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5 vizualizări15 paginiOccupation Congruence

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journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jvb

interest–occupation congruence within and across time

Bart Wille a,⁎, Terence J.G. Tracey b, Marjolein Feys c, Filip De Fruyt a

a

Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social Psychology, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

b

Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Arizona State University, 446 Payne Hall, MC0811, Tempe, AZ 85287-0811, USA

c

Department of Personnel Management, Work and Organizational Psychology, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Remarkably little research has addressed change and stability in person–environment fit across

Received 14 October 2013 time. The objective of the current study was to address this gap in the literature by investigating

Available online 17 December 2013 Holland interest–occupation congruence across time for a sample of college alumni (N = 167)

that were tracked during the first third of their professional career. Congruence was examined

Keywords: in all its complexity, including a repeated assessment of both occupations and interests, the use of

Interest–occupation congruence objective (O*NET) and subjective (self-report) environment assessment methods, and adopting

Person–environment fit sophisticated congruence calculation methods (i.e., Euclidean distance and profile correlation).

RIASEC interests

This resulted in a total of 12 interest–occupation comparisons within and across time that could

Career satisfaction

be related to general and career specific well-being. The results first indicated moderate levels of

Life satisfaction

Longitudinal stability in interests and occupations across the 15-year time interval, yet also with room for

change. Congruence analyses indicated significant interest–occupation fit at the beginning of the

career and 15 years later, with the magnitude of congruence slightly varying depending on which

occupation assessment and which congruence method was used. Profile correlation congruence

did not change over time in absolute terms and evidenced relative stability. Euclidean distance

indices had little relative stability over time but did manifest some absolute changes in levels

of congruence. Finally, job change moderated the association between interest–occupation

congruence and life satisfaction in such a way that higher levels of satisfaction were reported only

when little job change was present.

© 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

A central premise in many career models and interventions is that optimal outcomes result from a good match between the

individual and his/her occupation. Although many aspects of person–environment (P–E) fit have been examined in vocational

psychology (Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman, & Johnson, 2005), research on interest–occupation congruence has dominated the P–E

fit field. In this context, congruence refers to the level of similarity between vocational interests and occupations, and the central

idea is that with greater interest–occupation congruence comes better outcomes, both in the professional domain as well as

for general well-being (Meir, 1989).

A vast body of research has become available over the past decades addressing this congruence hypothesis. Typically in this

literature, indices of congruence assessed at one point in time are related to indicators of success or well-being assessed at the

same or a later point in time (e.g., De Fruyt, 2002). Meta-analytically, these static analyses, with only one snapshot of congruence,

have revealed a mixed pattern of significant and nonsignificant relations between congruence and a variety of relevant outcomes

⁎ Corresponding author.

E-mail addresses: Bart.Wille@ugent.be (B. Wille), Terence.Tracey@asu.edu (T.J.G. Tracey), Marjolein.Feys@ugent.be (M. Feys), Filip.Defruyt@ugent.be (F. De Fruyt).

0001-8791/$ – see front matter © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2013.12.001

60 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

including aspects of satisfaction (Tranberg, Slane, & Ekeberg, 1993; Tsabari, Tziner, & Meir, 2005) and performance (Nye, Su,

Rounds, & Drasgow, 2012).

A related issue that has received much less attention in the literature concerns the dynamics of congruence across time.

If congruence has utility, then individuals should become more congruent as they develop (Tracey, 2007). Most authors agree that

P–E fit is indeed a dynamic process that unfolds over time. French, Rodgers, and Cobb (1974) and Caplan (1987) describe P–E fit

as an adjustment process where fit is the dynamic result of continuous attempts to alter person and environment characteristics.

In a similar vein, Holland (1997) describes congruence as a long-term (p.4) and interactive (p. 12) process, with mutual effects of

interests and environments on each other.

It is remarkable how questions regarding the dynamics of individual adjustment over time have been largely ignored

in research (Arnold, 2004). Specifically, the assumption that P–E congruence increases over time, with positive effects for

well-being, has seldom been tested. The most notable exceptions are studies investigating changes in congruence during

adolescence or the college years (Tracey & Robbins, 2006; Tracey, Robbins, & Hofsess, 2005) and studies examining change in

congruence following a single career change (Donohue, 2006). The significant dearth of research adopting a dynamic perspective

on interest–occupation congruence confronts us with a number of fundamental questions on vocational development that have

remained largely unanswered: How stable is an individual's fit with his or her work environment? Does workers' congruence

increase with time or does it remain unchanged? What is the relative contribution of change and stability in vocational

interests compared to change and stability in occupations in the evolution of interest–occupation congruence across time?

And finally, how are dynamics of congruence related to indicators of satisfaction and well-being? The present study addresses

these elementary questions by tracking the interest–occupation congruence over a time interval of 15 years in a cohort of

young professionals.

According to the gravitation hypothesis (Wilk, Desmarais, & Sackett, 1995), people gradually and continually evolve towards

more fitting environments. Specifically, gravitation entails a tendency for improved congruence to be achieved through cycles of

attraction, selection, and attrition (Schneider, Goldstein, & Smith, 1995). In brief, it is assumed that people are attracted to, select

themselves into, and are selected into environments that are compatible with their personal characteristics. If an individual finds

him or herself in an incompatible environment, the expectation is for him or her to withdraw. Evidence for the gravitational

hypothesis mainly comes from studies demonstrating significant prospective associations between personal characteristics

(i.e., interests and personality traits) and future occupational characteristics (e.g., De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1999; Woods & Hampson,

2010). In addition, it has also been demonstrated that career changers tend to change in the direction of greater congruence

(Donohue, 2006).

Besides changing the environment, individuals may also try to improve congruence by acting on themselves. In this context,

the concept of occupational socialization has been introduced to describe changes in the person which take place in and because

of the work environment (Frese, 1982). Compared to gravitational effects, research on socialization is limited, and has mainly

been conducted in the context of person–organization fit. For instance, De Cooman et al. (2009) found employees' work values

to change over a 2-year time interval, strengthening value congruence with the organization.

For a complete understanding of congruence dynamics, it is hence essential to consider change and stability in both

environment and person characteristics. For interest–occupation congruence, this means keeping track of occupations and

interests over time, while previous research addressing the gravitational hypothesis has typically considered only environmental

change and stability. While there is indeed evidence that interests remain relatively stable during adulthood, there is also room

for change (Low, Yoon, Roberts, & Rounds, 2005). Acknowledging change in interests implies that occupations at a later point in

time (e.g., half way through one's career) should not only be evaluated against the initial interests (e.g., at the beginning of a

career), but also against the interests that may have evolved over time. The current study is the first to examine change and

stability in interest–occupation congruence accounting for the dynamic potential of both occupations (e.g., though gravitation)

and personal interests (e.g., through socialization). It can be expected that both sides of the P–E equation show evidence of

stability over time, but that there is also room for change which may drive interests and occupations to align more closely to each

other over time.

Considering change and stability in interests and occupations may also have implications for the associations between

congruence and relevant outcomes. Increasing attention in the congruence literature is being devoted to identifying moderators

of congruence–outcome relationships. Tracey and Robbins (2006), for instance, found evidence that interest levels moderated the

relation between congruence and college persistence. As an other example, Tracey, Allen, and Robbins (2012) demonstrated that

environmental constraint also plays a significant role in the strength of congruence–success relations in undergraduates. In light

of these moderation effects obtained in single assessment congruence investigations, similar questions present themselves with

regard to longitudinal investigations of congruence. For instance, Tracey et al. (2005) suggested that one of the reasons for the

less than robust results yielded from P–E fit research could be that interests themselves change and evolve over time. Therefore,

the present study will also investigate whether and how changes in interests and occupations influence the associations between

congruence and relevant outcomes. The question at stake here is whether – in addition to congruence itself – the process of

attaining higher P–E fit (i.e. through interest or occupation change) is also relevant for understanding satisfaction or well-being.

