The Sour Grapes Effect in Youth Career Counselling
Career counseling has emerged as a way to respond to social pressures imposed on the implications of this phenomenon in the ever-changing relationship between jobs supply and demand, raising the quality of requested skills as well as efficiency, in a client commitment manner. Career counseling theoretic literature abounds in models and strategies that when put into practice simply do not work, not because they are wrong, but because client’s expectations and beliefs are so different. The main focus of this paper is to analyze youth perception on career counseling activities, for a better understanding of what triggers them to be fully active into the process. The purpose of current paper is to identify the relationship between perceived employment barriers and perceived employment support of 432 last year students and young graduates from 4 European countries. The curvilinear relationship identified, shows that very high and low scores on perceived employment barriers significantly influences the outcome of the career counseling process, while medium scores on perceived employment barriers, gives youth incentives for authentic receiving of career counseling services, mostly in terms of employment support. Conclusions and practical implications are discussed.
Keywords: Youth employabilitydynamic relationshipperceived employment barriersperceived employment support
Career theory provides a conceptual framework for the career choice process from its initial
changes to the developmental adjustments that individuals make throughout life. Patton and McMahon
(2006) have analyzed most recent developments in career theory and counseling, emphasizing about the
shift from a static to a more dynamic approach, thus constructivists approaches in career counseling
theory representing one of the most significant challenges to career counselors trained in positivists
approaches. Authors detail the move toward convergence in career theory, and the subsequent
development of the Systems Theory Framework (STF), thus connecting theoretical and practical
approaches of career counseling.
In modern philosophy, the moral of "The Fox and the grapes" fable is associated with the so-called
cognitive dissonance, specifically with the feeling we face when dealing with a conflict between more
things that we care about. In the fable, the contradiction arises between the fox’s self pride and the
unwillingness to be deceived, saying that the grapes are too green and too sour, as long as it could not
reach them.“Sour grapes” is a beautiful example of behavior-induced attitude change, also working in the
opposite direction, meaning improving attitudes towards things we feel we can have.
Thus, the sour grapes effect refers to the tendency to justify a decision, in our case a career related
choice, by overlooking any faults seen and overrating positive aspects. In a career counseling process,
young clients are more likely to give a positive feedback to a newly accepted job position than a negative
one, due to acknowledging past choices as rational and well-made. Employers could embrace this bias,
reinforcing young employee’s correct choice post-hiring. This built-in mechanism aims to make clients
feel better about any poor decisions they made related to committing to a job, especially the case when
settling down to a specific profession. Given young clients emotional investment when choosing a
specific professional path and later on job, their pre-existing “brand” loyalty, many clients will refuse to
admit, in spite of any shortcomings experienced with the career decision made (few job openings, low
income, lack on internship), that their decision was made in poor judgment.
Career counseling strategies have become more aware of the differing needs of clients, focusing on
individual strengths, empowering change, contributing to clients’ personal development and providing
individual action planning towards idealized work or other educational settings.
This idea resides in Robert Cialdini’s Principle of Commitment (1984). The concept highlights
human’s deep-rooted psychological desire to stay true to what they have committed to, because it is
directly related to self-image, therefore attempts to rationalize any poor career decision justifies the choice
made and protects the self-image. Related to this, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) (Hayes,
Strosahl, & Wilson, 2003), has demonstrated efficacy and effectiveness with a diverse range of clients
along with their problems, such as depression, anxiety, stress, and negative affectivity (Hayes, Luoma,
Bond, Masuda, & Lillis, 2006). ACT main objective is to enhance client’s psychological flexibility by
increasing acceptance of internal experiences, confronting experiential avoidance, contextualizing
problematic cognitions, exploring personal values and associated goals, and fostering commitment to
moving forward in the direction of one’s chosen life values (Hayes, 2002).
A client’s anxiety about career indecision, as theory authors Hoare, McIlveen, and Hamilton
(2012) deliniated, relates to their past learning experiences and negativ self and others discourse, when
recalled in the present under situations of stress or uncertainty, dramatically undermine beliefs in the
capacity to make a decision.
This paper deals with applying the theoretical principles of STF and ACT to the activities
undertaken during career counseling services, with the purpose of testing the dynamical relationship
hypothesis between perceived employment barriers and perceived employment support, currently under
research focus in the field of dynamic career counseling.
This study has been performed under an Erasmus project mainly focused on the needs of the
unemployed youth from the participant countries: Romania, Turkey, Hungary and Cyprus, aiming to
improve the quality and accessibility of educational and training provisions by enhancing youth
employability skills. During the project, there was elaborated a questionnaire focused on identifying
youth vocational counseling needs and their perceptions related to the usefulness of current career
counseling services that they have participated to.
Current study is focused on identifying the relationship between perceived employment barriers
and perceived employment support of 432 last year students from Romania, Turkey, Hungary and
Among other questions that are not the subject of this current research, young people were asked
to rate (1=lowest, 5=highest) 6 issues that they consider bringing them support in finding a job (Item 15).
Aspects regarded referred to: understanding the work flow, a person assigned to show them around and
introduce them to the team, on the job training, mentoring/coaching, team building activities, and
Regarding perceived barriers, young people were asked to rate (1=lowest, 5=highest) 7 issues that
they consider to be barriers when going from unemployed to employed (Item 13). Aspects referred to:
commuting, necessity to work from early ages, lack of key skills, lack of experience, lack of professional
opportunities in the field, lack of opportunities in their country, poor language skills, personal health
issues, lack of industry, lack of information, limited access to internet/personal computer, lack of personal
development/self-awareness, the need to get a job, receiving financial support from their families, being
Regarding our target group, a total of 432 youth have voluntarily responded to our online
questionnaire. Out of the total number of respondents, 38,2% are masculine and 61,8% are feminine
youth respondents, 46,1% are aged between 15 and 19 (last year high school teens), 20,4% are aged
between 20 and 24, (last year students) and 33,6% are aged between 25 and 29, (master students).
