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Original Research

The relationship between cognitive ability, emotional intelligence and negative career thoughts: A study of career-exploring adults

Dennis Dahl, Frans Cilliers

SA Journal of Human Resource Management; Vol 10, No 2 (2012), 14 pages. doi: 10.4102/sajhrm.v10i2.461

Submitted: 28 January 2012
Published:  27 November 2012


Orientation: Career exploration can be a stressful experience, often manifested by negative career thoughts. In this article, the factors which influence the ability to cope with negative thinking are investigated.

Research purpose: This study investigated the relationship between cognitive ability, emotional intelligence and negative thoughts pertaining to career in a sample of unemployed, non-student adults.

Motivation for study: There is a need for research which investigates the psychological factors that contribute to successful career exploration and decision-making. Cognitive ability is one such factor, whilst emotional intelligence is another whose validity is not yet well established.

Research design, approach and method: A survey design and quantitative procedures were used in gathering and analysing data gathered from 193 non-student, middle-aged adults attending a community-based career exploration programme in British Columbia, Canada. Cognitive ability, emotional intelligence and negative career thoughts before and after a career exploration programme were measured.

Main findings: Neither cognitive ability nor any aspect of emotional intelligence predicted negative career thinking change. Cognitive ability predicted overall negative career thoughts as well as decision-making confusion, but only after the programme. The ability to manage emotions, however, predicted negative career thoughts both before and after the career decision-making programme.

Practical/managerial implications: The managing emotions component of emotional intelligence is significantly associated with negative career thoughts. These findings suggest that career counselling requires that the role of emotions and their influence on behaviours must be given more consideration. Industrial and organisational (IO) psychologists would benefit from engaging in programmes that train them to assist clients in becoming more aware of, and increasing, their own emotional intelligence.

Contribution/value-add: The study added insights to the field of career psychology regarding the ability of emotional intelligence to predict important outcomes regarding the dimensions of emotional intelligence (EI) as measured by a performance-based test predicting negative career thoughts amongst the non-student, adult population.

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Author affiliations

Dennis Dahl, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa
Frans Cilliers, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa


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ISSN: 1683-7584 (print) | ISSN: 2071-078X (online)

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