Further, investigating congruence over time requires repeated assessments of commensurate person and environment

characteristics. In this regard, Holland's (1997) theory is unique among career theories in providing a parallel way to describe

people and environments. At the person-side, there is a long and successful tradition of RIASEC vocational interest assessment,

whereby people are asked to rate their own preferences and sometimes abilities and competencies. Environments, conversely,

can be defined and assessed in several manners.

B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 61

As is typical in vocational assessment, where one is concerned with matching someone with a future, unexperienced job,

broad and generalizable means of representing occupations are desired. Such broad representations of occupations in terms of

RIASEC codes have been developed using at least three different methodologies (Rounds, Smith, Hubert, Lewis, & Rivkin, 1999).

A first method, championed by Holland (1997) in the early years and currently the preferred method for the Strong Interest

Inventory (Harmon, Hansen, Borgen, & Hammer, 1994) uses employees' RIASEC interest scores to code occupations. This method

is closely tied to Holland's idea that the people in the environment are the environment. Essentially, this incumbent method

involves administering a RIASEC measure to a representative sample of workers in an occupation, calculating mean RIASEC

interest scores, and assigning high-point codes, usually three letter codes, to the occupation based on these average RIASEC

scores. One notable disadvantage of the incumbent method is the expense of collecting RIASEC data for large representative

samples of employed adults. To remedy this limitation, Gottfredson and Holland (1989, 1996) used an empirical method to

extend the RIASEC classification to all U.S. companies. This empirical method departs from governmental occupational analysis

data to assign RIASEC codes. These classifications gave rise to the first edition of the Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes

(DHOC; Gottfredson, Holland, & Ogawa, 1982). A third classification approach relies on direct expert ratings of occupations. This

judgment method is based on trained judges who consider a description of each occupation and select the most appropriate

RIASEC ordering for each. The judgment method has mainly been used to amend empirically developed RIASEC classifications.

A well-established example of such a combination method can be found in the development of occupational interest profiles

for O*NET (Rounds et al., 1999), which is the electronic successor to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (U.S. Department of

Labor, 1991).

When applied to a single worker's professional environment, all approaches described above have in common that they

can be characterized as ‘objective’ ratings of a person's occupation, in the sense that they are not influenced (or biased) by the

individual's own perceptions of his or her work environment. Rather, it uses others (i.e., an independent and representative

sample of job incumbents, trained experts, or a combination of both) who provide RIASEC ratings as a proxy of a person's work

environment. As a downside, however, it can be argued that these broad assessments may fail to reflect the idiosyncratic nature

of professional environments. Occupations have a good deal of variance in the interests demonstrated, and this variance can also

manifest itself within the same occupation in different environments (Tracey, 2007).

Although still not common in the literature, a different direction to environment assessment can be taken when the focus is

on individuals already in an occupation instead of future possible occupations. Specifically, one can ask individuals to rate their

current occupational environments themselves in terms of the RIASEC dimensions. The Position Classification Inventory (PCI;

Gottfredson & Holland, 1991) is an example of a RIASEC-based version of a perceived environmental scale. The PCI does for

environments what the Self-Directed Search (SDS; Holland, 1979) does for people: It directly, individually, but also subjectively

assesses them according to the theory's constructs. The asset of this approach is that it represents the aspects of the environment

that are salient to the individual. However, the liability is that this rating may have little correspondence with ratings of others

in the same job in the same organization.

The current study, for the first time in the literature, focuses on both narrow individual ratings of the job environment as

well as broad, objectified ratings in accounting for the environment component in person–environment fit. Specifically we used

the idiosyncratic ratings of job environment gleaned through the use of the PCI as well as the more consensual ratings included

in the O*NET. While it can be expected that these assessments demonstrate at least some level of convergence, it remains to be

examined what the impact is of these alternative environment ratings on interest–occupation congruence across time.

Finally, in addition to deciding on the environment assessment method, it is also crucial to select an appropriate congruence

calculation method. Recent developments in this field have pointed out that any index of congruence should take account of the

entire profile of RIASEC scores, and not just a subset (e.g., the top 1, 2, or 3 codes) which would result in a loss of information.

Such indices fail to incorporate the complete profile of interests and thus omit key information. In fact, they are gross

simplifications of both the interest profile and occupation. First, there is no account taken of relative magnitudes. For example, an

individual with a very high Social score and moderately low Enterprising and Conventional scores would be classified exactly

as someone with a moderate Social score and slightly less Enterprising and Conventional scores. Also, the issue of ties is very

problematic in the high-point matching process (De Fruyt, 2002). Beyond this, at best, only three of the scores are used and it is

plausible that the low interests could also bear some relation to the fit in an occupation. A previous study focusing on the relation

of the incongruence of the low point codes and satisfaction supports the usage of a full profile of RIASEC scores (Dik, Strife, &

Hansen, 2010). As such, indices that take fuller account of the entire interest profile are needed. Consistent with the most recent

research in this domain (Tracey et al., 2012), we chose to examine the relative merits of two different measures of congruence;

Euclidean distance and profile correlation, that utilize scores from the entire profile, but differ with respect to the incorporation

of the circular structure of interest scores. The circular model has been theorized (Holland, 1997) and demonstrated (e.g., Day &

Rounds, 1998; Tracey & Rounds, 1993) to fit RIASEC scales. This model specifies that the six RIASEC scales are similar to the degree

that they are close to each other on a circle. Given this structure, it is possible to characterize any profile of interest scores as a

point in this circle, and Prediger (1982) and Prediger and Vansickle (1992) proposed the two dimensions of Things/People and

Data/Ideas as appropriate dimensions that can be used to characterize RIASEC profiles. Our first congruence method, the

Euclidean distance, is based on this circular structure and reflects the spatial distance (using the Euclidean distance formula)

between two RIASEC profiles that are projected in this two-dimensional space, one for interests and one for occupations.

Euclidean distance was used by Tracey and Robbins (2006) and Tracey et al. (2012) in their longitudinal studies of interest–

college major congruence and by Neumann, Olitsky, and Robbins (2009) in their study of congruence and earnings. The second

congruence method, the profile correlation, makes no assumptions of the structural relationships among the scales and

62 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

alternatively represents the amount of pattern covariation in the RIASEC profile across the two measures. Based on previous

research (Tracey et al., 2012), we can expect moderate convergence between both calculations. However, their impact on the

examination of interest–occupation congruence across time remains to be investigated.

In sum, although interest–occupation congruence plays a central role in vocational psychology, much remains to be learned

about the underlying dynamics of this complex phenomenon. The scarcity of research addressing change and stability in

congruence in adult samples is understandable given the methodological challenges that need to be addressed. The current study

presents a longitudinal and multi-method examination of interest–occupation congruence in a sample of working adults that are

tracked across the first 15 years of their career. The objective of this study is to investigate interest–occupation congruence in

all its complexity: Both occupational characteristics and personal interests are allowed to change to account for gravitation and

socialization; work environments are rated subjectively as well as objectively; and state-of-the-art fit indices are computed that

take into account the entire interest profile.

