Psychology of Working Narratives of STEM Career Exploration for Non-dominant Youth
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a domain of knowledge, skills, and practices that is pervasive and of critical importance in our highly technological, rapidly advancing, and increasingly connected world; however, non-dominant youth, namely from non-White, lower-income, non-English-speaking, and immigrant backgrounds, are disproportionately underrepresented in STEM careers in the USA. Professional STEM career participation can be especially valuable for non-dominant populations as these careers are high quality, in-demand, and can afford one social mobility and economic stability. It is, therefore, important that we understand the ways in which non-dominant youth explore STEM careers such that we can further support and expand these. As such, this exploratory study has applied a career development perspective known as a Psychology of Working (PoW; Blustein in The psychology of working: a new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, 2006) which is aptly suited to interpreting the career narratives of diverse, non-dominant populations in order to understand the unique STEM career exploration experiences of a group of non-dominant youth. The PoW framework has been modified in response to the developmental context of the youth, specifically, a focus on career expectations as opposed to career experiences, as well as their formal and informal educational experiences, including a National Science Foundation grant-funded STEM program, in which all of the participants were involved. From this study, an understanding has been gained of a number of different universal human needs that, when addressed, were influential on these youth’s STEM career exploration. In particular, social connectedness via STEM career mentorship was identified as most impactful for these youth.