#TBT…African-American Male Students and Career Decision-Making Behavior: Tools for Success

Sunday, April 29, 2012 06:59 PM
L. Felix Daniels, Ed.D., University of Central Florida

“I have no idea of what I’m good at.” “I just want to make a decent amount of money.”  “If I can find a stable job with enough money to take care of a family, I will be happy.”  “I just want to help people, but I have no idea how.”  Reminiscing about my work as a career counseling practitioner over past 8 years, I find that these are just a few of the revelations that surface during my sessions with undecided students.  I’m sure many of you may be able to attest to this precarious predicament by virtue of the work you’ve done or by your own personal experiences during your undergraduate days.  Even after graduating from a local community college years ago, I too found myself undecided about my career choice once I arrived at my four-year institution.

Today, more than ever, it appears that career indecision is on the rise amongst college students.  According to a survey of freshmen students, approximately 75% cited getting a better job while 73% noted making more money, as the most important reasons for attending college.  Due to the data revealed from this survey, as well as my sometimes intense encounters with students, it appears that family, a forever fluctuating economy, and more often than not television shows also influence the career decision-making process of today’s millennial students.  Although relevant, these influences don’t always make for “ideal” sessions with our undecided students. As such, it is necessary for career counseling practitioners and administrators to continue gathering information to assist our undecided (and often decided) students.

In order to gain more insight into the experiences of our students, I chose to embark upon an intense information gathering exercise.  In other words, I began working on my dissertation.  From the lens of Social Cognitive Career Theory, I chose to examine the experiences that impact the career decision-making behavior of African-American male transfer students.  According to recent statistics, these students are facing serious challenges with retention in our systems of higher education.  As a seasoned career counseling professional, one may assume that career indecision plays a significant role in the matriculation of these students.  Guess what?  It does!

The participants revealed insightful information that may aid us in our quest to help students make sound decisions about their careers.  Participants noted that experiencing less than desirable job salaries, academic  ability, and gender also played significant roles in the process of selecting a major.  Of the experiences that led to the development of career decision-making self-efficacy: choosing a major consistent with self, engagement in practical experiences, working independently and solving problems, meeting with advisors, and being involved in extracurricular activities were all imperative to the retention of this group.

What does it all mean?  Although this study alone does not solve the problem of the declining number of African-American male students, it does offer some insight into what we can do as practitioners and administrators to address the issue.  Engaging students in various forms of self-assessment, career research that includes practical experiences, making students aware of academic resources and challenging them to utilize them are all strategies that can enhance career decision-making behavior.  Along with these strategies, we may also want to make concerted efforts to reach out to this population as students tend to visit Career Services when they need a job or at graduation.  However for many of our students, that may be too late!

Connection, Spring 2012 Edition