2. Method

Data were used from a four-wave longitudinal research project in which a sample of Belgian college alumni is tracked across

the first 15 years of their professional career. Previous studies have used data from this alumni program to investigate the predictive

validity of personality traits with regard to initial job choice (De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1999), early career work adjustment (De Fruyt,

2002), career transitions (Wille, Beyers, & De Fruyt, 2012; Wille, De Fruyt, & Feys, 2010) and career success attainment (Wille,

De Fruyt, & De Clercq, 2013; Wille, De Fruyt, & Feys, 2013). The present study is unique in that it combines information regarding

participants' RIASEC interests and occupational characteristics at the beginning of the career as well as 15 years later, enabling the

investigation of PE congruence across time.

For the present study, a subsample of 167 college alumni (79 males and 88 females) could be included for whom congruence

indices could be computed at both measurement occasions (more information on study dropout is provided at the end of

this section). In 1994, three months prior to graduation from college, all participants completed a comprehensive vocational

interest questionnaire measuring their vocational aspirations at the career start. Although all highly educated, participants were

heterogeneous with regard to vocational interests, with alumni representing a broad range of college faculties including Industrial

engineering (N = 36), Philosophy, History, and Languages (N = 28), Law (N = 18), Sciences (N = 14), Applied sciences (N = 14),

Economics (N = 14), Psychology and Educational sciences (N = 25), Applied Biological sciences (N = 2), and Political and Social

sciences (N = 16). One year later (1995), a first follow-up of the sample was conducted asking participants to report on their current

nature of employment using open ended questions as well as a standardized questionnaire (see Measures). These 1994 and 1995

assessments are further referred to as Time 1 (T1) assessments in the current text. Participants' vocational interests and work

environments were reassessed in 2010 (Time 2; T2), together with the indicators of general and career-specific well-being after

15 years on the labor market.

2.2. Measures

The Dutch authorized adaptation (BZO95; Hogerheijde, Van Amstel, De Fruyt, & Mervielde, 1995a) of the Self-Directed Search

(SDS; Holland, 1979) was used to assess vocational interests at T1 and T2. The BZO95 is a broad measure of Holland's RIASEC

interests, and includes items referring to activities one likes to do, competencies a person has, occupations one prefers, and

characteristic personality features. Each scale consists of 12 items assessing each interest type, resulting in an item pool of

288 items (4 scales × 6 types × 12 items) that are all rated dichotomously. The BZO95 has satisfactory psychometric properties

(Hogerheijde et al., 1995a), with internal consistencies of the six RIASEC scales ranging between .90 and .95 at both measurement

occasions in the present study.

Participants described their current work environments at T1 (1995) and T2 (2010) using the Dutch adaptation of the Position

Classification Inventory (PCI), initially developed by Gottfredson and Holland (1991) and translated into Dutch by Hogerheijde

et al. (1995b). The PCI is a self-report instrument to evaluate the resemblance of work environments to Holland's prototypical

RIASEC types. To that end, each environmental type is assessed with 14 items, covering the activities involved in the job, the traits

and abilities required for the job, and the personal styles and values that are valued in the job. Validity evidence in the PCI manual

is supplemented by large-sample, longitudinal research (Maurer & Tarulli, 1997). Each of the 84 items are scored on a 3-point

Likert scale. Internal consistencies range between .85 (Conventional) and .91 (Investigative) at T1 and between .86 (Social) and .91

(Artistic) at T2.

At both measurement occasions, participants also provided current job titles, job descriptions, and information regarding their

hierarchical level in an organization (i.e., managerial level and number of subordinates). Based on this relatively extensive

information, participants' self-reported job titles were recoded into formalized O*NET job titles, and objectified RIASEC scores

B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 63

were subsequently culled from the O*NET database (O⁎NET Resource Center, 2012). T1 and T2 job titles were recoded

independently from each other by the first author and second co-author respectively. The validity of O*NET ratings has been

established by Rounds et al. (1999) and more recently by Eggerth, Bowles, Tunick, and Andrew (2005) and the ratings have been

used in past structural studies of Holland's RIASEC model (Deng, Armstrong, & Rounds, 2007).

2.2.4. Satisfaction

Career satisfaction was measured using a Dutch translation of the five-item Career Satisfaction Scale (Greenhaus, Parasuraman,

& Wormley, 1990). For general life satisfaction, a translation of the five-item Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen,

& Griffin, 1985) was used. All ten subjective well-being items were scored on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (totally

disagree) to 5 (totally agree), with higher scores indicating higher levels of satisfaction. A confirmatory factor analysis (conducted

in MPlus5) demonstrated that a two-factor model with all items loading on their intended factor yielded good model fit indices

(χ2 (N = 166, df = 34) = 96.69, p b .001; CFI = .93; TLI = .91; RMSEA = .11; SRMR = .05). A competing one-factor model

evidenced poor model fit (χ2 (N = 166, df = 35) = 437.38, p b .001; CFI = .55, TLI = .42; RMSEA = .26; SRMR = .16). The

Career and Life satisfaction scales correlated moderately (r = .34, p b .001) and demonstrated good internal consistency (α = .83

and .87 respectively). The mean score was 3.88 for career satisfaction (min = 2, max = 5, SD = 0.63) and 3.68 for life satisfaction

(min = 2, max = 5, SD = 0.70).

Given that the RIASEC scores can be validly represented as a circle in a two dimensional space (Tracey, 1997a,b; Tracey

& Rounds, 1993), the RIASEC scores from each of the measures were converted into Prediger's (1982) two dimensions of People/

Things and Data/Ideas. Specifically, Things/People was calculated as (2R + I − A − 2S − E + C) and Data/Ideas was calculated

as (1.73E + 1.73C − 1.73I − 1.73A). The Euclidean distance (i.e., the square root of the sum of squared deviations) was then

calculated for each pair of measures to yield a congruence score (see also Tracey et al., 2005, 2012; Tracey & Robbins, 2006). Lower

scores represent less difference in position (i.e., greater congruence) while higher scores represent greater distance between

points (i.e., less congruence).

The correlation among the pattern of RIASEC scores for each individual across two measures was used as an alternative index of

congruence. As such, high scores indicate a greater congruence (similar covariation) and low correlations or negative correlations

indicate less congruence (see also Allen & Robbins, 2010; Tracey et al., 2012).

The sample of 167 college alumni included in this study was drawn from a larger pool of 558 subjects who all provided data

on vocational interests and occupational environments at T1. For inclusion in this study, it was required that the same type of

information was also provided 15 years later at T2. To investigate selectivity in study dropout, we compared ‘continuers’ (n = 167) to

‘dropouts’ (n = 391) with regard to T1 interest scores (SDS), T1 occupation self-reports (PCI), and T1 congruence scores (SDS-PCI).

While no significant differences were obtained at the level of RIASEC interests, we found that continuers scored significantly higher

Fig. 1. Schematic representation of the different congruence indices that are considered in the present study organized according to the congruence method

(Euclidean distance vs. Profile correlation), the type of environment assessment (PCI vs. O*NET-based), and time perspective (concurrent time1 vs. concurrent

time2 vs. longitudinal).

64 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

than dropouts on T1 artistic (t(552) = −2.17, p b .05) and T1 social occupational characteristics (t(548) = −2.36, p b .05),

although these differences were small (d = .18 and .20 respectively). There were also no differences in congruence scores of interests

and occupations at time one (t(524) = 1.06, p = .288 for Euclidean distance and t(24) = 0.15, p = .876 for profile correlation).

