students (47; 51%). The remaining respondents indicated their classifications as undergraduate students with the classifications of junior (25; 23%), senior (18; 20%), and sophomore (2; 2%). No students classified as freshmen responded to the survey.

 

Instrument

     The research team constructed the Veterans Needs Survey after examining the common career-development needs of both veterans and nonveterans encountered in the university’s career center. The instrument was created via a Qualtrics survey management system and attached to an electronic communication addressed to the potential respondents, as well as embedded in a social media thread of the university’s student veteran organization. The measure inquired about whether respondents had heard of the university career center; whether they had previously visited the university career center; what they would like to learn more about related to the career-development process; what modalities of treatment they were most interested in attending (e.g., group counseling, workshop series); how likely they were to attend the option indicated; education status; major/field of study; additional comments related to their career development; and an opportunity to participate in an intervention (an e-mail address was requested). The authors did not collect significant demographic information, instead focusing on variables like utilization of services (e.g., contact with the career center) and students’ academic classification, as these factors appear directly connected with career-development concerns.

 

Results

 

     The survey examined utilization and perceptions of career-development needs. The majority of respondents (80; 87%) indicated that they had heard of the career center, but a smaller number indicated actually visiting the career center (66; 73%). The question pertaining to perceived career-development needs provided a multiple-option response set in which one could indicate several options. The most frequently indicated response was transferring skills gained in the military to the workplace (49; 55.06%). The second most frequently indicated response was preparing a résumé/CV (46; 51.69%), followed by negotiating a job offer (45; 50.56%). Table 1 provides a detailed description of additional responses regarding the career-development process.

 

     A significant majority (54; 61%) indicated that they would be most interested in attending a group format, and fewer respondents selected the workshop series as their first choice (24; 27%). Respondents indicating the other category specified that they would attend career fairs, take advantage of individual counseling, and utilize online workshops. Following up on the previous question, one item inquired how likely a respondent would be to attend the option indicated. The most frequently indicated response was somewhat likely (42; 47%) followed by very likely (34; 38%) with unlikely (14; 16%) being the least frequently indicated response. The majors/fields of study with a significant number of responses were law (9), business-related (undergraduate and graduate; 9), social work (7), and criminology (8).

 

Participants provided diverse general comments related to their career development. One student veteran stated, “I have an associates [sic] degree in Laboratory Technology from the military and would also like assistance building a résumé trying to find employment now.” Another shared, “As a distance learner, it is possible to feel out of reach when it comes to on-campus resources. But, I know we can overcome that. I may be a combat disabled veteran. But, I won’t let disabilities stop my self-actualization quest.”

 

   The information obtained from the needs survey can be utilized to inform an intervention designed to assist student veterans in their career development, which will provide a grounded approach in addressing these issues. The following section offers a proposal for meeting student veteran needs with a career-development intervention.

 

Table 1

 

Perceived Career-Development Needs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Proposed Theoretically Based Career Intervention

 

     Based upon the CIP theoretical framework (Sampson et al., 2004) and the feedback received from the needs assessment, psychoeducational groups will be conducted in order to achieve the following goals: expanding student veteran self-knowledge and career options through the CIP approach, exploring transferable skills gained through military experiences, gaining knowledge of resources that can assist student veterans in the job search and application processes, and identifying and decreasing negative metacognitions and dysfunctional career thoughts.

 

     The psychoeducational group will meet once a week for 4 weeks. The group is open to all student veteran members attending the university through a campus-wide recruitment effort. Considering the tight connections between each CIP component, the group will be conducted in a closed-group format. The group facilitators will be graduate students pursuing doctoral degrees in counseling psychology or school psychology, and/or master’s students studying career counseling.

 

     The group activities will center on the student veterans’ needs obtained through the needs assessment survey and the CIP components that have been proposed to serve the needs of veterans (Bullock et al., 2009; Clemens & Milsom, 2008). The structure of the psychoeducational group is based on the CIP model and five stages of the CASVE cycle diagram: communication, analysis, synthesis, valuing, and execution.

 

     During the first session (communication), the group leader(s) will help to identify gaps between where group members are currently and where they aspire to be. Group members’ baseline information will be obtained by completing the Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI; Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1996/1998) and My Vocational Situation (MVS; Holland, Daiger, & Power, 1991). The group leader(s) will explain the CIP Pyramid, CASVE Cycle Diagram, Self-Directed Search (SDS; Holland 1985) and assessment procedures. Group members will have an opportunity to interact with each other and complete one section of the Guide to Good Decision Making (Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, & Reardon, 1992). As a part of the homework assignment listed on the Individual Learning Plan (ILP), a document designed to identify career-related goals and associated action steps, group members will complete the SDS, and bring a copy of their current résumé to the next session.

