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Career Decisions of Florida Agricultural Extension Agents

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021377/00001

Material Information

Title: Career Decisions of Florida Agricultural Extension Agents
Physical Description: 1 online resource (192 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Arnold, Shannon K
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: agent, career, decisions, extension, influences, recruitment, retention
Agricultural Education and Communication -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Agricultural Education and Communication thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: My qualitative study sought to explore and describe the career decisions of agricultural extension agents. Interviews were used to investigate the factors and experiences that affect agricultural extension agents' decisions to enter and remain in extension, and discover positive and negative influences related to decisions of agents at different career stages. From the data collected, two grounded theories were developed that explain significant issues that affect agents' career decisions. A purposive sample was used to select twelve extension agents who worked primarily in commercial agriculture, were identified by a panel of experts as consistent work performers, and were classified into one of the three stages of the career stages model. All agents participated in interviews to share their thoughts on influences that shaped their decision to enter into the organization, remain in the organization, and shaped their decisions at different career stages. Grounded theory was used as the primary data analysis method. The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to enter into the organization were agent background, career contacts, service to agricultural community, nature of extension work, position fit, and university supported education. The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to remain in the organization were internal satisfaction, community leadership, external motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environment. The categories relevant to the positive and negative influences that shaped career decisions of agents at the different career stages of entry, colleague, and counselor/adviser levels are detailed below. Positive influences on entry level agents' career decisions can be classified into three categories: personal traits, motivators, and support systems. The negative influences of entry level agents can be divided into four areas: lack of direction, personal work management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements. Positive influences on colleague level agents' career decisions can be classified into four categories: motivators, career growth opportunities, career management strategies, and collaboration with key people. Negative influences on colleague level agents' career decisions can be divided into three categories: performance evaluations, salary disparity, and personal work management issues. Positive influences on counselor/adviser level agents' career decisions can be classified into three categories: motivators, career growth opportunities, and career management strategies. Negative influences on counselor/adviser level agents' career decisions can be divided into two categories: career overload and job dissatisfiers.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Shannon K Arnold.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Place, Nick T.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021377:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021377/00001

Material Information

Title: Career Decisions of Florida Agricultural Extension Agents
Physical Description: 1 online resource (192 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Arnold, Shannon K
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: agent, career, decisions, extension, influences, recruitment, retention
Agricultural Education and Communication -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Agricultural Education and Communication thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: My qualitative study sought to explore and describe the career decisions of agricultural extension agents. Interviews were used to investigate the factors and experiences that affect agricultural extension agents' decisions to enter and remain in extension, and discover positive and negative influences related to decisions of agents at different career stages. From the data collected, two grounded theories were developed that explain significant issues that affect agents' career decisions. A purposive sample was used to select twelve extension agents who worked primarily in commercial agriculture, were identified by a panel of experts as consistent work performers, and were classified into one of the three stages of the career stages model. All agents participated in interviews to share their thoughts on influences that shaped their decision to enter into the organization, remain in the organization, and shaped their decisions at different career stages. Grounded theory was used as the primary data analysis method. The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to enter into the organization were agent background, career contacts, service to agricultural community, nature of extension work, position fit, and university supported education. The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to remain in the organization were internal satisfaction, community leadership, external motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environment. The categories relevant to the positive and negative influences that shaped career decisions of agents at the different career stages of entry, colleague, and counselor/adviser levels are detailed below. Positive influences on entry level agents' career decisions can be classified into three categories: personal traits, motivators, and support systems. The negative influences of entry level agents can be divided into four areas: lack of direction, personal work management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements. Positive influences on colleague level agents' career decisions can be classified into four categories: motivators, career growth opportunities, career management strategies, and collaboration with key people. Negative influences on colleague level agents' career decisions can be divided into three categories: performance evaluations, salary disparity, and personal work management issues. Positive influences on counselor/adviser level agents' career decisions can be classified into three categories: motivators, career growth opportunities, and career management strategies. Negative influences on counselor/adviser level agents' career decisions can be divided into two categories: career overload and job dissatisfiers.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Shannon K Arnold.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Place, Nick T.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021377:00001