Congruence in this study was investigated using different congruence indices, environmental assessments, and time

perspectives. Specifically, we considered two indices (Euclidean distance and Profile correlation) with one interest (SDS) and two

environment measures (PCI and O*NET) across two time periods. This resulted in twelve interest–occupation comparisons that

were examined (see Fig. 1).

There were five steps in the analysis. First, an examination of the change and stability in all different RIASEC ratings (interests

and occupations) was conducted. Following this, the convergence of the two environmental assessment methods (PCI and O*NET)

was investigated. Third, the associations between individual interest and occupational RIASEC dimensions were examined as an initial

investigation of the similarity of interests with occupational environments. Next, detailed analyses of the different congruence indices

within and across time were conducted. Finally, we examined the association between interest–occupation congruence across time

and satisfaction indicators.

3. Results

We first inspected two general indices of change and stability in personal interests and occupational characteristics.

Rank-order or differential stability of all the individual RIASEC scales was assessed by computing test–retest correlations across

the entire time interval. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to estimate mean-level change in RIASEC

interests and occupation scores and to test whether the mean-level changes were statistically significant. Regarding rank-order

stability, the results in Table 1 first point to moderate to strong levels of differential stability in RIASEC interest and occupation scores.

For the SDS interest scales, test–retest correlations range between .37 (Enterprising; p b .001) and .76 (Realistic; p b .001) with an

average of .51. For the occupation scales, the test–retest correlations were somewhat lower, ranging between .22 (Enterprising;

p b .01) and .51 (Artistic; p b .001) for the PCI and between .22 (Conventional; p b .01) and .53 (Social; p b .001) for the O*NET

ratings respectively.

Regarding mean-level changes, the results indicated significant decreases in participants' Realistic (F(1,165) = 6.59, p b .05),

Investigative (F(1,165) = 12.88, p b .001), Artistic (F(1,165) = 9.51, p b .01), and Social (F(1,165) = 24.27, p b .001) SDS

interests. At the side of the environment, the pattern of mean score changes varied across measures. For the PCI occupational

ratings, there was a small decrease in Realistic characteristics (F(1,165) = 20.01, p b .001) while Social (F(1,165) = 20.28,

p b .001), Enterprising (F(1,165) = 53.49, p b .001) and Conventional (F(1,165) = 73.71, p b .001) characteristics increased

modestly. When the O*NET occupational classification was considered, there was only a small but significant decrease in Artistic

characteristics (F(1,165) = 11.67, p b .01) and a modest increase in Enterprising characteristics (F(1,165) = 36.28, p b .001).

Cohen's d effect sizes of these mean-level changes are summarized in Table 1.

The correlations among the two environment assessment methods are presented in Table 2. As can be seen, at both time

points, the two ratings are moderately correlated. The strongest level of convergence was obtained for the Realistic scale (r = .53

Table 1

Test–retest correlations (r) and mean level changes (d) of interest and occupation scores.

r d r d r d

Investigative .51⁎⁎⁎ −.28⁎⁎⁎ .50⁎⁎⁎ .00 .33⁎⁎⁎ .00

Artistic .50⁎⁎⁎ −.24⁎⁎ .51⁎⁎⁎ −.01 .40⁎⁎⁎ −.07⁎⁎

Social .49⁎⁎⁎ −.39⁎⁎⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .11⁎⁎⁎ .53⁎⁎⁎ .01

Enterprising .37⁎⁎⁎ .02 .22⁎⁎ .25⁎⁎⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .18⁎⁎⁎

Conventional .43⁎⁎⁎ .14 .25⁎⁎⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .22⁎⁎ .01

Average .51 – .37 – .38 –

⁎ p b .05.

⁎⁎ p b .01.

⁎⁎⁎ p b .001.

B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 65

Table 2

Correlations between corresponding PCI and O*NET RIASEC scores at time 1 and time 2.

Time 1 Time 2

Investigative .36⁎⁎⁎ .42⁎⁎⁎

Artistic .41⁎⁎⁎ .52⁎⁎⁎

Social .31⁎⁎⁎ .50⁎⁎⁎

Enterprising .28⁎⁎⁎ .43⁎⁎⁎

Conventional .16⁎ .22⁎⁎

Average .34 .44

Note.

⁎ p b .05.

⁎⁎ p b .01.

⁎⁎⁎ p b .001.

at T1 and T2; p b .001), while the overlap was consistently smallest for the Conventional scale (r = .16, p b .05 and r = .22,

p b .01 for T1 and T2 respectively).

As an initial examination of the similarity of interests with occupations, each of the RIASEC interest scales were correlated with

the two environmental assessments (PCI and O*NET RIASEC scales; see Table 3). The magnitude of the correlations is moderate

when examined concurrently and does not vary appreciably across RIASEC scale or across occupation assessment method. One

notable exception is the nonsignificant correlation between the T2 Enterprising interest scale and the concurrent Enterprising

O*NET rating. As a matter of fact, at T2 only the interest–occupation correlations tended to be smaller when O*NET ratings were used

compared to PCI ratings (mean r = .24).

Based on the gravitational hypothesis, we expected T2 occupations to be more highly correlated with T1 interests compared to

T1 occupations. However, based on the average correlations for both sets of analyses, this was generally not the case. The only

exception was for Social interests and occupational characteristics, where T2 occupations tended to show stronger convergence

with T1 Social interests (r = .44 for PCI and .40 for O*NET; p b .001) compared to T1 occupations (r = .28 for PCI and .34

for O*NET; p b .001). All other longitudinal correlations were highly comparable to those reported for the concurrent assessments.

As the Euclidean distance index of congruence depends upon the validity of the circumplex model, it is essential to evaluate

the fit of the circumplex model with the measures and sample used. There are several tools that enable analysis of circumplex

models (e.g., CIRCUM, Browne, 1992; circular unidimensional scaling, Armstrong, Hubert, & Rounds, 2003; Hubert, Arabie,

& Meulman, 1997; and the randomization test of hypothesized order relations, Hubert & Arabie, 1987; Tracey, 1997a).

These methods are described and compared in Darcy and Tracey (2007) and Gupta, Tracey, and Gore (2008). We chose the

randomization test of hypothesized order relations as it has been demonstrated to be sound (see above citations), it is easily

understood by others, it is the most common, and it provides an index of fit that enables easy comparison across samples. This test

compares the fit of the data to a hypothesized model and then uses the distribution of all random reordering of the rows and

columns of a correlation matrix to provide an exact test of the significance of the model-data fit. In this case, the model is that of a

Table 3

Concurrent and longitudinal correlations between interests and occupations.

Investigative .22⁎⁎ .18⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .22⁎⁎ .24⁎⁎ .20⁎⁎

Artistic .35⁎⁎⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .33⁎⁎⁎ .20⁎⁎ .41⁎⁎⁎ .29⁎⁎⁎

Social .28⁎⁎⁎ .34⁎⁎⁎ .39⁎⁎⁎ .25⁎⁎ .44⁎⁎⁎ .40⁎⁎⁎

Enterprising .41⁎⁎⁎ .34⁎⁎⁎ .40⁎⁎⁎ .14 .34⁎⁎⁎ .22⁎⁎

Conventional .26⁎⁎ .32⁎⁎⁎ .43⁎⁎⁎ .29⁎⁎⁎ .21⁎⁎ .20⁎⁎

Average .31 .32 .36 .24 .32 .27

Note.

a

T1 interest scores in combination with T2 work characteristics.