 

     During the second session (analysis/synthesis), the group leader(s) will help the student veterans examine and identify their interests, values, and skills (including transferable skills). The group leader(s) will assist group members in interpreting their SDS results, and examine any potential dysfunctional career thoughts that may be impacting group members’ career choices and decision-making abilities. To expand their career options, group members will be exposed to career-related resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014c) and the Military Crosswalk Search via O*Net Online (National Center for O*NET Development, n.d.). In addition to gaining self-knowledge and occupational information in the analysis process, group members will have opportunities to practice synthesis skills. Group members will improve their résumé-writing skills through practice and feedback from peers and the group leader(s). Exploring and highlighting transferable skills is another important component. As part of their assignment listed on the ILP, group members will enhance their career networking skills by accessing supportive professionals via an alumni network and the Student Veterans Association, among other resources. Group members will also conduct an informational interview to gain firsthand experiences for their chosen career options. They will bring updated versions of their résumés and cover letters for the next session to obtain feedback from the group.

 

     During the third session (valuing and execution), group members will present reflections on their informational interviews and provide feedback on their peers’ résumés and cover letters. In addition, group members will be exposed to various career resources such as VetJobs (VetJobs, Inc., 2014), Feds Hire Vets (U.S. Office of Personnel Management, n.d.), Job-hunt.org (NETability, Inc., 2014), the Riley Guide (Riley Guide, 2014), and the National Resource Directory (U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, n.d.). The group leader(s) will explain the “elevator speech” exercise and ask group members to practice this exercise in order to maximize their interview skill development. The group will also enhance members’ ability to use social networking to optimize their job search and applications. All activities aim to help members weigh their career options and execute their career decision making through careful planning. The group leader(s) will encourage members to initiate career networking and start exploring job and career opportunities.

 

     During the last session (communication), group members will share what they originally included in their ILPs and what they have achieved, and offer suggestions and feedback to one another. They will retake the CTI and MVS and compare their new and initial results. Group leaders will help group members examine whether the gaps identified at the communication stage have successfully been closed, and suggest further measures to close gaps if necessary.

 

Discussion

    

     The information gathered from the needs survey provides a thorough description of student veterans’ career-development needs. Interventions designed to support this population by determining appropriate interventions are often constructed using anecdotal information rather than objective needs. Student veteran responses to the survey indicate that veterans are concerned about transitioning their military experiences to civilian employment opportunities. In addition, student veterans appear to desire assistance with practical elements of the career-development process such as creating a résumé, negotiating a job offer, and networking. The purpose of this study is to develop a theoretically based intervention, and the study offers a framework in which to create effective career-development interventions for student veteran population.

 

     Student veterans appear to engage in a wide array of academic programs, with a significant portion of veterans selecting majors within the realm of business, law, sociology, social work and criminology. These survey results provide a snapshot of the majors/fields of study that student veterans seem to gravitate toward. These preferences could be attributed to the hierarchical and meritocratic nature of some of these fields, which are somewhat analogous to the culture of the military.

 

     Responses to the survey also provided a glimpse into the preferred modality of receiving career-related assistance. Oftentimes, military transition programs are designed to serve a large number of people, using seminar or workshop modalities in which to provide information. Student veterans indicated a strong preference for a smaller group counseling format that would provide more individual career-development support.

 

     An additional important consideration for future interventions is the high number of respondents who identified themselves as distance learners in the needs assessment (some of them may have been on active service, whereas others were simply enrolled in the university from a remote location). Given the technological capabilities that allow online learning environments, it is reasonable that student veterans could utilize e-learning opportunities. Designing online interventions could be helpful in determining appropriate modalities by which to deliver services.

 

     The student veterans’ comments and responses regarding their desired areas of focus for career development indicate a preference for a balanced approach of skill development. Ensuring that interventions focus on practical elements such as résumés and networking skill development, while also addressing broader topics such as transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce, appears to be a desired method for addressing the career-development needs of student veterans.

 

Limitations

     The needs survey is limited in generalizability, as the results were collected from one educational institution, confining interpretations to the student veterans in this institution. Despite this limitation, the career-development concerns of student veterans provide a snapshot of the needs of this unique subset of the veteran population. Given the paucity of research in this area, it seemed necessary to facilitate an in-depth examination of this population’s career-development concerns, allowing the development of an informed intervention and establishing replicable protocol for future needs surveys.

 

     The low response rate to the online survey also limits the application of findings. Though the response rate of 29% may be considered reasonable for an online assessment, having a large portion of the sample disregard the assessment presents a gap in fully substantiated information on this topic. Developing methods for collecting more information would enhance the validity of the data.

 

     Finally, the high rate of graduate students who responded to the survey presents a challenge in applying the results to a primarily undergraduate institution. While there may be analogous experiences between graduate and undergraduate students, specific aspects of undergraduate student veterans’ career development may need additional evaluation.

