What are the Influences Affecting Student Career Decisions?

When you think about effective ways to recruit student technicians and develop your company strategy, where do you start? We know all students are different, and so are their career decision- making processes. You may find yourself struggling to understand this “audience” and what might be meaningful to students exploring careers.

Many studies have been done on the subject of how careers are chosen. If you search the Internet, you’ll find quite a few articles that delineate certain “factors” the authors deem to be “career choice influencers.” You’ll see many differences in those articles and influencer lists, but you’ll also find that some of these influencers appear repeatedly.

Before you formulate or update your student technician recruitment strategy and tactics, you may find it helpful to develop “clusters” of decision influencers. This simplifies the analysis of your student audience by putting structure to it. It provides a manageable number of “influence clusters” to address rather than try to address each influencer separately. Once the clusters are developed, you have a new basis for developing related workforce strategies and tactics.

You may wonder what decision influencers to use in your analysis. Don’t look at this as an exercise in right or wrong answers. Look at it as a logical combination of what others have found in their research and experience, combined with your experience and what you find out as you explore the subject. Develop a list of influencers YOU believe is valid based on both avenues of research.


  • See what others have to say via the Internet… see where the commonality is among various authors. Look at several recent books on the subject.
  • Talk to high school students, faculty and career counselors and get their opinions.
  • Talk to students in college diesel-equipment technology programs on what influenced them. Talk to faculty at these programs.

When you’ve done that homework, have those on your recruitment strategy team identify those influencers that they feel are most relevant to your recruitment situation. Then organize those influencers into logical clusters. Yes, it may seem a pretty subjective process at that point, but realize that: a.) not everyone can spend $50M on a qualitative or quantitative study; and that doesn’t mean the study would have all the answers, b.) most if not all research I’ve seen makes certain assumptions especially as to cause and effect, and c.) I found out in “research 101” years ago, and it has been borne out in my career, that “Jury of Executive Opinion” can be a valuable tool in research and analysis (experience and seasoned judgment do matter). When you have defined these clusters, you can move on to recruitment strategies and tactics.

To help demonstrate this process with a template, below is my attempt to define a few relevant influence factors and relate them to each other in clusters. Then, some possible strategies are shown for each cluster. The point is that when you are done, you will have a student recruitment strategy (and a tactical plan for those strategies) broadly and directly related to your identified career decision influencers. No one person or company can cover all the possibilities here, but hopefully the exercise can assist in putting focus on potential recruitment strategy priorities and what is possible.

Student Career Influences

Related Strategies


  • General peer pressure
  • Close friends
  • Student leader figures
  • Diesel technology clubs
  • Social media
  • Career presentations by recent C&TE graduates Career days at local dealerships
  • Summer diesel technology summer “career camps” at local technical colleges – 1 week Personal individual follow-up
  • Address middle school students with recruitment efforts, as well as high school students; reach those who are already thinking about careers Establish a student “lead” tracking system


  • Parents (Mom as biggest influence) Older siblings
  • Extended family members
  • Family businesses
  • Financial considerations/constraints
  • Career days for parents and students Personal discussions with students; their backgrounds and goals
  • Personal discussions with parents
  • Social media
  • Scholarship/loan/paid internship information Personal individual follow-up


  • Teachers
  • Career counselors
  • Exposure: middle and secondary school course subjects Experiential student learning
  • Subjects where students are successful in school work
  • Targeted marketing to career counselors and other education professionals; career days targeted to these professionals
  • Support high school C&TE programs Provide “hands on” opportunities for further exposure to service technician work
  • Inform students about what types of courses they need to take to be successful in a technician career; applaud their successes in courses

Personality and Experience

  • What “I like to do” (or not) – values, skills, interests, fears Media – both true and false career information
  • Positive and negative experiences in life
  • Degree of personal research on career options
  • Personal and financial goals Introvert versus extrovert Desire to “give back”
  • Publicize local industry career events – pre- and post-event; get correct information “out there”
  • Provide industry career exploration information resources for students
  • Emphasize the equipment industry career path Testimonials from students in diesel programs “Active” rather than passive approach to students

Cultural values and Norms

  • Perceived gender roles
  • Occupational bias in society
  • Urban versus rural
  • Testimonials from female students & technicians
  • Emphasize the professional nature of the service technician career today
  • Identify and rank where your most promising student recruitment areas are and target them

Local Industry and College Recruitment Programs

  • Existing and potential new recruitment initiatives
  • Work collectively with other industry stakeholders for greater resources and recruiting focus
  • Work closely with college diesel technology departments for integrated and more effective recruitment campaigns