⁎ p b .05.

⁎⁎ p b .01.

⁎⁎⁎ p b .001.

66 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

circumplex, where the correlations between adjacent scales (e.g., RI) are greater than correlations between scales one step apart

on the circle (e.g., RA), which are in turn greater than correlations opposite on the circle (e.g., RS; see Tracey & Rounds, 1993 for

the specification of all predictions). The number of predictions confirmed in the correlation matrix thus serves as the basis of the

test and is compared against what would be expected by chance (i.e., the random reorderings). In addition to this exact test

of model-data fit, Hubert and Arabie (1987) proposed the use of the correspondence index (CI) to aid interpretation. The CI is the

number of predictions met minus the number of predictions violated over the total number of predictions. A CI value of .5 would

indicate that 75% of the predictions were met and 25% violated.

The results of the randomization test of hypothesized order relations are presented in Table 4. The fit of the data to the

circumplex model was significant in each case. The magnitude of this model-data fit can be compared to meta-analytically

derived benchmarks (Rounds & Tracey, 1996) of CI = .70 for U.S. samples and measures and CI = .48 for international contexts.

It can be seen that the CI values in this study are similar to the U.S. benchmark for all except the PCI at time 1 (CI = .53), which

was, although significant, lower than the U.S. benchmark. So the results indicate that both interests and the occupational

environment fit the circle and that the Euclidean distance index of congruence is valid.

While the congruence indicators provide information on the extent to which interests and occupations match, they provide

little information on the absolute magnitude of this fit. To examine if people tend to choose occupations that match their interests

we compared the congruence indices with the congruence indices that would result if an individual entered a randomly selected

occupation. There are two methods for determining random occupations: (a) using all possible occupations drawn from the

O*NET, or (b) using all possible permutations of RIASEC occupational codes. There is no formal job analysis of Belgian occupations

so we chose to use the O*NET RIASEC estimates based on U.S. job analysis for (a). We did not think that the job structure would

be appreciably different in Belgium. We examined the congruence indices relative to both of these random distributions to gain

an estimate of the absolute magnitude of congruence.

For the Euclidean distance indicator, the Euclidean distance of the environment scores from the SDS RIASEC scores was

calculated for each individual twice, once using the PCI RIASEC environment scores and again once using the O*NET RIASEC

environment scores. Next, the Euclidean distance of each individual's SDS RIASEC scores with all possible combinations of all of

the RIASEC scores of all 974 O*NET occupations was also calculated. This matching of each individual's SDS profile with each of the

O*NET occupations provides a distribution of Euclidean distance congruence with all jobs and the 95% best Euclidean congruence

value provides a very strong statistical evaluation of whether or not the individual's Euclidean distance index is significantly

different from chance. In a sample of people, the expected proportion of individuals who would have Euclidean distance measures

at or above the 95%ile threshold should be .05.

In a second test, using a different definition of random, the individual's RIASEC scores were compared to all the permutations

of the reordering of the RIASEC scores for the environment. So for 6 types, this results in 720 different permutations of the

reordering of the environmental RIASEC scores. These 720 congruence indices are then used to provide the distribution from

which the 95%ile is determined. Like above with the Euclidean distance distribution based on the O*NET environment, the

expectation across all individuals is that only 5% of the individuals would have a significant P–E Euclidean fit index. Because we

also calculated the profile correlation, the exact same procedures were used to determine the comparison distributions. So there

were two different assessments of the significance of the PE congruence indices differing from random: one based on all O*NET

occupations and one based on all permutations of the actual occupation of employment. Each of these examinations was

conducted for both the Euclidean and Profile correlation indices of congruence.

We also considered using the number of jobs in each occupation as the basis of the random distribution. In this analysis we

would match the person's interest scores to a random occupation drawn from a pool of all occupations weighted by the frequency

of each. This random distribution would put more weight on those occupations that were more frequent, hence accounting

for base-rate differences. However, because the only occupational base-rate data that we had came from U.S. estimates, we did

not think that these estimates could be validly applied to Belgium. So we use the random distributions described above which did

Table 4

The randomization tests of hypothesized order relations for the circumplex model.

Predictions Correspondence

Time 1

SDS 72 61 (84.7) .694 .0167

PCI 72 55 (76.4) .528 .0333

Time 2

SDS 72 62 (86.1) .722 .0167

PCI 72 64 (88.9) .778 .0167

Note.

a

No time-specific tests were necessary for the O*NET data because these time 1 and time 2 occupation ratings were all derived from the same time-invariant

database.

B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 67

not depend upon obtaining base-rate estimates for Belgium. (As an aside, we did these analyses with base-rate corrected data and

found very similar results to those we obtained using the other random distributions).

The means and standard deviations of the various congruence indices and the comparisons with random distributions

are presented in Table 5. First, the congruence of interest and occupation profiles across time was examined separately. For the

congruence of interest scores, the Euclidean distance mean was 32.4 (SD = 17.5) and the profile correlation was .55 (SD = .36).

This correlation indicates that on average the congruence between interests over time is high. To help interpret the Euclidean

distance results, the randomization tests provide information on how much these values deviate from chance. Specifically, 46% of

the individuals had interest congruence indices that deviated from chance (as determined by the O*NET occupations) and 59% as

determined by the random permutations. Comparable findings were obtained for the profile correlations where 34% deviated

from chance using the O*NET definition of chance and 82% using the permutation definition of chance. Similar patterns also exist

for the occupational profiles over time (PCI and O*NET) where the proportion of congruence indices exceeding significance is well

above the chance level of .05.

The next two rows represent the levels of congruence between interests and occupations, both assessed at T1. For the PCI, the

Euclidean distance mean was 38.5 (SD = 21.2), with 30% of the individuals having congruence indices that deviated from chance

(as determined by the O*NET occupations) and 48% as determined by the random permutations. The average profile correlation

of r = .35 (SD = .42) further indicates a moderate level of congruence between interests and occupations at T1. When O*NET

was used as the environmental assessment at T1, the mean Euclidean distance was larger (M = 63.0; SD = 28.8) while this did

not seem to affect the mean profile correlation (r = .37; SD = .44).

Regarding concurrent interest–environment congruence levels at T2, the mean Euclidean distances were highly comparable

with those obtained 15 years earlier. For the PCI ratings, 29% the individuals had Euclidean distance congruence indices that

deviated from chance (as determined by the O*NET occupations) and 47% as determined by the random permutations. For the

O*NET ratings, these percentages were lower (i.e., 11% and 14% respectively). The mean profile correlation between interests and

environments at T2 was .41, irrespective of the environment assessment method (PCI or O*NET) that was used.

Finally, with respect to the interest–environment congruence across time (SDS interests at T1 and PCI/O*NET occupations at

T2), the mean Euclidean distances are highly comparable to those resulting from the concurrent analyses. For T1 SDS and T2 PCI

ratings, 34% the individuals had Euclidean distance congruence indices that deviated from chance (as determined by the O*NET

occupations) and 50% as determined by the random permutations. For the T1 SDS and T2 O*NET ratings, these percentages were,

again, lower (i.e., 18% and 22% respectively). Finally, the mean profile correlation between T1 interests and T2 occupations was

in the same range as for the concurrent analyses, i.e. .37 (SD = .41) for PCI ratings and .33 (SD = .45) for O*NET ratings. These

results indicate that regardless of the congruence index examined, there is a significant amount of congruence that exists.