 

Implications for Practice and Research

     In this needs assessment, collaborative efforts between career services professionals at the institution and the university veterans’ center resulted in informative data on the career concerns of student veterans. Co-sponsored initiatives targeting these expressed needs could increase the number of student veterans impacted by career services. Survey respondents, along with group or workshop participants, could be recruited to provide feedback as part of a career-development focus group, further informing research and application for student veterans’ career concerns. Survey results could also be useful for marketing career services to student veterans. In addition, career centers or university libraries could acquire career resources such as books and print materials on topics that survey respondents considered desirable, especially those specifically tailored for veterans.

 

     At the larger university level, major data on their students’ career-development concerns would be valuable information for college and department academic advisors and other university stakeholders. Career center staff members focus on various academic units as part of their career outreach, but further research regarding the unique career concerns of student veterans in specific majors could allow career center liaisons to impact veterans more effectively in their designated areas. As previously stated, since the survey was conducted at one higher education institution, duplicating the needs survey across a larger sample of colleges and universities would provide additional data sets for analysis, as well as broader application possibilities. Survey data could also be applied outside the institution to identify the most optimal partnerships in order to meet the comprehensive needs of student veterans. For example, career counselors might collaborate with mental health professionals, school counselors, and rehabilitation professionals to identify challenges and provide resources in order to maximize development for student veterans.

 

     The results of this survey also support future research on the efficacy and suitability of online career-development options. There are many online programs designed to provide veterans the opportunity to pursue their education while in active duty. While the convenience of remote educational options for a mobile population is understood, ensuring that universities also provide career-development resources to distance learners is an important consideration in addressing the needs of veterans. Career-development opportunities such as webinars and online workshops offer the flexibility of distance learning. For example, online formats could provide veterans an opportunity to participate in such workshops collaboratively. Possible areas of research would include effective use of distance learning for veterans and comparative benefits and costs of in-person versus distance formats.

 

     Based on the information collected, in future needs surveys, adjusting the survey items to detail reasons for certain item selections could allow greater understanding of both the responses and student veterans’ career thinking in general. Resulting career interventions would provide additional opportunities for further research to investigate aspects of career decision making and CIP theory, including relationships between student veterans’ self-knowledge, options knowledge, decision-making skills and metacognitions.

 

Conclusion

 

     While veterans’ needs receive significant attention, programs are often created based on anecdotal and intuitive information. Developing needs assessments to solicit veterans’ perceptions of career development can inform interventions. Specifically regarding career development, utilizing a theoretically based, researched approach offers a framework to guide practice and research. Ongoing assessment of needs and services that utilizes established approaches will ensure quality services for those who have sacrificed greatly in service of their country.

 

References

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Seth Hayden, NCC, is the Program Director of Career Advising, Counseling and Programming at Florida State University. Kathy Ledwith, NCC, is the Assistant Director for Career Counseling, Advising and Programming at Florida State University. Shengli Dong is an Assistant Professor at Florida State University. Mary Buzzetta, NCC, is a doctoral student at Florida State University. Correspondence can be addressed to Seth Hayden, 100 S. Woodward Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32308, scwhayden@fsu.edu.

Military Veterans’ Midlife Career Transition and Life Satisfaction

Heather C. Robertson, Pamelia E. Brott

Many military veterans face the challenging transition to civilian employment. Military veteran members of a national program, Troops to Teachers, were surveyed regarding life satisfaction and related internal/external career transition variables. Participants included military veterans who were currently or had previously transitioned to K–12 teaching positions. Two variables, confidence and control, demonstrated a slight yet statistically significant positive correlation with life satisfaction. Recommendations for practice and future research are included in this second report on the findings of a dissertation.

Keywords: career transition, employment, life satisfaction, military veterans, teaching

Military members typically experience transitions at some point during their military career, whether to a new duty station, a change of command or a deployment overseas. Another significant transition that military members often face is their return to civilian employment. While formal military programs are established to provide assistance with planning and overall logistics of such transitions (Wolpert, 2000), research suggests that veterans feel emotionally underprepared to manage the transition to civilian employment (Baruch & Quick, 2009; Business and Professional Women’s [BPW] Foundation, 2007). Researchers have examined retirement satisfaction and adjustment (Spiegel &  Shultz, 2003), career adaptability and adjustment (Ebberwin, Krieshok, Ulven, & Prosser, 2004), as well as adjustment after transition (DiRamio, Ackerman, & Mitchell, 2008); however, few studies have examined the overall life satisfaction of veterans experiencing career transitions, specifically examining these experiences. This study examined career transition variables of military members, as well as the relationship of these variables to the military member’s overall life satisfaction.

Schlossberg’s model of “Human Adaptation to Transition” (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006, p. 33) has made significant contributions to the current understanding of the transition process (Robertson, 2010). While transition is different for each individual, four main areas comprise the model, specifically (1) transition as a process that occurs over a span of time, (2) environmental and individual characteristics that may impact the transition, (3) one’s resources and deficits that impact the transition, and (4) a successful adaptation that is the goal of transition (Robertson, 2010; Schlossberg, 1981). The goal of the transition process is the ability to adapt to the new experience. Individuals manage a multitude of internal influences (e.g., confidence, control, coping skills, motivation) and external influences (e.g., job market, support from family, timing of transition) during the transition process. These influences may be considered resources or deficiencies (Schlossberg, 1981). One of the most important considerations of the model is that transition occurs over time. Schlossberg (2011) states that leaving one role and establishing another takes time, and that the process of doing so is easier for some than for others, even after several years.

