Study shows two effective career assessment screenings for veterans and civilians

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LAWRENCE — When veterans leave the military, not only do they face significant challenges like lasting physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder or mental health issues, but they also face the reality of transition to a new life, often in higher education or a new career field. While many services are in place to help overcome physical and mental barriers, little research has been done on measures designed to help with educational and career pathways. A new study from the University of Kansas found that two measures designed to help civilian students are also effective for veterans.

Guidance counselors, college counselors, and practitioners routinely use measures called the Occupational Engagement Scale-Student (OES-S) and Career Adapt-Abilities Scale-USA (CAAS) to measure how engaged people are in their careers. school and their ability to adapt. learn new skills or devote themselves to vocations.

“We viewed these measures strictly from a career development perspective. There has been a movement in recent years to determine how engaged people are in professional settings and how adaptable they are in career planning,” said Arpita Ghosh, assistant professor of educational psychology at KU and lead author of the study. “There’s been a lot of research into these areas of engagement and adaptability in civilian college students, but no one has really done this work with veterans.”

To determine whether the two common tools for measuring these qualities are valid for civilians and researchers, the study authors conducted the interventions with a sample of 418 U.S. military veterans and 411 civilians. The results showed that both tools measured the same constructs for both populations with little variance, meaning they are likely effective for both research and practice with veterans leaving the military.

The article, written with co-authors Christopher Niileksela, assistant professor of educational psychology, and Elizabeth Grzesik, doctoral student, all at KU, was published in the Journal of Career Assessment.

Veterans have unique experiences as a result of their service and often struggle to reintegrate into society, while experiences such as fighting and trauma can be associated with negative work and life outcomes. Research has also shown that veterans may have difficulty finding and keeping civilian employment due to physical or psychological injuries or difficulties in translating their military skills into civilian work.

“I think the results of this study are important because we now have evidence that these two scales work for both populations,” Ghosh said. “We now know that researchers and practitioners have effective tools they can use to help veterans make the transition and establish and pursue career goals.”

Both scales measure work engagement, or how well an individual gathers information to make decisions and increase their knowledge of themselves, the world of work, and the relationship between the two, the authors wrote. They also assess career adaptability in four resources: concern, or looking ahead and preparing for the future; taking charge of the professional future; curiosity to explore different selves and future outcomes; and confidence, such as being more confident to pursue one’s goals and aspirations. The OES-S, developed at KU, adult version is designed for employed adults looking to change jobs. The CAAS measures the psychosocial resources needed to manage career transitions and work-related trauma in subscales of worry, control, curiosity, and trust.

The sample of veterans and civilians who each underwent both interventions showed that they measured subscales consistently across both populations and variable demographics such as age, gender, and race. . The only variation found was on the concern subscale, in which civilians reported slightly higher levels of concern about the prospect of a career and preparing for the future. Ghosh said this is likely the result of veterans setting goals and training to advance in their careers as evidenced in military experience.

“The Department of Defense does a good job of helping people set career goals so they can advance. Additionally, once veterans leave the military, many veterans also seek out services that can help them gain skills and confidence that most civilians don’t have access to,” Ghosh said.

Ghosh, who has also published research on the effectiveness of mental health screenings for veterans transitioning to higher education, said the current study is helpful in building a broader body of knowledge about how various subsets of society such as college professors, career counselors, mental health practitioners, employers, and communities can all help veterans make a successful transition from military to civilian life .

“I think it’s good to see that even though these specific tools weren’t originally designed for veterans, they can help them,” Ghosh said. “There has been a lot of research on how measures work for things like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, but I think this is one of the first studies to also look at career goals and transitions.”

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