Motivation is one of the core concepts of individual agency and has been shown to have a direct impact on psychological well-being. For students who are leaving college and entering the workforce, well-being is of paramount importance as they make this life-changing transition. “Previous studies on the transition into work have yielded important insights demonstrating that young adults’ agency has important consequences for their well-being, mental health, and career success,” said Claudia M. Haase of the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a recent study. “In the present study, we focus on university graduates, who, despite an advantaged position in the labor market, face increasing challenges in terms of finding a permanent, career-ladder job commensurate with their education.”
Specifically, Haase and her colleagues focused on subjective and psychological well-being in relation to goal pursuit. “Subjective well-being refers to how individuals think and feel about their life and includes aspects such as global life satisfaction, satisfaction with specific life domains, positive affect, and (inverse) negative affect. Psychological well-being refers to aspects such as autonomy, positive relations with others, and purpose in life,” said Haase.
Haase interviewed 498 German college graduates and found that goal engagement was directly related to positive well-being and the students who disengaged from their goals had decreases in their overall well-being. “However, this dynamic was not without exception,” said Haase. “Goal engagement at graduation was associated with a decrease in autonomy and, for individuals with unfavorable employment opportunities, an increase in depressive symptoms. Goal disengagement at graduation was associated with an increase in satisfaction with work.” Haase believes the findings of this study shed light on why many college graduates who have limited career opportunities engage in less than desirable goal pursuit behaviors as they make the transition from college to career. She added, “In sum, how young adults deal with their occupational goals is closely linked to changes in their well-being.”
Haase, C. M., Heckhausen, J., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2011, December 19). The Interplay of Occupational Motivation and Well-Being During the Transition From University to Work. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026641
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