The correlations among the different congruence indices are presented in Table 6. First, the Euclidean and Profile correlation

methods are moderately correlated with each other (and marked in bold in the table), having a mean correlation of r = − .59

(range − .46 to − .66). The negative correlations are expected given that low scores on Euclidean distance indicate congruence as

do high scores on the profile correlation. The magnitude of these correlations further shows that there is moderate covariation but

also some unique variance in each congruence method. This is further confirmed by the correlations between the congruence

indices across the two different environmental types. These correlations are underlined in Table 6. Specifically, the correlation

Table 5

Mean congruence indices along with tests of randomness.

O*NET random O*NET random

Int1–Int2 32.4 17.5 .46 .59 .55 .36 .34 .82

PCI1–PCI2 32.4 18.9 .34 .52 .65 .31 .60 .70

O*1–O*2 65.0 47.2 .46 .50 .49 .48 .33 .66

Int1–PCI1 38.5 21.2 .30 .48 .35 .42 .23 .70

Int1–O*1 63.0 28.8 .17 .27 .37 .44 .25 .71

Int2–PCI2 33.3 17.2 .29 .47 .41 .39 .32 .75

Int2–O*2 65.8 24.3 .11 .14 .41 .38 .20 .77

Int1–PCI2 38.4 20.9 .34 .50 .37 .41 .20 .80

Int1–O*2 69.9 28.5 .18 .22 .33 .45 .22 .67

Note. Int1 = SDS interest profile at time 1; Int2 = SDS interest profile at time 2; PCI1 = PCI occupation profile at time 1; PCI2 = PCI occupation profile at time 2;

O*1 = O*NET occupation profile at time 1; O*2 = O*NET occupation profile at time 2.

68 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

between interests (T1)–PCI (T1) Euclidean distance (i.e., I1P1E) and interests (T1)–O*NET (T1) Euclidean distance (I1O1E)

was .17 (p b .05), whereas the equivalent correlation using the profile correlation method (i.e., the correlation between interests

and PCI at T1 (I1P1R) and interests and O*NET at T1 (I1O1R) was .38 (p b .01). Similarly, the correlation between Euclidean

measures of interests at T1 with PCI at T2 (I1P2E) and interests at T1 with O*NET at T2 (I1O2E) was .34, whereas the equivalent

correlation was .57 when the profile correlation was used.

The tests of the differences in the congruence indices over time are summarized in Table 7. Overall there were few changes in

congruence over time. The sole exceptions were two significant but opposite results for Euclidean distance indices. First, when

considering the PCI environment assessment, it was found that the Euclidean distance between concurrent T2 interests and

environments was greater compared to the Euclidean distance between concurrent T1 interests and environments (t(166) = 2.61,

p b .01), thus indicating decreases in congruence (greater distance represents less congruence). Furthermore, for the Euclidean

distance method there was also a change in congruence in the opposite direction from interests at T1 with occupation at T1 to

interests at T1 with the occupation at T2 (t(166) = −2.35, p b .05). Specifically, interests at T1 were more similar to the O*NET job

at T2 compared to O*NET job at T1. Finally, an interesting pattern of results also emerged with respect to the differential stability of

congruence. Specifically, all four of the positive correlations presented in Table 7 (last column) were significant for the profile

correlation indices but only one of four was significant for the Euclidean distance indices.

To examine the relationships between congruence and outcomes, we first correlated each of the congruence measures

with both life and career satisfaction. However, there were no significant associations between any of the congruence indices and

either satisfaction measure.

Next, a series of hierarchical regressions were conducted to examine the moderation of the congruence-satisfaction relations

by job change over the period of study. Specifically, we investigated whether individuals who changed jobs would have a

greater relation between congruence and satisfaction (both career and life). We used separate hierarchical regressions to test

the moderation effect on both life and career satisfaction using the different measures of congruence. In a first step of these

hierarchical regressions, the congruence between T1 interests and T2 environments was entered (A), followed by the congruence

between T1 and T2 environments in a second step (B), and the interaction term (A × B) in a third and final step. The congruence

between T1 and T2 environments is thus used here as a proxy for change in environments or job change. The results first

indicated no significant relations of any of the variables with career satisfaction. For life satisfaction, on the other hand, there were

a number of significant effects but only when the O*NET environment assessment was used. The summary of these regressions

are presented in Table 8.

For the profile correlation method and using O*NET ratings (lower half of Table 8), only the congruence between T1 and T2

O*NET environment ratings had a significant effect on life satisfaction (β = .22, p b .05). The positive effect moreover indicates

that a stronger (profile) correlation between T1 and T2 environments was predictive for higher levels of life satisfaction. In other

words, those individuals who stayed close to their original job were more satisfied, whereas those who changed jobs more

substantially (i.e., smaller correlation between T1 and T2 O*NET job ratings) reported lower life satisfaction.

A similar pattern of results was obtained using the Euclidean distance index of congruence, and here the moderation of

the life–satisfaction-congruence relation by job change as the interaction term was also significant (see upper part of Table 8).

Greater Euclidean distances between T1 and T2 O*NET environment ratings were associated with lower levels of life satisfaction

(β = − .16, p b .05), again indicating that those individuals who changed to jobs that were more different from their initial one

Table 6

Correlations among the different congruence measures.

1. I1P1E 1.00

2. I1P1R −.52⁎⁎ 1.00

3. I1P2E .49⁎⁎ −.19⁎ 1.00

4. I1P2R −.23⁎⁎ .64⁎⁎ −.46⁎⁎ 1.00

5. I1O1E .17⁎ −.15 −.03 −.04 1.00

6. I1O1R −.21⁎⁎ .38⁎⁎ −.08 .39⁎⁎ −.68⁎⁎ 1.00

7. I1O2E .15⁎ −.23⁎⁎ .34⁎⁎ −.29⁎⁎ .14 −.13 1.00

8. I1O2R −.14 .37⁎⁎ −.26⁎⁎ .57⁎⁎ −.13 .39⁎⁎ −.66⁎⁎ 1.00

9. I2P2E .10 −.07 .35⁎⁎ −.29⁎⁎ −.10 −.07 .17⁎ −.18⁎ 1.00

10.I2P2R −.11 .34⁎⁎ −.24⁎⁎ .56⁎⁎ .03 .29 −.16⁎ .34⁎⁎ −.60⁎⁎ 1.00

11.I2O2E −.02 −.09 .10 −.06 .05 −.01 .59⁎⁎ −.25⁎⁎ .17⁎ −.20⁎⁎ 1.00

12.I2O2R −.02 .17⁎ −.11 .26⁎⁎ −.09 .23⁎⁎ −.32⁎⁎ .46⁎⁎ −.33⁎⁎ .52⁎⁎ −.63⁎⁎ 1.00

Note. I1 = SDS interest profile at time 1; I2 = SDS interest profile at time 2; P1 = PCI occupation profile at time 1; P2 = PCI occupation profile at time 2; O1 =O*NET

occupation profile at time 1; O2 = O*NET occupation profile at time 2; E = Euclidean distance, R = Profile correlation.

⁎ p b .05.

⁎⁎ p b .01.

B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 69

Table 7

Summary of paired samples t-tests on congruence indices across time.

