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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Career decision making : how Chinese adults in Canada make career decisions Cao, Xiaowen


While career counsellors use theoretical career decision making models to prescribe and describe the career decision making process, it is not clear if these models effectively account for people's career decision making experiences. In addition, in North America, most of the career decision making theories and models have been developed on the basis of small samples of White college students. Few studies have been found concerning how minority groups make career decisions or determining if the existing career decision theories and career decision making models are applicable to their career decision making processes. Given Canada is a multicultural country with thousands of immigrants coming to settle here every year, it is obviously worthwhile conducting career decision making studies among minority groups. To this end, Chinese adults who were from Mainland China were chosen as the subjects for this study. This study proposed to (1) investigate career decision making processes of Chinese adults who have been in Canada for at least one year to examine the decision making patterns involved, (2) examine to what extent the existing North American career decision theories or models are applicable to this group of people, and (3) potentially discover approaches to guide future career counselling practice for this group of people. The participants in this study consisted of twenty Chinese adults, twelve males and eight females, who came to Canada from Mainland China in recent years for the initial purpose of academic study or visiting. The Critical Incident Technique was used to collect and analyze the data in order to elicit critical incidents regarding career decision making. A total of 207 critical incidents were derived from twenty interviews. Out of these incidents, two similar career decision making patterns were developed, one of them represents the participants' career decision making process in China, the other one accounts for their career decision making process in Canada. Each pattern consisted of three stages that became the scheme to support the pattern itself. The career decision making pattern that happened in China contains the stages of (1) setting up occupational choices, (2) acting towards the choices, and (3) reflecting on outcomes. Above and around this pattern, there existed an external determining context, i.e., the impact of the government policy and political events, that actually dominated and directed the participants'career decision making processes. The pattern that reflects the career decision making in Canada includes the stages of (1) goal setting, (2) acting towards the goals, and (3) reflecting on outcomes. In this pattern, the external impact of the government and political events diminished greatly. In order to ensure trustworthiness and soundness of the categories, and the developed pattern, the categories and the pattern were subjected to several tests of reliability and validity. Also identified were another two categories referring to the participants'career decision making incidents in Canada, separate and unrelated to the pattern, which indicated a new aspect in the participants' career decision making processes in Canada. Finally, a comparison was made between the North American theoretical career decision making models and the results of this study. It was found that the participants' career decision making pattern did not resemble any of the rational theoretical models reviewed in this study, although there were some minor aspects that were shared by both the theories and the results. However, the other two reviewed theories related to social learning and determining contexts partially account for the results of this study. Internal and external factors which contribute to shaping the participants' career decision making pattern were explored and discussed. Implications for counselling and future research in the area of career decision making involving Chinese adults were suggested.

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