Students are potential employees not on the labour market yet. They just have finished university, which means: they did read many books/summaries, made exams and did some presentations. Often, students have the feeling they are able to accomplish those tasks.


Someone’s judgment of perceived capability for performing a specific task (Bandura, 1977, 1986) is called self-efficacy. With other words, a person beliefs he/she has the capability to persist, to reach goals and accomplish tasks. Self-efficacy differs from self-esteem. Self-esteem usually is considered to be a trait reflecting an individual’s characteristic, affective evaluation of the self (e.g., feelings of self-worth or self-liking). By contrast, self-efficacy is a judgment about task capability that is not inherently evaluative.

For example, a rocket scientist may have very low self-efficacy pertaining to dancing, yet may decide on reflection that this is satisfactory and that it does not diminish his or her overall evaluation and feelings about the self.

One time, students will make a transition from being a student to being a Young Professional. For example, they are going to do an internship, a traineeship or a fulltime job. Once young professionals are employed, everything is new for them. They accomplish tasks for the first time in their life: from the first phone call to the first big assignment. At this moment their self-efficacy on these tasks is often low. This is logical: they never have accomplished these tasks before.

Bandura suggested that four categories of experience are used in the development of self-efficacy. Although these experiences influence efficacy perceptions, it is the individual’s cognitive appraisal and integration of these experiences that ultimately determine self-efficacy (Bandura, 1982).

  1. Enactive mastery (personal attainments): is the most important factor determining a person’s self-efficacy. Success raises self-efficacy, while failure lowers it.
  2. Vicarious experience (modeling): modeling is experienced as, ‘‘if they can do it, I can do it as well.’’ When we see someone succeeding, our own self-efficacy increases; where we see people failing, our self-efficacy decreases. This process is most effectual when we see ourselves as similar to the model. Although not as influential as direct experience, modeling is particularly useful for people who are particularly unsure of themselves.
  3. Verbal persuasion generally manifests as direct encouragement or discouragement from another person. Discouragement is generally more effective at decreasing a person’s self-efficacy than encouragement is at increasing it.
  4. Physiological arousal (e.g., anxiety). In stressful situations, people commonly exhibit signs of distress: shakes, aches and pains, fatigue, fear, nausea, etc. Perceptions of these responses in one self can markedly alter self-efficacy.

Getting butterflies in the stomach, before public speaking will be interpreted by someone with low self-efficacy as a sign of inability, thus decreasing self-efficacy further, where high self-efficacy would lead to interpreting such physiological signs as normal and unrelated to ability. It is one’s belief in the implications of physiological response that alters self-efficacy, rather than the physiological response itself.

For keeping the self-efficacy high in Young Professionals, it is really important for the Young Professionals as well as for the employers, to realize that everything is new for them. They have high self-efficacy concerning tasks related to university, but they do have little experiences with tasks related to work.

Besides, it is important to give Young Professionals the chance to experience those four mentioned learning categories. Providing task-related leadership could help them because this will make clear how they can accomplish different tasks in the best way.

It is also crucial that they have the space to make errors. The reason that Young Professionals cannot accomplish certain tasks can be that they never did this task before instead of not having the right capabilities/skills. When they do attribute this failure of the task to the personality, self-efficacy and effort may decline with subsequent attempts at the task. In such a case, a spiraling downward of performance, called an exacerbation cycle (Storms & McCaul, 1976), may occur, and this may be difficult to reverse.

To help young professionals, the next blog will provide more information about how self-efficacy develops. Subsequent blogs will determine determinants which influences self-efficacy and ways to improve self-efficacy.

We also give trainings to Young professionals to improve self-efficacy. The 25th of March 2015 another trainingsgroup will start. For more information go to:


Gister, M.E., & Mitchell, T.R. (1992). Self-efficacy: a theoretical analysis of its determinants and malleability. Academy of Management Review, 17, 183-211.

Lubbers, R., Loughlin, C., & Zweig, D. (2005). Young workers’ job self-efficacy and affect:            Pathways to health and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67, 199-214.

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