Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Business Administration

First Advisor

Kraimer, Maria L

First Committee Member

Crawford, Eean R

Second Committee Member

Firth, Brady M

Third Committee Member

O'Boyle, Ernest H

Fourth Committee Member

Seibert, Scott E


The question of the development and content of personal career goals has received little attention and relatively little is known about the factors influencing career goals and when and how career goal setting occurs. Drawing from Ashforth’s (2001) model of role transitions, I propose that professional identification is an important precursor to the development of career goals. The primary research objectives of this dissertation are to explore how identity motives drawn from experiences in graduate school relate to professional identification and how professional identification relates to both short- and long-term career goals for graduate students. I investigated my conceptual model and research hypotheses using a mixed-methods design.

The stage 1 qualitative analysis was used to (1) identify measures corresponding to Ashforth’s (2001) four psychological motives (i.e., identity, control, meaning, and belonging) as antecedents of identification and (2) representative measures of career goals for graduate students. Forty-eight graduate students responded to open-ended questions about graduate school experiences, challenges, and career goals. Content analysis revealed measureable constructs for graduate students that align with Ashforth’s control and belonging motives; graduate students elicited support from advisors (i.e., career and psychosocial mentoring), peers (i.e., peer support), and colleagues (i.e., networking) to provide a framework for identification with their new professional roles. In terms of outcome goal variables, graduate students’ goals reflected two major content themes: extrinsic needs and status attainment.

The responses from the Stage 1 qualitative survey along with social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and the goal setting literature served as the basis for the development of the Stage 2 quantitative survey assessing both short-term and long-term career goals. Based on a sample of 312 (short-term career goal model) and 243 (long-term career goal model) graduate students from 28 different universities in fields across both hard and social sciences, results show that one individual characteristic (need for identification) and actions of faculty advisors (psychosocial mentoring) are positively related to professional identification. Professional identification was related to goals in two main ways. First, higher professional identification positively related to short-term career goals which were high quality – that is, the goals were specific, difficult, and graduate students were committed to achieving them. Second, professional identification was positively related to both short-and long-term extrinsic goals, suggesting that graduate students who have internalized the goals and objectives of the profession see that a way to solidify their professional standing is to pursue a position that presents opportunities for high wages and external rewards.

Overall, the research findings have implications for theory related to identification motives and identification in role transition processes. The study also contributes to the literature on careers and goal setting, especially as it relates to professional workers. From a practical perspective, faculty advisors should emphasize positive psychosocial mentoring experiences such as counseling and friendship to create a sense of professional identity for students, and professional associations and faculty should consider that identification with a profession is primarily related to career goals associated with high financial success.


goal-setting, graduate students, professional identification, professionals


ix, 136 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 109-125).


Copyright 2016 Lindsey Michelle Greco