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CAREER DECISIONS OF FLORIDA AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AGENTS


By

SHANNON KRISTIN ARNOLD

















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007





































O 2007 Shannon Kristin Arnold



































To my husband, David Amold









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My journey through graduate school has been a long and bumpy road. Thank you to those

people who gave their interest, time and effort to make this study and this degree possible. First,

my sincere appreciation goes to my chair, Dr. Nick Place, for his guidance, support, and constant

supervision throughout my graduate career. It is because of his persistence and belief in me that

I have completed this research. Dr. Place was always available for feedback, encouragement,

and advice when I needed it most. His positive attitude made this a tolerable experience and has

better prepared me for future endeavors.

Thanks to my other committee members: Dr. Glenn Israel, Dr. Saundra Tenbroeck, and

Dr. Edward Osborne. Each of these members was not only an outstanding mentor, but provided

me with confidence to complete my studies in both personal and professional ways. In addition,

I am extremely grateful to the faculty and staff of the Department of Agricultural Education and

Communication. The research, teaching, and extension opportunities offered to me as a graduate

assistant were invaluable and helped me to become a better person, educator, and scholar.

Additional thanks must be also be extended to Dr. Mirka Koro-Ljungberg for her qualitative

inspiration and Dr. Bob Williams for his constant personal and professional support.

The completion of this research and degree has been directly influenced by my exceptional

friends and family. I have made many memories in Rolfs Hall 310 and beyond celebrating the

good and the bad days. I will remember all the lunches, conferences, beach days, class trips, and

parties that we experienced together throughout the country. Special thanks goes to Courtney

and Daniel Meyers, Emily and Aaron Rhoades, Wendy Warner, Nick Fuhrman, David and

Jennifer Jones, Curt Friedel, Hannah Carter, Steve Rocca, Eric and Shevon Kaufman, and all the

other graduate students that I have been privileged to know in the last three years. These

individuals are not only my friends, but have truly become my extended family.









I owe the most gratitude to my loving husband, David Arnold, for his assistance

throughout the entire process. He stood by me through all the ups and downs of graduate school

life and never ceased to lend a helping hand. He continually assisted me with stress relief

through horseback riding, financial support, and advice on life's decisions. I truly feel blessed to

have such a caring husband who was willing to move to Florida and allow me to finish my

education. His continued patience, support, and faith in me while I completed this degree have

been unsurpassed. Finally, thanks to my mother, Linda Kozak, my grandparents, Viola and

Milton Sinclair, and my in-laws, Carol and Gary Arnold. Their support and encouragement has

always been greatly appreciated. I hope someday to repay all the special people in my life that

have touched me in so many ways. Thank you!












TABLE OF CONTENTS


page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............. ...............4.....


LIST OF TABLES ................. ...............9.._.._ .....


AB S TRAC T ............._. .......... ..............._ 13...


CHAPTER


1 INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE............... ...............15


Background And Setting ................. ...............15...............
Theoretical Framework............... ...............1
Statement Of The Problem .............. .. ...............20...
Statement Of The Purpose And Obj ectives ................ ...............22........... ..
Limitations Of Design .............. ...............23....
Sum m ary ................. ...............23.......... ......


2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................. ...............25................


Introducti on ............... ... ... ......... .. ... .. ....... ... ... ........2
Roles Of Cooperative Extension System County Agents ................. ......... ................25
Employee Recruitment .............. ...............26....
Employee Retention................ .. ..............2
Organizational Effects Of Turnover ................. ...............29................
Reasons For Leaving Extension .............. ...............30....
Balancing Work And Family Life ................. ...............31........... ...
Job Satisfaction ................. ...............33........... ....

Coping Strategi e s ................ ...............35................
Career Development Models .............. ...............36....
M otivation............... .. .... .................4
Maslow' s Hierarchy Of Need s ................. ...............45.......... ....
Herzberg's Two Factor Theory .............. ...............45....
Professional Development .....___................. .........__..........4
Sum m ary ................. ...............49........ ......


