Date of Award
Although women are increasingly present in higher education institutions and in the workforce, and businesses led by women are thriving in the current economy, research indicates an increase in emerging adults who report experiencing excessive levels of stress and emotional conflict. This stress and conflict can contribute to the development of depression and anxiety, especially in the absence of adequate support systems. Frequent use of healthcare services, worker absenteeism, and the replacement of employees are three financial costs of stress on corporate employers. Although research on emerging adulthood supports the links between stress, emotional conflict, and support systems, less is known about the day-to-day thought processes, emotions, and experiences of emerging adults as they enter the workforce in various contexts. This study addresses the need for in-depth understanding of the day-to-day experiences of emerging adult women entering the workforce to gain insight into the potential sources of stress and emotional conflict in their experiences, the ways in which they manage or cope while entering the workforce, and the support systems that they use to encourage the growth of opportunities available to them to succeed in corporate environments. This qualitative study utilized a phenomenological approach to explore the experiences of emerging adult women who have recently entered the workforce post-graduation from four-year institutions of higher education. A sample of ten emerging adult women, ages 22 to 25, participated in two rounds of semi-structured, asynchronous online interviews collected via email in which the women shared the most significant events that they have experienced since entering the workforce and the meanings that they ascribed to them. The instrument “The Life Chapter Interview” was created by the researcher and was adapted from “The Life Story Interview” (McAdams, 1995) to focus solely on the experiences of an emerging adult woman entering the workforce rather than on her entire life story. The instrument served as a useful data collection tool for narrative research that solicited detailed descriptions of experiences and primary areas of concern without asking for a participant’s entire life story. The data collected were first organized into summaries of experience for each participant and were then analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Data were analyzed from four perspectives: (a) emerging adulthood, (b) adult development, (c) women’s development, and (d) career development. Data analysis produced four master themes that defined the experiences of these emerging adult women: (a) experiencing a shift in sense of self in the context of choice, “patient to agent”, (b) experiencing a shift in self-perception in the context of achievement, “vital to my self-esteem”, (c) experiencing emotional conflict and the strategies employed to cope while entering the workforce, “to deal”, and (d) support systems as a context for experiencing health and well-being, “looking out for me”. This study contributes to the growing body of literature on the experiences of emerging adults and demonstrates that the asynchronous online interview is an effective research tool with this specific cohort of emerging adult women. The findings presented can help corporate employers and career advisors to understand the developmental issues of emerging adult women and the roles that stress and emotional conflict play in their lives as they enter the workforce post-graduation from four-year institutions of higher education. In addition, the researcher wanted to draw attention to the multiple experiences of emerging adult women entering the workforce to help corporate employers and career advisors to understand women’s developmental issues, potential sources of stress and emotional conflict, and coping mechanisms to encourage opportunities that would support women’s success in the workforce. Recommendations are offered for corporate employers, career advisors, emerging adult women, and for further research possibilities.
Number of Pages
Akashian, Kerry, "Patient to Agent: A Phenomenological Approach to Understanding Emergent Adult Women's Experiences of Entering the Workforce" (2013). Educational Studies Dissertations. 23.
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