Follow your heart or your head? A longitudinal study of the facilitating role of calling and ability in the pursuit of a challenging career

Reference

Dobrow, S. R. & Heller, D. 2015. “Follow your heart or your head? A longitudinal study of the facilitating role of calling and ability in the pursuit of a challenging career.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(3), 695-712.

Abstract

While making early career decisions in which pursuing what one loves and earning a secure living are at odds with one another, when and why will the intrinsic considerations prevail over the extrinsic considerations? We posit that a key factor in resolving this dilemma in favor of the intrinsic side of the career is the sense of calling, a consuming, meaningful passion people experience toward the domain. We test the connection between early callings (in adolescence) and later career pursuit (in adulthood) and the mediating role of perceived and actual abilities (in young adulthood) in a career context in which the intrinsic and extrinsic sides of a career can clash: the path to become a professional musician. In an 11-year 5-wave longitudinal study of 450 amateur high school musicians progressing from adolescence to adulthood, we found that regardless of their actual musical ability, people with stronger early callings were likely to perceive their abilities more favorably, which led them to pursue music professionally. Our findings thus indicate an intriguing pattern in which the experience of stronger early callings led to greater perceived ability that was not reflected in greater actual ability. Perceived ability, rather than objective ability as assessed by awards won in music competitions, led to subsequent career pursuit. We discuss implications for theory and research on the nature and consequences of calling, as well as for career decision making, both in general and in challenging career contexts in particular.
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