30 journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53
© 2016 by the American Counseling Association. All rights reserved.
emotional intelligence and
career decision-making self-efﬁcacy:
mediating roles of goal commitment
and professional commitment
This study is the ﬁrst to examine the mechanism of the relationship between emotional
intelligence (EI) and career decision-making self-efﬁcacy (CDMSE) and the moderating
role of gender in relevant mechanisms. Analyses of 185 Chinese university students
showed that EI could inﬂuence CDMSE through goal commitment (GC) and profes-
sional commitment, and male students exhibited a stronger relationship between EI
and GC compared with female students. This study introduces a new perspective
for career development research by establishing a mediation-based emotion–career
framework and provides deeper insights for career counselors to assist clients in
career decision processes.
Keywords: goal commitment, professional commitment, gender, emotional intelligence,
career decision-making self-efﬁcacy
Emotions inuence people’s career decision-making processes (Di Fabio, 2012;
Emmerling & Cherniss, 2003). For example, emotions can affect how people plan
for career development and make career choices (Brown, George-Curran, & Smith,
2003). Young, Valach, and Collin’s (1996) action theory of development highlights
the important roles of emotions in career development activities: Emotions are closely
connected to an individual’s purposes, expectations, goals, projects, and needs, all
of which appear to be involved in career development. Young et al. argued that
emotions can inﬂuence career construction by motivating and controlling actions
and facilitating development of useful career-related narratives.
Emotional intelligence (EI), one of the most important variables characterizing
emotional qualities, has been widely used to study vocational psychology (Di Fabio,
2012). Salovey and Mayer (1990) deﬁned EI as a person’s ability to deal with emo-
tions in constructing reality in order to manage his or her life adaptively. Speciﬁcally,
EI involves a set of interrelated skills that enable individuals to perceive, appraise,
and express emotions accurately; to understand emotions and emotional knowledge;
to access and generate feelings that facilitate thought, problem solving, and other
constructive activities; and to regulate emotions for emotional and intellectual growth
Zhou Jiang, School of Business and Law, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton,
Queensland, Australia. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Zhou
Jiang, School of Business and Law, Central Queensland University, Building 19, Bruce Highway,
Rockhampton, Queensland 4702, Australia (e-mail: email@example.com).
journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53 31
(Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Wong & Law, 2002). Generally, people who are more adept
at EI competencies are more likely to acquire high-quality social and emotional well-
being, personal growth, and other psychological advantages in the career development
journey (Puffer, 2011).
The literature distinguishes two types of EI (Petrides, Pita, & Kokkinaki, 2007):
(a) trait EI, which concerns self-perceptions and emotional dispositions assessed
by self-report measures (Bar-On, 1997b; Petrides & Furnham, 2000, 2001), and
(b) ability EI, which concerns emotion-based cognitive abilities assessed by per-
formance tests (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). Research shows that trait EI, relative to
ability EI, is more strongly related to career decision-making processes (Di Fabio
& Saklofske, 2014). The present study therefore follows previous career-related
research (Brown et al., 2003; Jiang, 2014) in using the trait approach to integrate EI
and career decision making. Several models for trait EI exist in the literature. For
example, Bar-On’s (1997b) trait EI model proposes that EI consists of an intraper-
sonal component, an interpersonal component, stress management, and adaptability.
By contrast, Petrides and Furnham’s (2000, 2001) model denes EI as a range of
emotion-related self-perceptions that are closely related to fundamental personality
traits. Wong and Law (2002) infused Mayer and Salovey’s (1997) model, which is
recognized as an ability-based model, with new elements to t the trait approach by
developing a self-report measure. Their approach conceptualizes EI as a complex of
four aspects: self-emotional appraisal, others’ emotional appraisal, use of emotion,
and regulation of emotion (Wong & Law, 2002). It refers to a trait model of EI but
also incorporates and reﬂects the characteristics of an ability-based model. Although
trait EI and ability EI are clearly distinguished, empirical ﬁndings suggest that the
two types of EI are complementary (Petrides et al., 2007). In this regard, Wong and
Law’s trait EI framework appears to have the potential to balance these two types
of EI and facilitate the development of a framework reﬂecting this complementary
nature. Thus, the present research uses Wong and Law’s approach to address EI.
EI is regarded as an essential factor inﬂuencing career decision making because
people with higher EI tend to use emotional experiences to guide their thoughts and
actions in career-related planning (Di Fabio, Palazzeschi, Asulin-Peretz, & Gati, 2013).
As Emmerling and Cherniss (2003) suggested, people with stronger EI are better able
to match their professional interests and values with their ideal careers. They are more
likely to foresee and be emotionally prepared for the outcomes of various career options.
