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The impact of career ambition on psychologists’ extrinsic and intrinsic career success: The less they want, the more they get

Kathleen Otto (Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, Philipps University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany)
Robert Roe (Department of Organization and Strategy, Maastricht University, Limburg, The Netherlands)
Sonja Sobiraj (Fakultat fur Biowissenschaften Pharmazie und Psychologie, Universitat Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany)
Martin Mabunda Baluku (Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, Philipps University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany)
Mauricio E. Garrido Vásquez (Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, Philipps University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 13 February 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between career ambition – defined as high achievement motivation and strong career orientation – and both extrinsic (salary, position) and intrinsic success (job satisfaction, goal attainment) of psychologists. Over and above this, the authors explore whether extrinsic success predicts intrinsic success or vice versa.

Design/methodology/approach

In order to analyze the impact of career ambition on extrinsic and intrinsic success, the authors conducted two online studies with psychology graduates – a cross-sectional study (Study 1; n=119) and a longitudinal one (Study 2; n=63; two-three years interval between assessment points). The authors applied regression and cross-lagged analyses to investigate the interplay of career ambition and career success.

Findings

The results show that career ambition impacts on both extrinsic and intrinsic success. More specifically, extrinsic success was positively predicted by career orientation in Study 1. In contrast, achievement motivation was negatively related to intrinsic success (Study 1) and even diminished it over time (Study 2). Findings of the cross-lagged analysis further underlined that intrinsic success predicts extrinsic success.

Originality/value

The study contributes by separately investigating two aspects of career ambition and showing their different effects on career success in the specific profession of psychologists. As cross-lagged findings revealed that psychologists’ intrinsic success predicted their extrinsic success and not vice versa, the authors discuss whether psychologists might be worsening their career development in the long run by showing high achievement motivation.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Sandra Schladitz, Daniela Weseler and Gisela Mohr for valuable comments on previous versions of this manuscript. The study was supported by the Faculty of Biosciences, Pharmacy and Psychology at the University of Leipzig. Parts of this paper were presented at the 29th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Citation

Otto, K., Roe, R., Sobiraj, S., Baluku, M.M. and Garrido Vásquez, M.E. (2017), "The impact of career ambition on psychologists’ extrinsic and intrinsic career success: The less they want, the more they get", Career Development International, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 23-36. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-06-2016-0093

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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