Euclidean distance

Interest1–PCI1 vs. Interest1–PCI2 0.15 21.25 0.10 .49⁎⁎

Interest1–PCI1 vs. Interest2–PCI2 5.25 26.02 2.61⁎⁎ .10

Interest1–O*NET1 vs. Interest1–O*NET2 −6.84 37.60 −2.35⁎⁎ .14

Interest1–O*NET1 vs. Interest2–O*NET2 −2.79 36.71 0.98 .05

Profile correlation

Interest1–PCI1 vs. Interest1–PCI2 −0.02 0.35 −0.71 .64⁎⁎

Interest1–PCI1 vs. Interest2–PCI2 −0.05 0.47 −1.56 .38⁎⁎

Interest1–O*NET1 vs. Interest1–O*NET2 0.04 0.49 0.94 .39⁎⁎

Interest1–O*NET1 vs. Interest2–O*NET2 −0.04 0.51 −0.92 .23⁎⁎

Note.

⁎ p b .05.

⁎⁎ p b .01.

reported lower life satisfaction. However there was a significant interaction effect with interest–occupation congruence (β = .41,

p b .05). An examination of the simple slopes of this interaction revealed that for individuals whose new job was different from

the early job (i.e., high Euclidean O*NET distance over time) there was a positive relation between interest–O*NET congruence

and life satisfaction. Given that greater Euclidean distance indicates less congruence, this result means that for those with greater

job change; there was a negative relation between congruence and life satisfaction. However, those whose later job was

more similar to the earlier one (lower Euclidean O*NET distance over time) had a negative relation between life satisfaction and

interest–occupation at time 2 Euclidean distance. So for those who stayed in a similar job, there was a positive relation between

congruence and life satisfaction.

We also conducted an identical moderation analysis but instead of examining the moderating effect of job change, we

examined the moderating effect of interest change over time (i.e., changes in interests from time 1 to time 2 using both the Euclidean

distance and profile correlations). We did not find any significant moderation effects for the congruence–career satisfaction relation

for either congruence index or method of assessing the environment. A similar lack of significant moderating relations was found in

the congruence–life satisfaction relation.

4. Discussion

To date, very little knowledge is available on change and stability in interest–occupation congruence once people have left

college and entered the workforce. The general objective of this study was therefore to investigate the dynamics of congruence

Table 8

Hierarchical regressions with life satisfaction as the criterion and O*NET-based congruence.

Euclidean distance

Step 1 .000 1,166 0.08 .000 1,166 0.08

Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .02 0.28

Step 2 .025 2,165 2.06 .025 1,165 4.04⁎

Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .07 0.86

O*NET1–O*NET2 (B) −.16 −2.01⁎

Step 3 .048 3,164 3.62 .023 1,164 3.95⁎

Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .13 0.38

O*NET1–O*NET2 (B) −.22 −1.85

A×B .41 1.99⁎

Profile correlation

Step 1 .000 1,166 0.02 .000 1,166 0.02

Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .14 0.14

Step 2 .047 2,165 3.89⁎ .047 1,165 7.76⁎⁎

Interest1–O*NET2 (A) −.04 −0.55

O*NET1–O*NET2 (B) .22 2.79⁎⁎

Step 3 .057 3,164 3.17⁎ .010 1,164 1.68

Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .04 0.38

O*NET1–O*NET2 (B) .30 3.03⁎⁎

A×B −.16 −1.36

Note.

⁎ p b .05.

⁎⁎ p b .01.

70 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

over a significant and substantial time interval and using a sample of actual workers instead of the college students that

have previously been used (e.g., Tracey et al., 2005). The longitudinal and multi-method design that was adopted allowed us

to rigorously investigate the inherently complex phenomenon that is P–E fit. Specifically, interest–occupation congruence could

be examined using different environment assessment methods (i.e., objective and subjective), applying different congruence

calculations (i.e., Euclidean distance and profile correlation), and adopting different time perspectives to investigate changes in

congruence across time.

A questionable assumption that is often made in prior research on congruence concerns the treatment of interests as being

fixed (Tracey & Robbins, 2006). The results of this study demonstrate that interests of workers are both stable and changing over

time. There was a relatively high degree of differential stability in interest scores, supporting the individual differences view of

stable interest patterns (e.g., Holland, 1997; Rounds & Tracey, 1990). However, there was also some variation in differential

stability across interest types, with Enterprising interests in particular demonstrating the greatest potential for relative

changes. In addition, we also observed several absolute changes in interest scores over time that tempers the claim of

consistency of interests. Albeit modest, significant mean-level decreases were found in Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, and

Social interests.

At the occupation side, the present study considered both subjective RIASEC self-reports as well as more objective occupation

ratings that were derived from the O*NET database. The moderate correlations between perceived and objective occupation

scores demonstrated that the two types of measures are capturing different but overlapping variance. Interestingly, these correlations

tended to increase with time, indicating that people's perceptions shifted toward objective as they aged, although these perceptions

at time 2 still demonstrated a lot of unique variance.

Similarly as for interests, participants' RIASEC occupation scores were found to simultaneously demonstrate change and

stability across the first third of their career. Differential stabilities of individual RIASEC occupation scales was slightly lower

compared to interest scales, and on average did not vary appreciably between environment assessment methods. This thus

indicates that perceived RIASEC characteristics, such as measured with the self-report PCI, evidence similar rank-order stabilities

over time compared to objective O*NET occupation ratings. Showing an average differential stability of .37 (for PCI) or .38

(for O*NET), the results further demonstrated that occupational characteristics assessed at the very beginning of the career

were moderately to strongly predictive for occupations as assessed 15 years later. This is further confirmed when inspecting

the congruence of entire occupation profiles across time: between 34 and 70% of the individuals had cross-time occupation

congruence indices that deviated from chance, depending on which environment assessment, which definition of randomness,

and which congruence calculation method is used. Finally, a number of absolute changes in individual occupation scores were

also identified, and these tended to be more pronounced for perceived occupational characteristics compared to objective O*NET

derived ratings.

As an initial examination of interest–occupation congruence, individual RIASEC interest scales were related to individual

RIASEC occupation scales. Three major findings emerged. First, moderate associations between corresponding RIASEC scales were

identified, which was already a first indication that interests matched with occupations. Second, these associations did not vary

appreciably according to which time perspective was adopted. There was thus no considerable drop off in the relation of interests

to occupations across time, nor was there a significant increase. Third, these individual interest–occupation associations were – on

average – not affected by environmental assessment method, further substantiating the convergence between both methods.

One exception was found in this regard: Enterprising interests at mid career matched less with the concurrent Enterprising

occupational characteristics in comparison with (a) their concurrent association at career start, and (b) their longitudinal

association (interests at career start and occupations 15 years later), but only when O*NET ratings were used. Hence, for this

particular RIASEC dimension, the match between interests and objective occupational characteristics disappeared as both evolved

over time.

Further evidence for interest–occupation congruence was obtained by calculating two congruence indices, Euclidean distance

and profile correlation, that take into account complete RIASEC profiles. All congruence indices were found to deviate significantly

from chance even at the individual level. So there is no random matching—far from it. People thus occupy professions at

the beginning of the career as well as 15 years later that have a greater than chance fit with their initial as well as their evolved

vocational interests. When the two environmental assessment methods are compared, higher levels of congruence were

obtained when the PCI was used compared to when O*NET ratings were used. However, this difference was only apparent when

congruence was operationalized using the Euclidean distance measure. Finally, across the three time perspectives and for PCI as

well as for O*NET occupation ratings, the percentages of individuals with congruence levels significantly deviating from chance

were much larger when the profile correlation method was used compared to the Euclidean distance measure which is attributable to

the relatively poor fit of the circumplex to the PCI. The Euclidean distance index is a more restrictive assessment of fit as it requires

circular ordering of the RIASEC scores so it is less appropriate in conditions where it is not valid.