Thus, strong EI correlates with a tendency to be comfortable with career decision-
making processes (Di Fabio, Palazzeschi, & Bar-On, 2012). The inuences of EI on
career-related variables are well documented. For example, EI promotes individuals’
willingness to engage in career exploration and their commitment to attractive career
options, and it alleviates confusion, anxiety, and conict in career decision making
(Brown et al., 2003; Dahl, Austin, Wagner, & Lukas, 2008). Di Fabio and colleagues
(e.g., Di Fabio & Kenny, 2011; Di Fabio et al., 2012, 2013; Di Fabio & Saklofske,
2014) have consistently found that people with higher EI have fewer career decision-
making difﬁculties and are less likely to be indecisive about career choices.
More important, prior studies have indicated that EI is a powerful predictor of
career decision-making self-efcacy (CDMSE; e.g., Brown et al., 2003; Di Fabio &
32 journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53
Saklofske, 2014; Jiang, 2014), a core element catalyzing career decision-making and
counseling processes (Bullock-Yowell, Andrews, McConnell, & Campbell, 2012; B. Y.
Choi et al., 2013; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994). CDMSE refers to individuals’
belief that they can successfully perform vocational decision-making tasks, such as
self-appraisal, goal selection, gathering of career information, problem solving, and
planning for the future (Betz & Luzzo, 1996). CDMSE can largely moderate psycho-
logical obstacles in vocational decision making. Individuals with low CDMSE tend to
be more anxious about career decision-making tasks than those with high CDMSE,
and they may avoid these tasks when they foresee difﬁculties (Bandura, 1977; Brown
et al., 2003). EI may increase CDMSE because emotional abilities can control and
regulate self-efcacy expectations and reduce concerns and fears surrounding career
choice (Emmerling & Cherniss, 2003; Jiang, 2014) and can strengthen individuals’
trust in their competencies for completing career-related tasks (Brown et al., 2003;
Di Fabio, 2012). Although the EI–CDMSE relationship seems well established in
the literature, several important topics warrant further investigation.
One topic is the mechanism of the EI–CDMSE relationship. Although it is known
that EI and CDMSE are positively related, the path through which they are linked is
still unclear, because no studies have investigated the indirect link between these
two variables. According to Greenhaus, Callanan, and Kaplan (1995), the career
development journey is accompanied by a series of goals, and career success usually
requires the continuous attainment of these goals. Similarly, Lent et al. (1994) argued
that goal is a ubiquitous component of career decision-making theories, and career
plans, aspirations, and choices are embedded in essential goal mechanisms. When
constructing a social cognitive theory of career, Lent et al. further acknowledged the
importance of goals in self-regulation of career-related expectancies and behaviors.
They contended that by setting and committing to goals, people are better able to
organize and direct their own behaviors, to motivate themselves, and to increase the
likelihood of attaining desired outcomes in career decisions. Thus, personal attitudes
toward goals, which have been shown to be related closely to emotional abilities
(Barrick, Mount, & Strauss, 1993), may matter in the EI–CDMSE relationship.
Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) suggests that people have organismic
psychological needs to function autonomously in accordance with their developing
core values and interests (Spence, Oades, & Caputi, 2004). These value-based needs
are reected in goal-oriented self-realization, which to a large extent depends on the
capacity to understand what one’s feelings are and why these feelings arise, as well
as the ability to think and act in self-reliant ways (Young et al., 1996). As Spence et
al. (2004) argued, people who know themselves (e.g., understand their perceptions
and feelings) and regulate their emotions are more capable of setting and committing
to goals and self-motivation, which may enhance their conﬁdence in carrying out
activities for self-realization. Because career development is theoretically conceived
as a process for self-realization (Chen, 2003; Lent et al., 1994), emotional abilities
may affect career-related conﬁdence through characteristics and attributes associ-
ated with goal pursuit—which is often integrated into knowing oneself (Brunstein &
Gollwitzer, 1996). As an important attitude in goal management, goal commitment
(GC) is believed to vitally inﬂuence goal pursuit processes and to be a prerequisite
journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53 33
for accomplishing goal tasks such as planning and implementing career decision-
making activities (Burkley, Anderson, Curtis, & Burkley, 2012). Accordingly, the
rst objective of this study was to explore whether GC can mediate the EI–CDMSE
relationship by examining a sample of university students.
