Youth career choices can be affected by many factors, including individual preferences, local opportunities, parental expectations, and so forth. Cultural background can largely define the relative weight of these factors in the decision-making process. Individualistic cultures value personal success above everything else, while in the collectivistic paradigm, the individual’s contribution to the family or society matters the most. This paper aims at exploring the role of individualistic and collectivistic cultures in defining career choices and expectations for their youths and showing the differences between them.
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To study the influence of the different types of societies on young adults’ career aspirations, it is important to establish the distinct features of individualistic and collectivistic approaches to the issue. According to Akosah-Twumasi et al. (2008), “decision-making in individualistic cultures are based on individuals’ own wishes and desires, whilst in collectivistic cultures the primary objective is to optimize the group’s benefit” (p. 2). Hence, it is reasonable to suggest that career choices in individualistic cultures will rely more on personal preferences, while in the collectivistic societies, peer pressure and parental expectations can be the shaping factors.
Young adults make their career choices based on the number of intrinsic, extrinsic, and interpersonal factors. The first type represents the individual preferences, the second considers the rational aspects, such as benefits and job security, and the third is based on the expectations of the family and friends (Akosah-Twumasi et al., 2018). In line with the previous assumptions, in a collectivistic culture, interpersonal factors should prevail over the others. The research has shown that in Croatian society, which has distinct collectivistic features, students rated importance to the community and helping others as the key points in choosing the career path (Wüst & Leko Šimić, 2017). On the contrary, these factors were low in priority to German students, who, on average, valued high income the most (Wüst & Leko Šimić, 2017). In Asian collectivist societies, students rate job accessibility and prestige as extremely important in comparison to American students (Akosah-Twumasi et al., 2018). It leads to conclusion that different extrinsic factors can define career choices in both individualistic and collectivistic cultures, while interpersonal aspects have a significant influence only in the latter.
Globalization of the modern world results in cultural blending, and migrants often face the challenge of adapting to the new environment. According to Akosah-Twumasi et al. (2008), “migrant students might face a daunting task in negotiating their career needs both within host countries’ school systems and within their own family setups” (p. 3). Asian American youths tend to adopt intrinsic values as the most important in their career choices, while their parents value prestige and job security the most (Ma et al., 2014). As a result, Asian students in the US often have to look for a compromise between their aspirations and their parents’ plans, or even completely sacrifice their dreams. Ma et al. (2014) add that these students feel obliged to fulfill their parents’ expectations. Overall, the examples of internal conflicts within migrant families show how different are the core values of the individualist and collectivist cultures.
The upbringing of the young adults and their career choices vary significantly depending on their parents’ cultural background. Individualistic and collectivistic approaches, associated with Western and Eastern cultures, respectively, define life goals and values differently. In some cases, it can lead to a culture clash, when in migrant families, young adults adopt the culture of the host county, and their parents refuse to do it. Considering the scope of the cultural differences, the compromise approach remains the only effective tool to prevent further discord in these situations.
Akosah-Twumasi, P., Emeto T. I., Lindsay, D., Tsey, K., & Malau-Aduli, B.S. (2018). A systematic review of factors that influence youths career choices — the role of culture. Frontiers in Education, 3, 58. Web.
Ma, Pei-Wen W., Desai, U., George, L.S., San Filippo, A. A., & Varon, S. (2014). Managing family conflict over career decisions: The experience of Asian Americans. Journal of Career Development, 41(6), 487-506. Web.
Wüst, K., & Leko Šimić, M. (2017). Students’ career preferences: Intercultural study of Croatian and German students. Economics and Sociology, 10(3), 136-152. Web.