Career and Community Possible Selves: How Small-town Youth Envision Their Futures

Mitchell, Lynne A.
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University of Guelph

This thesis examines the way in which youth between the ages of sixteen and eighteen envision their future possible selves with respect to their possible careers and roles in the community. The youth were recruited from members of the Fusion Youth Activity and Technology Centre (a.k.a. Fusion) in Ingersoll, Ontario; population 12,146 (Statistics Canada, 2011). Situated in the context of small-town youth who attend afterschool activities aimed at providing skills in business, the arts, media and technology, the study asked youth to consider what their future possible selves would look like ten years from now. Using Q-methodology, the participating youth were asked to complete a 55-statement Q-sort with statements relating to careers and community roles generated by a focus group of Fusion youth and from the relevant literature. Using identical statements, the sort was conducted under two conditions of instruction; thinking of your hoped-for self in the future and; thinking of your feared self in the future. Factor analysis was conducted on both sets of Q-sorts (hoped-for and feared) and three factors were extracted for each. In keeping with Q-methodology, composite sorts were generated giving three distinct profiles of statement placement for each of the hoped-for and feared selves. Hoped-for profiles included community-minded professionals, independent creatives and no-plan dreamers. Feared self profiles included, disengaged problem citizens, trapped labourers and unhappy average citizens. These six different viewpoints of their possible futures indicate that youth see their futures (both good and bad) very differently and that their career foci and community involvement hopes and fears are far from homogeneous. This opens an opportunity for youth programs like Fusion to develop programming specific to these groups that may help to make hoped-for selves the more probable outcome.

Possible Selves, Rural, Small-town, Career, Community, Youth, Youth identity development, Q-methodology