Another potential, unexamined mediator that helps link EI and CDMSE might
be professional commitment (PC; also named career commitment or occupational
commitment), which is typically conceptualized as one’s affective attachment to,
identiﬁcation with, and involvement in one’s profession or occupation (Meyer, Allen,
& Smith, 1993). PC reﬂects the degree to which individuals value career planning
that builds on their current professions and seek the meaningfulness of the profes-
sion (Chung, 2002). PC is considered in this study because its career-rooted aspects
(e.g., career experience, planning, and implementation) have made it an important
construct in the vocational psychology and career development literature (Brown et
al., 2003). People with higher levels of PC show greater interest in their professions
(Meyer et al., 1993) and subsequently may foster positive attitudes toward ongoing
career construction and exploration (Nauta, 2007), which may further assist them in
maintaining and increasing their conﬁdence in career decision making. This potential
inuence of PC on CDMSE is to a certain extent supported by existing empirical
evidence. For instance, Chung (2002) detected a relatively strong correlation (r =
.45, p < .01) between students’ career commitment and CDMSE. Further support is
observed in Betz and colleagues’ (Betz, Hammond, & Multon, 2005; Betz, Klein, &
Taylor, 1996) ﬁndings indicating that individuals who identify more with their career
roles tend to have higher CDMSE.
Additionally, prior research suggests that emotional abilities may affect individuals’
levels of commitment to their professions. For example, Brown et al. (2003) found
that university students who were adept at self-controlling and utilizing their emo-
tions and feelings reported higher levels of vocational commitment. These ﬁndings
were extended by Poon’s (2004) study of graduate business students, which found
that emotional perception signiﬁcantly contributed to the development of one’s PC.
More directly related to the present study, Aremu’s (2005) results demonstrated that
PC could be positively affected by individuals’ overall EI. In summary, the literature
provides documented evidence supporting the EI–PC relationship and PC–CDMSE
relationship separately. However, there is no clear evidence to date clarifying whether
PC can serve to explain the mechanism of the EI–CDMSE relationship. Therefore,
the second objective of the present study was to examine the mediating role of PC
in this relationship. Because the literature popularly deﬁnes a university student’s
profession or occupation as the major he or she is currently studying, a student’s PC
always reﬂects elements of commitments to academic choice, interests, and success
(Meyer et al., 1993). Based on Lent et al. (1994), academic development dovetails
with career development, in that skills and interests developed at the university
can ideally translate into career decisions. Therefore, similar to prior student-based
research (e.g., Meyer et al., 1993), PC in this study is analogous to students’ com-
mitment to their major.
An additional focus of this article was the role of gender in the EI–CDMSE linkage.
Although controversy exists in the literature, some research had detected gender differences
34 journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53
in EI and CDMSE (Brown et al., 2003). For example, women were reported to score
higher than men on EI in a study by Sutarso, Baggett, Sutarso, and Tapia (1996).
Sutarso et al. explained that women are generally more emotionally self-aware,
empathetic, and supportive than men. Mau’s (2000) research found that Taiwanese
men rated higher in CDMSE than Taiwanese women and that this difference might
be caused by the social status gap, which results in different emotional-processing
styles (Malti, Killen, & Gasser, 2012). Noting these indications of gender differences,
Brown et al. (2003) and Jiang (2014) explored the role of gender in the EI–CDMSE
relationship in different cultural contexts (the United States and East Asia, respec-
tively). Although neither study detected gender differences in the strength of the
EI–CDMSE relationship, it may be premature to entirely exclude the role of gender,
especially when there are theoretical and empirical foundations for the possibility
that gender inﬂuences both EI and CDMSE. Brown et al.’s and Jiang’s studies both
explored the moderating role of gender in the total effect of EI on CDMSE, but nei-
ther investigated gender differences in the indirect EI–CDMSE relationship. Thus,
researchers may need to use ner grained approaches to examine the role of gender
in career development issues. Empirical evidence exists for the inuence of gender
on GC (O’Connor, 2012) and PC (Chung, 2002), which, as noted, have the potential
to mediate the EI–CDMSE relationship. The present study therefore also explored
whether the moderating role of gender exists in GC- and PC-mediated mechanisms
of the EI–CDMSE relationship.
In summary, the preceding discussion highlights that although no existing research
directly addresses the mechanism of the EI–CDMSE relationship, the literature does
suggest some potential for EI and CDMSE to be bridged with the roles of GC (e.g.,
Barrick et al., 1993; Greenhaus et al., 1995; Lent et al., 1994) and PC (e.g., Aremu,
2005; Poon, 2004). Additionally, gender effects on these two potential mediators make
it possible that the mediated EI–CDMSE relationship is also affected by gender (e.g.,
Chung, 2002; O’Connor, 2012; Troisi, 2001), which moves beyond previous studies
that focused on gender differences in the direct EI–CDMSE linkage (Brown et al.,
2003; Jiang, 2014). According to the previously described theoretical background,
the present study tested the following hypotheses:
Hypothesis 1: GC (Hypothesis 1a) and PC (Hypothesis 1b) mediate the relationship
between EI and CDMSE.