Extensive research exists regarding  civilians experiencing or considering career transition (e.g., Chae, 2002; Jepsen & Choudhuri, 2001; Perrone & Civiletto, 2004). One impetus for making a career change relates to increasing life satisfaction, which can be defined as contentment or happiness in life (Perrone & Civiletto, 2004). Career counseling models support clients’ movement toward fulfillment, such as the values-based counseling (e.g., Brown, 1995) and constructivist models (e.g., Savickas, 1997), which emphasize value formation, prioritization, role relationships and career adaptability. Given the volatility of the job market, unemployment, underemployment and the uncertainty of the future, one’s control during career transition has become a focus of concern. The support experienced during transition can further impact one’s ability to grow psychologically from the experience (Jepsen & Choudhuri, 2001). The perceived risk of career change also may impact one’s perceptions of control, manifesting as stress, or physical and mental health problems (Strazdins, D’Souza, Lim, Broom, & Rodgers, 2004).

Research does exist on the military career transition experience. Several researchers have examined the importance of pre-retirement/pre-separation planning and its value for post-military employment outcomes (Baruch & Quick, 2007; Baruch & Quick, 2009; Spiegel & Shultz, 2003). Other researchers have examined the relationship between mental health and employment of veterans, specifically regarding issues of trauma, depression and mental health treatment (Burnett-Zeigler et al., 2011; Zivin et al., 2011; Zivin et al., 2012).

Despite previous studies on career transition experiences of civilians and military, there is a dearth of studies that examine the overall experience and life satisfaction of those who transition from the military to a second career. Military members who pursue the teaching profession provide an opportunity to examine life satisfaction and career transition. Their (first) military career indicates a commitment to the military for a period of time. For individuals choosing to teach as a second career path, there also is a commitment toward additional education or certification, since there is no military occupational code (MOC) for educating children in an elementary through high school classroom (Robertson, 2010). While training and leading adults may be required in specific positions, teaching children in a traditional classroom setting is not offered as a military career (Messer, Green, & Holland, 2013). This means that those who pursue teaching would likely have to receive additional education and training in order to teach in a classroom post-military separation. Their commitment to the military and their commitment to teaching indicate that both professions were intentional career opportunities, as opposed to employment obtained via happenstance (Robertson, 2010).

This study explored the transition of 136 military members to the field of teaching. Measurements were sought that would adequately capture the framework of internal and external resources, as well as adaptation and life satisfaction. Given the foci of life satisfaction among military members who are transitioning or have transitioned to teaching, the present study examined the following research question: “To what extent is the life satisfaction of military members who are transitioning or have transitioned to teaching explained by the five career transition factors of readiness, confidence, control, perceived support, and decision independence?”

The career transition variables (readiness, confidence, control, perceived support and decision independence) were hypothesized to increase or decrease in proportion to one’s life satisfaction (Robertson, 2010). This hypothesis was based on earlier research studies examining internal and external variables of career transition, including confidence and self-esteem (Heppner, Fuller, & Multon, 1998; Robbins, 1987), control (Strazdins et al., 2004), readiness and goal setting (Oyserman, Bybee, Terry, & Hart-Johnson, 2004) and family support (Eby & Buch, 1995; Latack & Dozier, 1986). However, while these studies examined career transition, none addressed the transition experiences of military members or their overall life satisfaction.

 

Methods

 

Members of a national program, Troops to Teachers (TTT), were surveyed. Ninety (90) mentors (i.e., former military, current teachers who volunteer to assist others with the teaching certification process) and 46 members (i.e., military members who may be seeking or have already secured careers in K–12 teaching) responded to the survey. At the time of the survey, there were 178 mentors on the TTT mentor list, indicating a mentor response rate of approximately 50%. It was not possible to estimate the number of members represented in the database in order to determine a member response rate because the percentages of active and inactive members in the TTT database is unknown. Membership in TTT is not a requirement for pursing a teaching career, and not everyone in the database has continued to pursue teaching since originally joining. Accessing members of TTT was feasible due to contact information made available through the TTT Web site. State TTT directors were contacted and asked to include the survey in their member materials (e.g. Web site, newsletters, e-mails); mentor data was available publically on the TTT Web site. According to Feistritzer (2005) and Robertson (2010), over 8,000 teachers have entered the profession via Troops to Teachers.

