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The Influence of Personal Networks on the Career Decision-Making of African-American Professional Women Open Access

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This study examined the influence of personal networks on the career decision-making of African-American professional women through the lens of social cognitive career theory. A review of the career development literature shows growing interest in social networks, both online and face-to-face, and their relationship to individual career development. While research has been conducted on the career development of African-American women, the network research on African-American women is relatively scarce (Combs, 2003; Young, 2013). Combs (2003) noted that informal socialization activities impact career advancement and that few studies have examined the intersection of race and gender on informal networks. This study sought to address that gap. Furthermore, research on the influence of personal networks on the career decision-making of African-American women could both add to the network literature on African-American women and have implications for the career counseling of African-American women.The primary research question addressed in this study was: What is the relationship, if any, between informal personal networks and the career decision-making of African-American professional women? A basic qualitative study was conducted with semi-structured interviews serving as the primary method of data collection. Ten African-American women with at least ten years of professional experience and a minimum of two career decision points were purposefully selected for this study.Data was analyzed using coding and thematic analysis to understand and interpret the meaning that each participant construed from their experiences with career decision-making and their personal networks. Themes emerged in four primary areas: (1) the career decision-making process, (2) the composition of the participants’ personal networks, (3) the influence participants’ personal networks had on their career decisions, and (4) key learnings. Based on the findings, conclusions and recommendations for future research and practice are presented.

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