Hypothesis 2: Gender moderates the relationships of EI with GC (Hypothesis 2a)
and PC (Hypothesis 2b).
Hypothesis 3: Gender moderates the indirect relationships between EI and CDMSE
via GC (Hypothesis 3a) and PC (Hypothesis 3b).
Participants were undergraduate students at a public university in northern central
China that recruits students from across mainland China. A total of 189 usable
journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53 35
responses were received (valid response rate = 93.1%). Four outliers were deleted
in iterations of preliminary analyses because they had absolute values of standard-
ized residual greater than 3 (Field, 2000). The nal sample (N = 185) included 117
(63.2%) men and 68 (36.8%) women. The participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 25
years, with a mean of 20.42 years (SD = 0.12). Among the participants, 58 (31.4%)
were freshmen, 49 (26.5%) sophomores, 44 (23.8%) juniors, and 34 (18.4%) seniors
(percentages do not total 100 because of rounding). The majority of participants (N
= 170, 91.9%) were majoring in science, 9 (4.9%) in social science, and 6 (3.2%)
in other disciplines.
EI. Following Kluemper (2008), I used Wong and Law’s (2002) Emotional Intelli-
gence Scale to measure students’ overall trait EI. This scale contains 16 items that
are in line with Mayer and Salovey’s (1997) deﬁnition of ability-based EI but are
based on the trait approach of assessing EI. Sample items included “I have a good
understanding of my own emotions,” “I am sensitive to the feelings and emotions of
others,” “I am a self-motivated person,” and “I am quite capable of controlling my
own emotions.” Respondents answered these items on a Likert scale ranging from
1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). A higher score indicated a higher level of
EI. The Cronbach’s reliability coefﬁcient for EI was .82.
GC. Burkley et al. (2012) indicated that measuring GC is challenging and com-
plicated and advised using a scale that includes items that directly (e.g., through
expressions like “I am committed”) as well as indirectly (e.g., through time spent in
pursuing goals) measure individuals’ commitment to their goals. This study therefore
mixed three indirect items (e.g., “I persist in overcoming obstacles in order to achieve
my goals”) adapted from Ke and Zhang (2009) and one direct item (“I am strongly
committed to pursuing my goals”) adapted from Klein, Wesson, Hollenbeck, Wright,
and DeShon (2001) to measure students’ commitment to goals. To make the items
more inclusive, I replaced speciﬁc goals stated in the original items (e.g., complete
a speciﬁc project) with goals in general. Participants were asked to indicate whether
they agreed with each item on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5
(strongly agree). A higher score indicated a greater commitment to one’s goals. The
Cronbach’s reliability coefﬁcient for GC was .78.
PC. Three items adapted from a scale by Meyer et al. (1993) measured students’
affective commitment to their professions. Following Meyer et al.’s study, the present
study considered students’ major as their chosen profession. In the adapted items,
“profession” referred speciﬁcally to “major” to reduce confusion among students.
These items were “My current profession (major) is important to my self-image,”
“I am proud to be in my current profession (major),” and “I am enthusiastic about
my current profession (major).” Response options ranged from 1 (strongly disagree)
to 5 (strongly agree). Higher scores indicated higher levels of PC. The Cronbach’s
reliability coefﬁcient for PC was .63.
CDMSE. Betz et al. (1996) developed a short form of the Career Decision-Making
Self-Efcacy Scale (CDMSES-SF) to measure the degree to which individuals believe
36 journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53
they can successfully accomplish career decision-making tasks. Although numerous
studies (e.g., Brown et al., 2003; Jiang, 2014) have used this 25-item CDMSES-SF,
the internal structure of this scale appears to vary largely with context (Creed, Pat-
ton, & Watson, 2002; Hampton, 2005; Miller, Roy, Brown, Thomas, & McDaniel,
2009). More recently, scholars have started to adapt this scale to ﬁt speciﬁc situations
(Di Fabio & Maree, 2013; Nota, Pace, & Ferrari, 2008). Hampton (2005) modied
the 25-item scale based on a study of Chinese college students and recommended
a 13-item CDMSES-SF that can be used in the Chinese context. The present study
used these 13 items to assess the overall CDMSE of Chinese university students.
Respondents rated their conﬁdence in their abilities to complete different career
decision-making tasks (e.g., “Finding information in the library about occupations
you are interested in” and “Prepare a good resume”) using a Likert-type scale rang-
ing from 1 (no conﬁdence at all) to 5 (complete conﬁdence). A higher score reﬂected
a higher level of CDMSE. The Cronbach’s reliability coefﬁcient for the 13-item
measure was .76.