 

Participants

Data from 136 respondents (90 members, 46 mentors) were used for analysis. Specifically, 86% of the respondents were male, 10% female, and approximately 4% identified as transgender or left the item blank. Of the respondents, 87% identified as non-Hispanic; 79% identified as white, and the mean age was 51 (range 21–69 years). Respondents were either married (86%), divorced (4.4%), single (3.7%), or identified as “other” (5.8%). The average household income was $102,224 per year (range $0–$250,000). Distribution of respondents was divided among all branches of service: Air Force (32%), Navy (28%), Army (21%), Marine Corps (13%) and Coast Guard (1%), or the item was left blank (5%). Officers and enlisted personnel were nearly equal, with approximately 48% being officers and 45% enlisted (7% left item blank). Average years served in the military was 20.5 years. Responses indicated that respondents experienced an average of 29.4 months between leaving the military and beginning their teaching career. A large number of respondents (80%) were in the post-transition stage, indicating that they were currently in a teaching or other employment position (Robertson, 2010; Robertson, 2013). Demographic data from the sample was primarily white, male and non-Hispanic, which is similar to that of a larger study of TTT participants (n = 1,461) conducted by Feistritzer (2005).

 

Instruments

Each participant took the Career Transitions Inventory (CTI) and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS), as well as answered 15 demographic questions. The CTI (Heppner, 1991) contains 40 items and assesses strengths and barriers that adults experience during career transition. These items measure one’s belief about readiness (preparedness), confidence (belief in one’s ability manage the process), control (individual input and influence over the process), perceived support (whether important people in one’s life are supportive) and decision independence (impact of decisions on others). Higher scores in one factor indicate that the area is a source of strength for the client. Lower scores may be viewed as barriers or obstacles for clients, excluding the independence factor. The independence factor is not viewed as a strength or barrier; however, independence measures one’s relationship and responsibility to others (Heppner & Hendricks, 1995). Of the 40 items, each variable is assigned a selected number of items as well as an average score from high to low, specifically as follows: control (6 items; high score = 5.0, medium score = 3.5, low score = 2.0), readiness (13 items; high score = 5.5, medium score = 4.7, low score = 2.7), perceived support (5 items; high score = 5.6, medium score = 4.7, low score = 2.6), confidence (11 items; high score = 4.7, medium score = 3.9, low score = 2.2) and decision independence (5 items; high score = 5.0, medium score = 3.5, low score = 2.0). The CTI subscale scores’ reliability ranges from .66–.87 (median .69); the test-retest reliability (three-week interval) for each section is as follows: control .55, readiness .74, perceived support .77, confidence .79, and decision independence .83. The overall CTI test-retest reliability was reported as .84 (Heppner, Multon, & Johnston, 1994). Construct validity has been reported for various populations, as well as convergent validity with external instruments, which was utilized during the development of a French version of the CTI (Fernandez, Fouquereau, & Heppner, 2008).

The SWLS (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985) is a five-item instrument assessing life satisfaction, allowing respondents to examine overall satisfaction based on the their own personal values. The instrument contains five statements and responses are indicated on a Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree). These statements include the following: “(a) In most ways my life is close to my ideal; (b) The conditions of my life are excellent; (c) I am satisfied with my life; (d) So far, I have gotten the important things I want in life; and (e) If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing” (Diener et al., 2009. Results are tallied as an overall score, which corresponds to a level of satisfaction, specifically highly satisfied, satisfied, average, below average, dissatisfied and extremely dissatisfied. The reported reliability includes Cronbach’s alphas of .87 for the scale and .82 for test-retest (two-month interval). Validity evidence appears as moderately strong convergence, with outcomes ranging from .50–.75 with 12 other instruments (Diener et al., 1985). More recent reports indicate a number of cross-cultural studies that have utilized the SWLS, including studies with the U.S. Marine Corps (Pavot & Diener, 2008).

 

Results

 

Descriptive statistics were used to examine the overall population. Based on the large number of mentors in the group, t-tests were conducted to compare the mentor group to the member group. Correlation was used to examine the primary hypothesis stating that all transition variables would be positively correlated with life satisfaction. Finally, multiple regression analyses examined how the transition variables might explain variability in the military members’ life satisfaction.

 

Comparing Mentor and Member Groups

Initially there was concern about the large number of mentors among respondents. Because mentors are TTT volunteers who assist members with the teacher certification process, there was concern that mentor experiences would be positively skewed as a result of mentors having positive experiences (e.g. desired employment) with their transitions. Thus t-tests on demographic, career transition and life satisfaction variables were conducted. The demographics of both groups (member and mentor) were analyzed using cross-tabs and graphs as a means of comparing the two samples. The member and mentor samples were comparable. Both groups were comprised of primarily married men (% of men = mentor 87%, member 85%; % married = mentor 86%, member 87%). Their racial and ethnic backgrounds were primarily white and non-Hispanic (% white = mentor 80%, member 76%; % non-Hispanic = mentor 90%, member 80%). The groups were similar in terms of average years served in the military (mentor 21, member 20). There was a slight difference in their ages (mentor 53, member 57), combined income (mentor $98,100, member $114,200) and the length of transition between military and civilian employment (mentor 26 months, member 40 months). Despite the differences in their transition periods, a t-test did not demonstrate a statistically significant difference between the time in transition for members and mentors, t (28) = –.965, p = .343; r = –.12 (mentors: M = 26.22, SD = 33.3; members: M = 39.60, SD = 66.8).

