Subjective estimates of job performance after job preview: Determinants of anticipated learning curves

When people choose a particular occupation, they presumably make an implicit judgment that they will perform well on a job at some point in the future, typically after extensive education and/or on-the-job experience. Research on learning and skill acquisition has pointed to a power law of practice, where large gains in performance come early in practice, with diminishing returns with greater experience. However, it is not clear whether young adults understand the nature of job learning and performance over time. In the current study, 153 university students were provided with job descriptions and video clips for 20 different jobs. They were asked to estimate the shape of their learning curves for each job, and to provide judgments of their performance levels from the first day on the job to a point after six months of job experience. We investigated the patterns of expected learning/performance curves, and explored the role of personality, interests, self-concept, self-estimates of abilities, entity/incremental theories of intelligence, and gender in prediction of the patterns of expected curves. Participants generally expected a power function or a linear function of improvement across the jobs, with notable differences in anticipated performance depending on job characteristics of gender dominance, ability demands, and interest themes. Traits and job engagement variables provided significant predictive power for accounting for individual differences in expected job performance over time. Implications for implicit theories of intelligence and occupational choice are discussed.