Further, the distinctiveness of both congruence calculation methods was also represented in the results concerning change

and stability of congruence across time. Profile correlation congruence did not change over time in absolute terms and evidenced

relative stability. Euclidean distance indices on the other hand had little relative stability over time but did manifest some

absolute changes in levels of congruence. This could be somewhat attributable to the differences in the two indices. Besides

reflecting differences in the fit in the underlying circumplex, the Euclidean distance index takes more account of the profile

distance discrepancy than the profile correlation. The profile correlation reflects most the degree of similar patterning in the

ranking of the scales. These different patterns thus indicate that the two sets of indices vary with respect to sensitivity to (relative)

change with the Euclidean distance indices being more labile over time.

B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 71

Interestingly, the absolute changes in congruence identified for the Euclidean distance measure did not indicate increased P–E

fit, as would be expected based on gravitation and socialization theory. Specifically, we found that the interest and environment

perceptions became less similar as both evolved over time, although this pattern was not present when the O*NET was used as the

environment measure or when profile correlation was used as the congruence method. However, turning to objective occupation

ratings, we also found an increase in congruence from interests at time 1 with occupation at time 1 to interests at time 1 to occupation

at time 2, thus indicating that individuals shifted jobs over time to better fit their initial interests. This is entirely in line with the

gravitation hypothesis.

Finally, congruence within and across time was found to be only marginally related to satisfaction levels assessed after

15 years of employment. Specifically, no significant main effects of any of the twelve interest–environment congruence indices

could be identified. It is unclear to what extent this lack of associations represents a problem for P–E fit theory rather than reflects

methodological issues. For instance, part of this lack of significant results could be due the reduced variance in the extent

of congruence (e.g., Spokane, Meir, & Catalano, 2000). Given that a substantial proportion of people occupy matching occupations

at both time points, the range of congruence scores was limited. Also and perhaps related, we found relatively high mean scores

in both satisfaction measures assessed at time 2.

In order to delve further into these congruence–outcome associations, we also examined job and interest change as a potential

moderating variables. Regarding the first, we found stronger changes in objective occupations to predict lower levels of life

satisfaction. So people who moved away from their initial occupation more substantially were less satisfied with their lives

compared to individuals with no or only minimal job changes. Moreover, job change also moderated the congruence–satisfaction

relationship such that higher congruence predicted more life satisfaction only when job change was minimal. Conversely, when

job change was higher the positive effect of congruence on satisfaction disappeared and even turned negative. For those in the

high job change group, the lack of congruence–satisfaction relation may indicate that job changes are elected for reasons other

than better interest fit (e.g., stability, salary, time demands, or prestige). Finally, no significant effects were found for interest

change.

The theoretical implications of our results are twofold. First, our findings call for a tempering of the widespread idea that

congruence should increase with time. While there may be some evidence for this in non-working (i.e. student) samples (e.g., Tracey

et al., 2005), the reality seems to be quite different for people navigating through their post-education careers. For them, it is probably

unrealistic to expect career moves to be so strongly inspired by a interests alone. More than with educational choices, actual job

moves (or decisions not to move) may be influenced by external motives or constraints, including pragmatic (e.g., commute time)

and financial considerations, or tight labor market conditions. In this regard, although only limited increases in fit could be found in

this study, our findings of stability in interest–occupation congruence after 15 years in the workforce are all the more remarkable.

Finally, our findings also serve to temper the idea of congruence being unconditionally associated with higher satisfaction levels.

Specifically, the results provide further evidence for the role of moderators in interest congruence–occupational outcome relations

(Tracey, 2007). Job change in this study was associated with lower life satisfaction and moreover attenuated or even reversed

the congruence–satisfaction relationship. This indicates that not only congruence itself, but also how the congruity came into being,

is important to take into account.

The present study also adds to the continuing debate around the selection of congruence indices. The Euclidean distance

measure draws on the circumplex model to validly represent data. Given that there is variability in fit to the circumplex across

instruments and samples (e.g., Rounds & Tracey, 1996; Tracey & Rounds, 1993), testing of the person and environment variables

relative to their being appropriately represented by the circumplex is essential if the Euclidean distance index is adopted.

The profile correlation index can be used with most sets of person and environmental measures as it carries no assumption of the

measures being represented by a circumplex. In this way, it may have more to recommend it as a P–E fit index given that it is

appropriate in more contexts. Tracey et al. (2012) examined both the Euclidean distance and the profile correlation indices and

found both roughly equal in being related to indices of academic success in college, although there was also a slightly different

pattern in the results for both calculation methods. The results of the current study indicate that while there is a good amount

of shared variance in the two indices, there was also substantial unique variance in each and this also affected the analyses

of congruence dynamics. Issues involved in calculating congruence thus still are salient and need to be incorporated in future

research addressing interest–occupation congruence across time.

First, questions can be raised concerning the generalizability of our findings. Data were collected in a unique sample of

talented young professionals that could be tracked across the first 15 years of their career and that were all highly educated.

Assuming that higher education levels broaden employment options, it could be expected that our alumni had greater

opportunities to select a more fitting occupation at career start and/or to gravitate toward matching occupations across the first

fifteen years of employment. Hence, it remains to be examined whether similar patterns of congruence can be identified for more

heterogeneous worker samples. Second, only two assessments could be conducted over a relatively large time intervals, capturing

only linear changes in interests, occupations, and congruence. Longitudinal designs with three or more assessment points are

preferable that can capture curvilinear developmental patterns as well (e.g., Tracey et al., 2005). Third, as was brought up by an

72 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

anonymous reviewer, it needs to be acknowledged that at least some subjectivity was also present in the objective O*NET

ratings that we used because these were based on the job titles that participants provided themselves about their current jobs.

An alternative would be to use occupational classifications provided by participants' employers, but these were not available for

the current study. Objective in this study thus primarily indicates that the RIASEC ratings for a person's self reported job were

gathered independent from his or her own perceptions of the interest-related work activities in his or her job. Finally, it should be

noted that we were not able in the present study to consider family factors when looking at change and stability in congruence.

Future research might want to investigate how family responsibilities, for instance as a partner and/or as a parent, and especially

the transitions in such responsibilities, influence processes associated with occupational gravitation.

In conclusion, the results of this study support the continued salience of person–occupational fit as a key defining aspect

of career guidance. Some have called for abandoning the central role of P–E fit in our theories (e.g., Tinsley, 2000) but the results

of this longitudinal and multi-method investigation demonstrate that the level of congruence in job selection is substantial

and continues to be so even after 15 years of labor market experience. Overall, the relative stability of interests, occupations,

and congruence in our sample of career starters suggests that – by the time people finish their college education – they hold a

relatively solid idea of their occupational aspirations to which they also adhered in the long run. This does not mean, however,

that there was no room for change. Although there was no general picture of increased interest–occupation congruence over time,

a dynamic interplay was uncovered between consistency and change in both occupations and interests separately. Typically,

our P–E fit research adopts a static perspective on fit or only considers change at the E-side of the equation. Clearly, these more

detailed analyses helped to paint a more accurate picture of fit within and across time; however, at the same time the results

of this study add substantially to the complexity inherent in the congruence literature where a variety of methods are available

and conflicting results are common.

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