Due to the similarity of the two groups, as well as the small number of respondents in the member group, a decision was made to report the findings as one group (combined member and mentor). T-tests which compared the means of the mentor and member groups with life satisfaction, as well as with the variables of readiness, confidence, control, support and decision independence, found no statistically significant differences among the variables. Specifically, t-tests revealed the following: readiness: t (134) = –.485, p = .626, r = .05 (mentors: M = 2.89, SD = .57; members: M = 2.93, SD = .62); confidence: t = (134) = –806, p = .422, r = –.07 (mentors: M = 4.09, SD = .57; members: M = 4.17, SD = .58); control: t (134) = –.022, p = .983, r = .05 (mentors: M = 4.3, SD = .87; members: M = 4.3, SD = .91); support: t (134) = –1.681, p = .095, r = –.14 (mentors: M = 3.67, SD = .51; members: M = 3.83, SD = .57); decision independence: t (134) = –.540, p = .590, r = .04 (mentors: M = 3.71, SD = .90; members: M = 3.79, SD = .75); and life satisfaction: t (134) = –.221, p = .826, r = –.20 (mentors: M = 5.57, SD = .12; members: M = 5.62, SD = .12) . Therefore, a decision was made not to disaggregate the data into member and mentor groups, since there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups, and smaller group samples would reduce the validity of the findings.

 

Life Satisfaction and Career Transition

Reliability was reported for each career transition variable using Cronbach’s alpha (life satisfaction = .87, readiness = .87, confidence = .83, control = .69, support = .66, decision independence = .67). All transition variables had positive, statistically significant correlations with one another (ranging from .25 to .56). Results from the SWLS indicated satisfied to average level of satisfaction (M = 5.59; SD = 1.21) for participants.

To address the hypothesis that all transition variables correlated with life satisfaction, bivariate correlation analysis using Pearson’s r was utilized. Using the SWLS and the CTI means for each variable (readiness, confidence, control, support and decision independence), a correlation matrix was developed (Table 1). Two transition variables, confidence (r = .23) and control (r = .31), demonstrated little statistically significant positive correlations to life satisfaction. Thus, the overall hypothesis stating that all variables would be correlated with life satisfaction was not supported.

 

Table 1

 

Means, Standard Deviations and Correlations for Life Satisfaction and Career Transition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results from multiple regression analyses were used to address the main research question: To what extent is the life satisfaction of military members who are transitioning or have transitioned to teaching explained by the five career transition factors (readiness, confidence, control, perceived support, and decision independence)? Of the five predictor variables, control was the only transition variable found to explain life satisfaction (Table 2). Control was responsible for 10% of the variance in life satisfaction (F (1, 134) = 14.60, R = .10, beta = .31, p < .001); whereas readiness was responsible for adding approximately 6% (F (3, 133) = 8.87, R = .16, beta = –.28, p < .01). Combined, control and readiness accounted for approximately 16% of the variance in life satisfaction, indicating a small to medium effect size. None of the other variables (confidence, support, decision independence) explained any statistically significant portion of life satisfaction.

 

Table 2

 

Multiple Regression with Life Satisfaction and Career Transition Variables

 

 

 

 

Discussion

 

Control was the primary variable connected to life satisfaction among transitioning military members, with a small but significant correlation with life satisfaction. Control has been present in several studies which indicate its positive influence on the transition process (Heppner, Cook, Strozier, & Heppner, 1991; Latack & Dozier, 1986; Lerner, Levine, Malspeis, & D’Agostino, 1994; Perosa & Perosa, 1983). While the correlation between control and life satisfaction was significant, one should also note that it was small. As such, control of one’s career transition may not be an essential component of life satisfaction post-transition (Robertson, 2010).

Confidence had a small correlation to life satisfaction, despite the fact that earlier studies cite confidence as an essential element for career transition success (Heppner et al., 1991; Latack & Dozier, 1986). While respondents indicated moderate to high confidence on the CTI, it should be noted that many of those who responded to the survey indicated that they were in the post-transition phase, having already began their teaching career. These respondents would exhibit and respond with great confidence in the success of their transition, with the knowledge that they had already navigated the experience with success (Robertson, 2010).

Readiness contributed slightly to the findings and also is present in earlier research as a as a means of coping with transitions (Ebberwein, Krieshok, Ulven, & Prosser, 2004; Oyserman et al., 2004). The terms ready and motivated are often used to describe U.S. military service members. While readiness and motivation did not present substantial outcomes in this study, it is important to explore the feelings of readiness and motivation in military members making a career transition, particularly those who have less control over their military separation and may not feel ready for the transition.