3 RE SEARCH DE SIGN AND MET HOD S ............... ...............5 1..............


Introducti on ................. ...............51._._._.......
Research Design .............. ...............5 1....
Qualitative Research ................... .........__ ...............52......
Measures Of Validity And Reliability ........._.___.......... ...............55..
Researcher Subj activity ................. ...............56................
Ontology And Epistemology .............. ...............60....
Idealism .............. ...............60....












C on strcti oni sm ................. ...............61.......... ....
Theoretical Perspective............... ..............6
Grounded Theory ................. ...............63.................
M ethodology ................. ...............64.................
Research Objectives .............. ...............64....
Participant Selection ................. ...............65.................
Data Collection Procedures .............. ...............69....
Data Analysis Procedures ................. ...............72........... ....
Coding .............. ...............74....
Summary ................. ...............76.................


4 RESULTS OF AGENTS' DECISIONS TO ENTER AND REMAIN IN EXTENSION......78


Description Of Participants............... .............7
Agents' Decision To Enter Into Extension ................. ...............79...............
Agent Background ................. ...............80.................
Career Contacts. .............. ........ ..............8
Service To Agricultural Community. ............. ...............85.....
Nature Of Extension Work. ................. ...............86.......... ....
Position Fit. ............... .... ............ ...............88.......
University Supported Education............... ...............8
Agents' Decision To Remain In Extension .............. ...............91....
Internal Satisfaction ................. ...............91.................
Community Leadership. ............. ...............94.....
Career Benefits. ............. ...............96.....
External M otivators. .............. ...............100....

Change Agents ................. ...............102................
Network Of Support. .............. ...............103....
Extension Work Environment. .............. ...............105....
Grounded Theory ................. ...............107................
Sum m ary ................. ...............108......... ......


5 RESULTS OF INFLUENCES ON AGENTS AT DIFFERENT CAREER STAGES........109


Influences On Agricultural Extension Agents At Different Career Stages ................... .......109
Entry Level ................. ...............109......... ......
Coll league Level ................. ...............124......... ......
Counsel or/Advi sor Level ........._.__....... .__. ...............132..
Grounded Theory ........._.___..... .___ ...............140....
Summary ........._.__....... .__ ...............142...


6 DI SCUS SSION ........._.___..... .___ ............... 143...


K ey Findings.................. .... ..................14
Agents' Decision To Enter Into Extension ......__....._.__._ ......._._. ............4
Agents' Decision To Remain In Extension ................. ........ .... .........4
Influences On Agricultural Extension Agents At Different Career Stages ........._._.............149












Recommendations For Future Research ................. ...............153...............

Implications And Recommendations For Extension ................. ............... ......... ...156
Sum m ary ................. ...............161......... ......


APPENDIX


A CODING ................. ...............162................


B GROUNDED THEORY ............... ............... 175


C GROUNDED THEORY ............... ............... 177


D IRB APPROVAL................ .............. 17


E INFORMED CONSENT ................. ...............180................


F INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE............... ...............181.


G EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE............... ............18


LIST OF REFERENCES ................. ...............185................


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................. ...............191......... ......










LIST OF TABLES


Table page

2.1 Herzberg's motivators and hygienes............... ...............46

3.1 Defining individual characteristics of extension agents in the career stages model..........67

4.1 Description of participants .........._...... ...............79....._.. .....









LIST OF TERMS

Analytic tools Devices and techniques used by analysts to facilitate the coding process.

Axial coding A set of procedures whereby data are put back together in new ways after

open coding, by making connections between categories.

Coding The analytic processes through which data are fractured, conceptualized,

and integrated to form theory.

Extension educators Professional employees of the state Extension service of the land-grant

institutions and the Extension Service-USDA. Those include county

faculty (agents, program assistant, EFNEP educators), district staff

(agents, directors, program specialists), and state staff (administrators,

program specialists).

