The Job Searching and Career Expectations of Recent College Graduates: An Application of the Expectancy Violations Theory of Communication
AuthorSmith, Stephanie Ann
recent college graduates
expectancy violations theory
AdvisorPitts, Margaret J.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractCurrent U.S. college graduates are part of the millennial generation, which is the largest and most well-educated generation of all time (PEW, 2014; Twenge, 2006) and are the future of the workforce. Moreover, recent college graduates have unique job searching and career expectations, which underlie the communication strategies used to search for jobs. While the process of job searching is inherently communicative in nature, job searching is an under studied context within communication research. Although previous research outlines the career related expectations of young job seekers, it fails to examine how recent college graduates search for jobs and communicatively respond to violated job searching expectations. This goal of this study was to determine the communicative strategies recent college graduates use to search for jobs and the role communication plays in responding to job searching expectation violations. Expectancy violations theory (Burgoon, 1978), a communicative framework, is applied in this study to understand how recent college graduates respond to violated job searching expectations. Six research questions guided this study to determine the job searching communication strategies, job searching expectations, career expectations, and expectancy violations that occurred throughout the job search. To answer these questions, I conducted interviews with 20 participants, twice over a three-month period, to qualitatively understand and analyze the job searching processes of recent college graduates. The findings from this study demonstrate that recent college graduates use a combination of traditional job searching strategies and online social networking strategies to find, research, and apply for jobs. While participants expected the job search to be difficult, they were surprised at the amount of intensity and effort job searching required. Interpreting the results through the lens of EVT helped note that the participants with the most realistic job searching and career related expectations had greater success job searching over a three-month period and at the time of the follow up interview, several participants had accepted full-time, post graduate jobs. Expectancy violations theory was essential in interpreting how participants network with interpersonal contacts by offering insight for why participants strategically communicate with contacts based upon their potential reward value. The reciprocation and compensation mechanisms of expectancy violations theory also provided an explanation as to why some participants increased their job searching activity in response to violated expectations and others did not. An especially interesting finding illustrates that participants preferred to receive bad news over no news at all, and even evaluated bad news as a positive expectancy violation because it reduced their uncertainty. Collectively, expectancy violations theory (Burgoon, 1978) and anticipatory socialization research (Dubinsky, Howell, Ingram, & Bellenger, 1986) highlight how recent college graduates form their job searching and career expectations. The findings from this study also contribute to existing job searching research by examining the job searching strategies and behaviors of recent college graduates to better understand how they job search and what they expect from their future employers. Lastly, the findings from this study provide several practical application suggestions for organizations to implement in order to recruit and retain the best young job seekers in light of their current expectations and job searching strategies.
Degree ProgramGraduate College