 

Implications for Counseling Practice

Counselors should recognize that confidence, control and readiness may play a role in the life satisfaction of current or former military members’ career transition. Counselors may wish to help military clients in transition examine their perceptions of control. A difficult economy and rising joblessness rates may cause clients to feel a lack of control. For military members transitioning to the civilian sector, controlling their own career decisions can be a new and challenging concept. However, counselors can assist clients in examining transition from angles that they can control, including attitude or effort toward the transition or their job search. Counselors may wish to help clients identify areas of control that are present before, during and after the transition. Military members who had no control over their military separation (e.g., being passed over for promotions, injury, medical discharge, other than honorable discharge) can explore with counselors how the circumstances of their separation from the military do not determine their life satisfaction post-transition.

Counselors working with current and former military members should explore the clients’ confidence both toward completing the transition process and their life post-transition. Military communities have a unique military culture, and separation from one’s military culture may impose a lifestyle loss (Simmelink, 2004), which may be more difficult than moving from civilian job to civilian job. Regardless of how or where a military member spent their career (e.g. abroad, state-side, combat, or non-combat), they may go through a period of culture shock in their post-military career (Wolpert, 2000; Robertson, 2010). The military member’s confidence may contribute to their ability to manage that change and loss. Counselors also may wish to address confidence of the military member before, during and after the transition process. Specifically, counseling activities that both assess and enhance confidence may help clients obtain greater life satisfaction in their post-military career. Confidence may be viewed as emotional readiness to navigate the career transition process.

Counselors can help clients assess their readiness for the military-to-civilian career transition, including both emotional and practical preparation. Emotional preparation may include preparing for lifestyle loss (Simmelink, 2004), specifically the transition from close-knit military communities, structured employment environments and regular promotions/pay increases to the ambiguous and uncertain realm of civilian employment. Earlier studies on career transition for civilians (Latack & Dozier, 1986) emphasize the presence of grief and loss in career changers. These feelings of loss and longing were also present with this population (Robertson & Brott, 2013), in that service members often feel that their civilian careers are less meaningful, less significant, or less important than their military careers (Spiegel & Shultz, 2003). Counselors must help prepare military members for these emotional aspects of the military-to-civilian transition, as well as the logistical aspects, such as preretirement planning, job searching, benefits, and relocation.

 

Limitations

The primary limitation of this research was the large number of individuals in the post-transition stage, which impacts the ability to generalize results to all military personnel. Generalizations should not be made to populations with low representation in this sample, which includes females, minorities and the unmarried. Generalizations also should not be made to different occupations (e.g. individuals moving from non-military careers and to non-teaching careers). Respondents for this research were volunteer participants, as opposed to randomly selected. Outcomes were self-reported, which includes the risk that responses may be impacted by other, unintended factors. This is particularly relevant since some respondents were asked to reflect on their past transition experience as opposed to those who were currently undergoing transition (Robertson, 2010).

 

Challenges with Post-Transition Respondents

The research design was intended to capture respondents in the pre-, mid- and post-transition phases. However, since the CTI is designed for veterans who are currently experiencing transition, instructions were adjusted to ask post-transition respondents to reflect on their transition process and respond as they remembered their transition experience. While these changes raise questions as to the validity of including the post-transition participant responses, three factors support reporting the findings.

First, transition is viewed as a process that occurs over time, not as an event that ends when one becomes employed. Schlossberg (2011) considers it important to identify where one is in the transition process including before, during and after the transition. While individuals may have already secured a teaching job, it does not necessarily imply that they have successfully adapted to the transition. Secondly, when validating the French version of the CTI, Fernandez et al. (2008) utilized a sample of over 1,000 participants who were experiencing varying types of career transition. Heppner herself (1998) identified three types of career transition: task change, position change and occupational change. Task changes and position changes usually occur within the same workplace settings, while occupational changes involve an entirely new occupation. These variations on transition were incorporated in the results of the CTI. Heppner’s (1998) own validation of the CTI included stages of transition. This factor emphasizes the variability in which transition occurs as reported by participants, and this variability has been incorporated into the development of the CTI.

Finally, the findings of this research, originally from a dissertation, support and supplement earlier studies regarding midlife career transition, life satisfaction and transition variables. For example, Baruch and Quick’s (2009) study of senior admirals who had left the Navy addressed the difficulty of the transition and adaptability. They specifically addressed the admirals’ ability to move away from past roles and toward future roles, reinforcing the concept of transition over time. Spiegel and Shultz (2003) also examined a variety of transition variables in their study of retired naval officers. A pilot project by the BPW Foundation (2007) examined female veterans transitioning to civilian employment and emphasized the importance of both practical and psychological supports during and after the transition. These studies demonstrate that the variables examined by the CTI are being examined in other military transition research.

It was predicted that distribution among respondents’ participant groups (pre-, mid-, and post-transition) would be somewhat balanced; however, the results were not as anticipated. Yet the findings yield valuable results in understanding veterans and the career transition process. T-tests also yielded no significant differences between mentors (primarily post-transition) and members (pre-, mid- and post-transition).

