Cultural Differences in Career Change Perceptions

We all have career transitions throughout our lives—some by choice, some not. By interviewing workers from Austria, Serbia, Spain, China and the U.S., researchers have determined some cultural differences in how people perceive career transitions, and why they occur.

Workers in the United States didn’t ever attribute a career transition to an external cause, such as conflict with a boss. Not once. Instead they tended to mention internal factors, such as their desire for a fresh challenge. By contrast, workers in China almost exclusively stressed the role played by external factors. Meanwhile, workers in the European nations were more of a mix, attributing their career transitions to both internal and external factors. […]

Generally-speaking, people are known to be biased towards attributing positive events to themselves, and so it’s perhaps little wonder that many workers attributed all these positive career transitions to internal causes. “In addition,” the researchers said, “in many cultures ‘being in charge’ of one’s life is positively valued. Conversely, reconstructing crucial career transitions as purely triggered by external circumstances does not convey a great amount of competence.”