Socio-personal premises for selecting and securing an occupation as vocation

Stephen Billett, Jennifer Newton, Cherene M. Ockerby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


When individuals select a particular occupation, they, their families and the community invest significant resources in their preparing for, learning about, and effective participation in that occupation. Yet, given the high attrition rates during that preparation and high levels of early separation from occupations, selection of occupations is shown to be frequently flawed with accompanying costs all around. Hence, it is important to understand more about how individuals select their occupation. This paper is based on a consideration of earlier studies and a current inquiry into student nurses' engagement with their occupation. It notes that individuals' bases for engagement are multi-fold, personally distinct and shaped by experiences within their life history or ontogeny. Moreover, individuals make occupational choices at various distances from the actual practice of the occupation itself. Seemingly, the more remote from actual practice the decision-making occurs, the greater this choice is premised on ideals, rather than actualities of the occupation. Hence, given the importance of compatibility and negotiations between the person and occupation constituting the vocations with which individuals come to identify, understanding occupation as a practice rather than an ideal becomes salient. The paper concludes that the importance of aligning personal interests and capacities with particular occupations through proximal access is critical. That is, individuals need to experience the occupation and its practice before significant levels of personal and societal investment are expended, and through successful participation it may well then become adopted as vocation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-62
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in the Education of Adults
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


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