Before questionnaire distribution, one bilingual academic specializing in career
development translated the questionnaire from English to Chinese, and another
qualiﬁed translator conducted the back translation independently. Discrepancies
were resolved through their joint discussion (Brislin, 1980). The revised question-
naire was sent to ve Chinese university students for review. All of them expressed
that, based on their experiences, the items used in this study were understandable
and the content relevance and coverage were appropriate in the Chinese higher
The formal survey was conducted in an on-campus public course on career choices
open to all undergraduate students at the aforementioned Chinese university. At the
end of the course, a research assistant distributed questionnaires to the students
in the classroom. Completed questionnaires were directly returned to the assistant.
Participation was voluntary and anonymous, and informed consent was given.
Prior to hypothesis testing, conrmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to test the
factorial validity. In accordance with the recommendations of prior researchers (e.g.,
Little, Cunningham, Shahar, & Widaman, 2002; Nasser-Abu Alhija & Wisenbaker,
2006), the item parceling strategy was used for CFA to reduce inated measurement
errors caused by multiple items of a latent variable and to balance potential issues result-
ing from the relatively small sample size (Aryee, Budhwar, & Chen, 2002). Following
the procedure recommended by Little et al. (2002), I created four item parcels for EI
(Wong & Law, 2002) and three item parcels for CDMSE (Hampton, 2005), based on the
theoretically dened factor structures in the literature. The results of CFA showed that
the four-factor model had good validity, c2(71) = 89.56, p > .05, standard root mean
square residual = .05, root mean square error of approximation = .04, goodness-of-t
journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53 37
index = .94, Tucker–Lewis index = .97, and comparative t index = .98, with all model
t indexes meeting the threshold suggested by Hu and Bentler (1999).
The mediation was ﬁrst tested using Baron and Kenny’s (1986) four-condition
evaluation: (a) independent and mediating variables are signiﬁcantly related, (b)
independent and dependent variables are signiﬁcantly related, (c) mediating and
dependent variables are signiﬁcantly related, and (d) the relationship between in-
dependent and dependent variables becomes nonsigniﬁcant (complete mediation)
or apparently weaker (partial mediation) when the mediator is added. The media-
tion was further conﬁrmed by Sobel’s (1982) test and bootstrap-based PROCESS
analyses (Hayes, 2013).
Hierarchical regression analysis, the most widely used method to test simple
moderation models (K. Leung & Zhou, 2008), was used to test the moderating role of
gender in the EI–GC and EI–PC relationships. Three subsets were separately entered
into the regressions for GC and PC: EI, gender (dummy coded), and the interaction
term EI × Gender. The moderating role exists if the interaction term is statistically
signiﬁcant. EI was mean-centered before creating the interaction term and entering
the regression. The signiﬁcant moderating effect was displayed in the interaction
plot, as recommended by Aiken and West (1991). The moderated mediation (i.e., the
moderating role of gender in the EI–GC–CDMSE and EI–PC–CDMSE relationships)
models were tested using Hayes’s (2013) PROCESS analyses. No basic assumptions
for regressions were violated. Histograms for residuals and the normal probability
plot of the residuals demonstrated normality; Durbin–Watson statistics, all close
to 2.0, suggested independence of residuals; analyses of residual plots conﬁrmed
linearity and homoscedasticity (Anderson, Sweeney, & Williams, 2005; Field, 2000).
Table 1 shows the means, standard deviations, and correlations for the study vari-
ables. The four measured variables—EI, GC, PC, and CDMSE—were signicantly
and positively correlated to one another. These results provided initial support for
Baron and Kenny’s (1986) rst three conditions for mediation. Further conrmation
was conducted through regression analyses.
Table 2 presents the results for the mediation analyses. EI was signiﬁcantly related
to GC (B = 0.62, p < .001; Model 1), PC (B = 0.61, p < .001; Model 2), and CDMSE
(B = 0.60, p < .001; Step 1 of Model 3), supporting Baron and Kenny’s (1986) ﬁrst
1. Emotional intelligence
2. Goal commitment
3. Profession commitment
4. Career decision-making self-efﬁcacy
Note. All correlations are signiﬁcant at p < .001.
38 journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53
and second conditions for the mediating roles of GC and PC, respectively. GC (B =
0.15, p < .001; Step 2 of Model 3) and PC (B = 0.11, p < .01; Step 2 of Model 3) were
signiﬁcantly related to CDMSE, supporting the third condition for the two mediators,
respectively. After the addition of GC and PC, the coefﬁcient for the EI–CDMSE
relationship decreased to B = 0.44 (p < .001; Step 2 of Model 3). This change sup-
ported the fourth condition. Thus, Baron and Kenny’s method demonstrated that GC
and PC partially mediated the EI–CDMSE relationship.