 

Future Research Opportunities

Future research opportunities exist to replicate the present research with populations that exhibit greater diversity, including veterans in various stages of transition and veterans from various demographic backgrounds. A random sample survey would provide results that are less likely to be influenced by personal factors. Longitudinal studies, following service members from their time in the military, through their transition, to their post-service employment, perhaps via interviewing and qualitative research, would provide personal experiences and insights on service members’ transitions. Opportunities exist to diversify the careers being studied (Robertson, 2010). For example, many universities offer “career changer” programs for individuals transitioning to teaching, who are not necessarily military members. Another option would be to utilize post-service military organizations (e.g., U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) to examine the transition experience of military members to other careers besides teaching. University career centers may have access to data examining student veteran career transition information. Further, life satisfaction scores could be compared to other populations beyond those studied here, thus illuminating whether these results were a condition of military experience, teaching careers, or other factors pertaining to the career transition experience.

 

Summary

 

This research provides insight into life satisfaction and career transition, specifically for military members pursing teaching careers. Military members indicated that their control and confidence throughout the transition process was slightly correlated with life satisfaction. Results indicated that their control and readiness during the transition process may explain a small portion of their life satisfaction. However, previous literature indicates that relationships exist (Robertson, 2010), which were not found in the present study. For example, previous researchers have indicated that family support impacts the career transition process (Perone & Civiletto, 2004; Eby & Buch, 1995); however, family support was not one of the variables considered in this study. One reason for these differences may be the limited sample size and distribution; yet it is also possible that military experiences are not well examined through traditional assessments. The main limitation of the study was an uneven distribution of the data, including a large number from those post-transition, males, whites and those who were married. Generalizing results to other areas and populations should be discouraged (Robertson, 2010). Counselors who have the opportunity to work with military members transitioning to the civilian workforce, or those who have already transitioned, may wish to address how confidence, control and readiness contribute to the life satisfaction of the transitioning military member.

 

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Heather C. Robertson, NCC, is an Assistant Professor at St. John’s University. Pamelia E. Brott, NCC, is an Associate Professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Correspondence can be addressed to Heather C. Robertson, 80-00 Utopia Parkway, Sullivan Hall, Jamaica, NY 11439, robertsh@stjohns.edu.

Book Review – Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling Classes and for Facilitating Career Groups: Volume 3

The experiential activities in Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling Classes and for Facilitating Career Groups are an invaluable tool in the counseling field. It is a comprehensive and didactic approach to career counseling for the counselor educator.

Each chapter is well organized in clearly stating purpose, learning objectives, application of theory, target population, setting, materials needed and instructions. The content identifies key areas in career counseling consisting of theoretical orientations in counselor education development, assessment tools, pragmatic exercises and technological resources. The self-knowledge exercises help the counselor educator in resolving one’s ambivalence in making sound career choices.

Lara, Pope and Minor incorporate practical lessons that make learning interesting and educational. Important aspects of counselor education have been covered in the book through group activities that enhance self-awareness, knowledge and broaden one’s worldview. The ‘Order in Chaos’ exercise allows an opportunity for counselor educators to perceive the complexities and patterns in career development. The assessments help identify values that counselor educators could incorporate into their training. The importance of networking is highlighted to help future employees in their job search. The exercises focus on preparing future employees in obtaining gainful employment and a successful career path. The book lists various technologies available to counselors to provide vital information and update their knowledge of current research trends in the field of career counseling.

This pragmatic guide for counselor educators reaches out to a diverse population. With an emphasis on career development, the book plays a significant role in helping future counselors with job readiness, which is very vital in today’s fast paced world. Gaining knowledge from the book, counselors can become self-confident and motivated in performing effectively in their profession.

Throughout the book, the authors accentuate core competencies of counselor education. In the reflections and evaluations, the reader can discern several significant concepts in counselor education. Thought provoking objectives, case scenarios and discussion questions throughout the book give the reader a better understanding of each topic rather than learning the material by rote. With limited research available on group counseling, the book guides counselors from all related fields to help clients resolve their problems. The counselor-client relationship is fostered in mutual learning of acceptance, empathy and respect in their interaction. I think this well-written and easily comprehensible book will help educators utilize a hands-on approach in teaching without undermining the theoretical element in counseling. Using assessment tools and practical exercises help in determining the individual’s strength and interests.

Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling and For Facilitating Career Groups is a must read book for every counselor educator. The book aims at teaching the material in an interesting manner, while educating counselors to be better clinicians and well-rounded individuals. It is designed in a universally structured educational framework with the objective of producing creative and ethical individuals that value integrity in a progressive world.

Lara, T., Pope, M., & Minor, C. (2011). Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling Classes and for Facilitating Career Groups: Volume 3. Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association.

Reviewed by: Shanti Nair, doctoral counseling student, Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida.

The Professional Counselor Journal

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