The relationship between career success and sense of purpose: Examining linkages and changes

Sara J. Weston, M. Teresa Cardador, Patrick L. Hill, Ted Schwaba, Jennifer Lodi-Smith, Susan K. Whitbourne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Although researchers have linked sense of purpose to working status, there are few studies examining how specific characteristics of work may correlate with sense of purpose. The aim of the current study is to extend prior research by assessing the degree to which objective and subjective forms of career success—occupational prestige and work satisfaction—are associated with levels of and changes in sense of purpose. Methods: Participants were part of the Rochester Adult Longitudinal Study (N = 307), which contains multiple cohorts of participants each assessed at multiple waves (full age range: 42–71). We used cross-lagged modeling to test the relationships in our model. Results: Occupational prestige was not associated with sense of purpose levels and change. However, work satisfaction was positively associated with higher levels of sense of purpose initially, and there was evidence that changes in the 2 constructs were positively correlated. Discussion: These findings suggest that subjective career success may be more important for sense of purpose than more objective indicators. Findings are discussed with respect to study limitations and guidance for future researchers using secondary data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-87
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Career success
  • Change
  • Occupational prestige
  • Sense of purpose
  • Work satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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