Additionally, Sobel’s (1982) test showed signiﬁcant indirect effects of EI on CDMSE
via GC (B = 0.09, SE = 0.03, z = 3.04, p < .01) and PC (B = 0.07, SE = 0.03, z =
2.45, p < .05), respectively. Likewise, Hayes’s (2013) PROCESS analyses (10,000
bootstrapping samples) veriﬁed the signiﬁcance of these indirect effects. Speciﬁcally,
the 90% bias-corrected condence intervals (CIs) were [.05, .15] for the indirect effect
via GC and [.03, .12] for that via PC. These results further supported the mediating
roles of GC and PC in the EI–CDMSE relationship (Hypotheses 1a and 1b). Ac-
cording to the PROCESS results, there was no difference in the strength of GC and
PC’s mediating effects (ΔB = 0.03, SE = 0.05, 90% bias-corrected CI [–.05, .10]).
Table 3 shows the results of the moderating roles of gender in EI–GC and EI–PC
relationships and in the corresponding indirect EI–CDMSE relationships. The sig-
niﬁcant coefﬁcient of the interaction term EI × Gender (B = 0.37, p < .10) suggested
that the moderating role of gender in the EI–GC relationship (Hypothesis 2a) was
supported. As Figure 1 shows, the EI–GC relationship was stronger among male
students (simple slope = .83, p < .001) than among female students (simple slope
= .47, p < .001). However, the moderating role of gender in the EI–PC relationship
(Hypothesis 2b) was not supported (B = 0.14, ns).
Further analyses were conducted to test whether gender differentiated the indirect
effects of EI on CDMSE by inﬂuencing EI–GC and EI–PC relationships (the ﬁrst
stage of the GC-mediated and PC-mediated EI–CDMSE relationships, respectively).
Although, as revealed earlier, gender did not moderate the EI–PC relationship, the
Note. Model 1 R2 = .17 and F(1, 183) = 42.89; Model 2 R2 = .16 and F(1, 183) = 35.04;
Model 3, Step 1 R2 = .37 and F(1, 183) = 105.80; Model 3, Step 2 R2 = .44 and F(3, 181) =
45.92. All Fs are signiﬁicant at p < .001. CDMSE = career decision-making self-efﬁcacy; EI
= emotional intelligence.
**p < .01. ***p < .001.
BSE BBSE B SE B
Note. Simple moderation tested the moderating role of gender in the relationships of emotional intelligence (EI) with goal commitment (GC) and pro-
fessional commitment (PC), respectively. Moderated mediation tested the moderating role of gender in the GC-mediated and PC-mediated EI–career
decision-making self-efﬁcacy relationships, respectively. CI = conﬁdence interval.
aConditional indirect effects via this scale.
*p < .10. ***p < .001.
EI × Gender
SE B ΔF
SE B ΔF
40 journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53
gender-based conditional indirect effects of EI on CDMSE via PC were also analyzed
as illustrated. The signiﬁcance of conditional indirect effects was tested using the
bootstrapped CI in PROCESS analyses (Hayes, 2013), and the effect difference was
tested using z test as recommended by Paternoster, Brame, Mazerolle, and Piquero
(1998). As shown in Table 3, results indicated that the indirect effect of EI on CD-
MSE via GC was signiﬁcant for both male students (B = 0.11, SE = 0.04, 90% bias-
corrected CI [.06, .19]) and female students (B = 0.06, SE = 0.03, 90% bias-corrected
CI [.02, .13]). However, the effects did not differ between male and female students
(ΔB = 0.05, z = 1.12, ns). Similarly, the PC-mediated EI–CDMSE relationship was
signiﬁcant for both male students (B = 0.07, SE = 0.03, 90% bias-corrected CI [.03,
.13]) and female students (B = 0.06, SE = 0.03, 90% bias-corrected CI [.02, .12]);
no signiﬁcant differences were detected between these two groups (ΔB = 0.02, z =
0.35, ns). Therefore, Hypotheses 3a and 3b were not supported.
