To develop and construct an optimal career is one of the major challenges for youths in today’s world. For college students, who are facing the key stage of career development, the concept of “career” is crucial. However, the meaning of “career” is complicated and blurred and there is a dearth of systematic research on the multi-facet notions of career with its universality and cultural differences. Therefore, the present study seeks to explore the concept of ‘career’ among Taiwanese college students situated in the flux of Western and Chinese cultures. By employing the prototype analysis method, a group of 200 college students were invited to participate in the processes of establishing, expanding and validating career-related terms and phrases in defining the circumscription and scope of career, and then a semantic analysis by similarity sorting was implemented to obtain the features classification of the career concept among these college students. Data of similarity sorting were analyzed using cluster analysis; a tree diagram depicting the meaning structure of career was constructed based on the result of calculating the normalized root mean square distance, which mirrors the distance among each clusters. The clustering results yielded to hierarchical tree diagram of the conception of career consisting of multiple levels. In the horizontal dimension, there was an “intrinsic” versus “extrinsic” division, labeled as superordinate level 1 and “anchoring” and “cultivating,” labeled as superordinate level 2. Under the superordinate levels, two layers of basic level concepts were also identified. Basic 1 level concepts include (from left to right): “orienting,” “locating,” “choice making” (under “anchoring”), “beliefs about work,” “competence” (under “cultivating”), “work life,” and “family life” (“extrinsic”). Basic 2 level concepts consist of “future development,” “existential concerns” (under “orienting”), “quality of being,” “attributes for striving” (under “locating”), “prevail through effort” (under “beliefs about work”), “dance with opportunity,” “education,” “professional abilities” (under “competence“), “thorough and practical concerns of job,” “financial independence,” “stress of reality,” “work loyalty,” “social and global reality” (under “work life”), “family relationship and responsibility,” and “quality of life” (under “family life”). Underneath the basic level concepts, there are 36 subordinate level concepts. As to the vertical dimension of the career prototype, the intrinsic dimension which contains 5 levels of concepts is a complicated meaning system, emphasizing the internal process of self-exploration and cultivation. The intrinsic system reflects concepts about decision-making and actualization of career development among college students. The extrinsic dimension contains 4 levels of concepts, highlighting college students’ consideration of their relationships with the external social context including family, work, and the global world. The result showed that the meaning of career were multi-facet and all-embracing, reflecting a mixed influences from Western individualist orientation, Chinese cultural tradition and contemporary working world. This pioneering study has paved the way for establishing culturally-fit career theories as well as career guidance and counseling.
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