Current research takes the position that perceived employment barriers and support relationship is
a dynamic one, these considerations leading to Hypothesis: Perceived employment barriers and perceived
employment support are in a dynamic relationship.
In curvilinear relationships variables grow together until they reach a certain point (positive
relationship) and then one of them increases while the other decreases (negative relationship) or vice
versa (Balas Timar, Aslan, 2016).
The Scatterplot diagram presented in Figure
perceived employment barriers on the horizontal axis and perceived employment support, represented on
the vertical axis. The sample consists of 432 last year students and young graduates from: Romania,
Cyprus, Hungary and Turkey.
We have used a confirmatory factor analysis, based on multiple regression analysis for curvilinear
effects, in order to test our hypothesis that states that between perceived employment barriers and
perceived employment support there is a significant dynamic relationship.
Results show a very high correlation between perceived employment barriers – Item 13
(MD=3,486, D=0,810) and perceived employment support – Item 15 (MD=3,004, SD=0,815) of r = 0,155
significant at a p < 0,01 methodologically allowing us to further proceed with confirmatory factor
We have used the hierarchical multiple regressions, the dependent variable being perceived
employment support, and the dependent variable in step 1 perceived employment barriers, and in step 2
squared perceived employment barriers.
The fitting of the two models is presented in Table
Model 2. As it is shown in Model 1 the model that supposes linear relationship, perceived employment
barriers accounts for 2% of the variance in perceived employment support with an F = 10,596 significant
at a p < 0,01. In Model 2, the model that supposes curvilinear relationship, perceived employment
barriers accounts for 18% of the variance in perceived employment support with an F = 51,160 significant
at a p < 0,01.
a. Dependent Variable: Perceived employment support (Item 15)
All standardized coefficients of Beta (B= 0,155; B= 2,927 and B= -2,792) are significant at p
values < 0,01 which gives a high consistency to our both models. The Beta coefficient’s changing sign
from + to – depicts the fact that the effect is growing in the opposite direction, demonstrating the
curvilinear relationship between perceived employment support and perceived employment barriers. The
additional incremental predictive capacity of 16 percents, added by including the squared perceived
employment barriers variable which curves the regression line, clearly prove that there is a dynamic
relationship between perceived employment support and perceived employment barriers.
This dynamic relationship demonstrates that extreme aspects (very low and very high) of
perceived employment barriers significantly influences perceived employment support, while situating on
the middle response zone, gives young graduates incentives for authentic receiving employment support,
mostly in terms of career counseling services.
As for now, there has not been reported any research proving the curvilinear relationship between
perceived employment barriers and perceived employment support, thus, these results may help
expanding the current body of knowledge on young graduates’ utility perception on career counseling
provided services in order to authentically lower youth unemployment rate.
4.Conclusions and Implications
This research brings methodological justification on how and to whom to implement career
counseling services, in order to fully obtain their purpose. When working with youth that have very low
or high perceived employment barriers, it is better to firstly address their unbalanced work beliefs and
then to provide career support.
Nowadays offering career counseling services seems like a panacea in lowering youth
unemployment rates, but unfortunately very few participants perceive these services as professionally
useful, not because strategy is not efficient, but because youth unbalanced view over getting a job does
not allow them to fully participate in the process.
Current results suggest that offering career counseling services in an nondiscriminatory manner,
regardless youth beliefs about engaging in a working life, will not be perceived as a help coming from
professionals, but will be perceived as a mandatory activity to be enrolled in, only to self fulfill own
prophecies about employment: “There are too many barriers, I will never get a job, regardless how many
counseling services I will be provided with”, or the other way, „There are no barriers in finding a job, so
why should I look for career counseling services, they are useless since I know my own way.”
Theoretical explanation of this statistical conclusion can be approached by the Systems Theory
Framework (STF) of career development (McMahon, 2015), that has proven by far its translation into
practice, especially into career counselling and qualitative career assessment.
- Balas Timar, D. & Aslan, M. (2016). The dynamic relationship between perceived employment self-confidence and perceived employment challenges - a positive youth development approach to youth career counselling, Journal Plus Education, Special Issue, 2016.
- Cialdini, R. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, New York: Quill.
- Hayes, S. C. (2002). Acceptance, mindfulness, and science. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 9, pp. 101-106.
- Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J., Bond, F., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Model, processes, and outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, pp. 1-25.
- Hayes, S.C., Strosahl, K.D. and Wilson, K.G. (2003). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change. The Guilford Press. ISBN 1-57230-955-5.
- Hoare, N. McIlveen, P., Hamilton, N. (2012). Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as a career counselling strategy. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance. Volume 12, Issue 3, pp. 171-187.
- Lonka, K. & Ketonen, E. (2012). How to make a lecture course an engaging learning experience? Studies for the Learning Society, 2-3, 63-74.
- McMahon, M. (2015). The Systems Theory Framework of career development: Applications to career counselling and career assessment. Australian Journal of Career Development, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp. 148-156.
- Patton, W. & McMahon, M. (2006). Constructivism: what does it mean for career counselling? (Ed. M. McMahon & W. Patton). Career counseling. Constructivist approaches. Oxon: Routledge.
- Patton, W. & McMahon, M. (2006). The Systems Theory Framework of Career Development and Counseling: Connecting Theory and Practice. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp. 153-166
- Ruismäki, H. & Tereska, T. (2006). Early childhood musical experiences: contributing to pre-service elementary teachers’ self-concept in music and success in music education (duringstudent age). European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 14(1), 113-130.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
About this article
Cite this paper as:
Click here to view the available options for cite this article.