This study examined the relationship between EI and CDMSE by investigating the
speciﬁc mechanism underlying the relationship and using ﬁner grained analyses
for the role of gender in this mechanism. The results of correlational and regres-
sion analyses demonstrate that EI is positively related to CDMSE, suggesting that
increased EI among university students can enhance their career decision-making
conﬁdence. This ﬁnding is consistent with previous research conducted in various
contexts, including Italy (Di Fabio et al., 2013) and the United States (Brown et al.,
2003). The present study reconﬁrms the role of emotion in career decision issues
by examining EI, further showing the applicability of Young et al.’s (1996) action
theory to career development in the Chinese context. Together, these studies verify
Goal Commitment Score
journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53 41
Di Fabio’s (2012) argument that EI is an innovative variable for explaining career
decision making and indicate that the role of EI in career construction may be
generalizable to various contexts.
As expected, GC plays a signicant role in connecting EI and CDMSE, which
conﬁrms Hypothesis 1a. EI can promote students’ valuing of, and involvement in,
their goals, which enhance their condence and self-efcacy expectations in career
decisions. As the results suggest, the inﬂuence of EI on CDMSE can be partially
achieved through the path of GC. The present results are in accordance with the view
of previous researchers that EI can help individuals use emotions to direct themselves
toward setting and achieving goals (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Wong & Law, 2002) and
that the career decision process involves goal management (Kraimer, Seibert, Wayne,
Liden, & Bravo, 2011). The ﬁnding not only reveals the importance of GC for career-
related tasks but also reﬂects the roles of emotion in career goal management. In
line with Greenhaus et al. (1995), the present study provides empirical evidence that
career development processes coexist with goal-setting and management processes,
both of which involve sophisticated affective experiences (Seo, Barrett, & Bartunek,
2004) that contribute to emotional development (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Wong &
Law, 2002). The present study also extends previous research examining emotional
roles in career management (e.g., Brown et al., 2003; Jiang, 2014) and goal setting
(Spence et al., 2004) in a new direction, by using goal pursuit and commitment to
integrate EI and career development.
Similar to GC, PC exhibits a mediating role in the EI–CDMSE relationship,
which veriﬁes Hypothesis 1b. This result informs another new ﬁnding in the ﬁeld
of career decision making. Speciﬁcally, results indicate that individuals with higher
EI tend to be more attached to and tend to identify more strongly with their current
professions, which increases their certainty and self-conﬁdence in making deci-
sions about their future careers (Blustein, Ellis, & Devenis, 1989). The reason may
be that individuals with higher EI are more likely to be better at anticipating the
emotional consequences of vocational decisions and taking preventative measures
to avoid undesirable professions (Emmerling & Cherniss, 2003; Jiang, 2014). From
this perspective, they are more likely to show enthusiasm in their chosen profession
and commit to it. Being highly committed to a profession may drive them to form a
clear and ﬁrm career orientation, and also to prepare themselves well for continuous
career development (Vandenberghe & Ok, 2013); thus, they will be more likely to
express readiness and condence in career decision making (Brown et al., 2003). The
detected PC-based mechanism of the EI–CDMSE relationship not only corresponds
to the previous literature that suggests either the EI–PC relation (e.g., Poon, 2004)
or the PC–CDMSE relation (e.g., Chung, 2002), but also extends the literature by
empirically conﬁrming a new integrated mediation process. Together with the role
of GC, the present ﬁndings provide a better understanding of the mechanism of the
EI–CDMSE linkage. Additional research is warranted to investigate the additional
paths underlying this linkage.
Furthermore, gender inuences the rst stage of the EI–GC–CDMSE relationship
but not that of the EI–PC–CDMSE relationship, supporting Hypothesis 2a but not
Hypothesis 2b. Speciﬁcally, the improvement of EI abilities is more likely to lead
42 journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53
to increased commitment to goals for male students than for female students. This
ﬁnding is in line with Archer (1989), who argued that men and women in today’s
complex society tend to hold different attitudes toward emotion-related issues (e.g.,
emotional stress), with women being unprepared to deal with sociopsychological
burdens, and probably for this reason, men being more committed to goals. Although
men and women may have similar levels of EI in many cases (Bar-On, 1997a), their
competence in applying EI abilities in pursuing goals might be different. In the
present study, for example, male and female Chinese students did not signicantly
differ in EI, but male students demonstrated a greater effect of EI on GC. Chinese
tradition, which is largely derived from Confucianism (Hofstede, 2001; S. A. Leung,
Hou, Gati, & Li, 2011), accords men superior status over women (Chan et al., 2014).
Despite some changes over time, this inﬂuence of Confucian culture is still promi-
nent in mainstream Chinese society. Chinese people tend to believe that women,
relative to men, should seek stability in work and life, should not necessarily be
achievement oriented or goal oriented, and should not focus on professional success
(Chinn, 2002; Hofstede, 2001). Therefore, in general, even though EI can improve
the level of GC, it must be noted that because of the intervention of Confucianism,
which overwhelmingly stabilizes Chinese attitudes toward women’s goals and careers,
other factors such as EI tend to have less effect on GC among women.
However, there is no evidence supporting Hypothesis 3, which predicts that the
indirect effects of EI on CDMSE through GC and PC differ between men and women.
The present ﬁndings suggest that gender differences in the effect of EI on GC ap-
pear not to be powerful enough to extend to the indirect relationship between EI and
CDMSE. Both male and female students in the present study tended to rely on the
process of pursuing goals to a similar extent when applying EI in vocational choices.
The nondifferences in gender roles in the total (for EI × Gender, B = 0.02, ns, post
hoc test) and indirect effects of EI on CDMSE are somewhat consistent with previous
studies (e.g., Brown et al., 2003; Jiang, 2014). Although no signiﬁcant gender roles
appeared in the relationship between EI and CDMSE, the present study still expands
prior research that simply examined the direct link between these two variables, by
the pioneering step of introducing goal-oriented and PC-related paths to investigate
gender differences in emotion–career connections. Future research should explore
the roles of gender in the EI–CDMSE relationship, taking into account other possible
mediating variables, before a solid conclusion can be reached.
This study has several limitations. First, the cross-sectional design prevents rigorous
causal inferences regarding the hypothesized relationships. Thus, the explanation
of the mediating effects of GC and PC in the EI–CDMSE relationship should be
treated with caution. Future research using a longitudinal design to examine these
relationships is recommended. Second, self-report data may have caused a common
method variance. Although it has been suggested that this variance is less likely to
bias interaction or moderating effects, data from multiple sources can largely reduce
journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53 43
the risk of obtaining biased results. Future research should use scientic approaches
to address problems related to common method biases (see Podsakoff, MacKenzie,
Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Third, the data came from students in one Chinese univer-
sity; thus, the ndings may not be generalizable to other populations or cultures or
even to other universities in China. Future research should attempt to validate the
present ndings using various samples. Finally, university students’ commitment to
their profession was treated as if it were highly similar to their commitment to the
chosen major. Despite the theoretical and methodological legitimation veriﬁed in
previous studies (Lu, Chang, & Wu, 2007; Meyer et al., 1993), the measure used
in this study, which equates PC and commitment to a student’s major, is in need
of further improvement, given that the Cronbach’s reliability (.63) of PC was just
above the threshold (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). To obtain more reliable results,
future research may consider using other measures or developing new measures of
PC for student samples.
Despite these limitations, the present study offers important implications for career
development researchers and practitioners. This study is the ﬁrst to investigate the
mechanism underlying the roles of emotion in career conﬁdence and self-efﬁcacy
expectations. Based on GC and PC, the study has empirically established the emo-
tion–commitment–career framework, which may initiate a new direction for research
into emotions and vocational development. Furthermore, this study provides in-depth
insights into the role of gender in relationships between EI and CDMSE through a
mediated moderation approach, although continuous efforts are needed to explore
gender roles in the emotion and career development nexus.
From the practitioner’s perspective, this study may provide career counselors with
knowledge for designing new and effective interventions to assist clients in career
choice. Counselors may more comprehensively consider EI and goal and professional
commitment processes as they guide clients in making career decisions. It is helpful
to use appropriate interventions to increase clients’ emotional management abilities,
to reduce and eliminate their psychological barriers in career decision making (H.
Choi, Puig, Kim, Lee, & Lee, 2014; Di Fabio & Saklofske, 2014; Jiang, 2014). As
informed by the present ﬁndings, with the awareness of the function of attitudes
toward goals and professions in career development, counselors may be able to use
staged and more targeted approaches to consolidate the effectiveness of EI-related
interventions. For example, interventions should be started quite early, even before
students nalize their choice of an academic major, which is highly associated with
students’ career choice (Lent et al., 1994). EI-based interventions can enhance the
likelihood that students will choose a suitable major or potentially ﬁtting profession
(Emmerling & Cherniss, 2003), one which they are interested in and may commit to,
which in turn will lead to increased self-conﬁdence and decreased distress in future
career decision making. Although the use of EI interventions to promote commitment
to goals is applicable in various stages, counselors may consider strengthening such
interventions (e.g., training on the use of emotional abilities in managing career goals)
after students’ major- or profession-entry behavior. This strategy might be particularly
effective among some students in China, where the current higher education system
44 journal of employment counseling • March 2016 • Volume 53
provides students with very few ways to change a major (S. A. Leung et al., 2011).
The EI-based interventions will perhaps lead students who fail to enter a desired
major to rely more on the goal management process to gain self-efﬁcacy in effecting
a transfer in future career development.
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