Extension education process The composite of actions where an extension educator conducts a

situation analysis of individual and community needs, establishes specific

learner obj ectives, implements a plan of work and evaluates the outcomes

of the instruction to determine behavioral changes have occurred.

Extension partnership The tripartite organization structure of the Cooperative Extension

System. Includes the federal partner (CSREES, USDA), state partners

(Extension services of the state land-grant university), and local partners

(county or parish legislative units).

Extension work A collective phrase for describing the various methods by which extension

educators accomplish the education mission of the organization and the

program areas that are central to its instruction.

Grounded theory Theory derived from data, systematically gathered and analyzed through










the research process where data collection, analysis, and eventual theory

stand in close relationship with one another and the theory emerges from

the data.

Memos The researcher' s record of analysis, thoughts, interpretations, questions,

and directions for further data collection.

Methodology A way of thinking about and studying social reality.

Methods A set of procedures and techniques for gathering and analyzing data.

Microanalysis The detailed line-by-line analysis necessary at the beginning of a study to

generate initial categories and to suggest relationships among categories; a

combination of open and axial coding.

Open coding The process of breaking down, examining, comparing, conceptualizing,

and categorizing data.

New extension faculty Faculty/agents who have less than two years of experience within

the UF/IFAS Extension System.

New faculty orientation and training The process utilized to educate new extension

faculty on the mission, objectives, and the structure of the organization.

This includes program development, evaluation and accountability,

teaching and learning principles, organizational policies, procedures, and

career roles and responsibilities.

Professional development A process characterized by intentional efforts to create positive

changes, ongoing learning opportunities, and a timely, systematic

procedure.

Selective coding The process of selecting the core category, systematically relating it to









other categories, validating those relationships, and filling in categories

that need further refinement and development.

Theory A set of well developed concepts related through statements of

relationship, which together constitute an integrated framework that can be

used to explain or predict phenomenon.

Theoretical saturation The point in category development at which no new properties,

dimensions, or relationships emerge during analysis.

Turnover The voluntary termination of participation in employment for an

organization, excluding retirement or pressured voluntary withdrawal, but

an individual who received monetary compensation from the organization.









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

CAREER DECISIONS OF FLORIDA AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AGENTS

By

Shannon Kristin Arnold

August 2007

Chair: Nick T. Place
Major: Agricultural Education and Communication

My qualitative study sought to explore and describe the career decisions of agricultural

extension agents. Interviews were used to investigate the factors and experiences that affect

agricultural extension agents' decisions to enter and remain in extension, and discover positive

and negative influences related to decisions of agents at different career stages. From the data

collected, two grounded theories were developed that explain significant issues that affect

agents' career decisions.

A purposive sample was used to select twelve extension agents who worked primarily in

commercial agriculture, were identified by a panel of experts as consistent work performers, and

were classified into one of the three stages of the career stages model. All agents participated in

interviews to share their thoughts on influences that shaped their decision to enter into the

organization, remain in the organization, and shaped their decisions at different career stages.

Grounded theory was used as the primary data analysis method.

The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to enter into the organization were

agent background, career contacts, service to agricultural community, nature of extension work,

position fit, and university supported education. The selective categories relevant to agents'

decisions to remain in the organization were internal satisfaction, community leadership, external










motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environment.

The categories relevant to the positive and negative influences that shaped career decisions of

agents at the different career stages of entry, colleague, and counselor/advisor levels are detailed

below.

Positive influences on entry level agents' career decisions can be classified into three

categories: personal traits, motivators, and support systems. The negative influences of entry

level agents can be divided into four areas: lack of direction, personal work management issues,

job pressures, and mandated work requirements. Positive influences on colleague level agents'

career decisions can be classified into four categories: motivators, career growth opportunities,

career management strategies, and collaboration with key people. Negative influences on

colleague level agents' career decisions can be divided into three categories: performance

evaluations, salary disparity, and personal work management issues. Positive influences on

counselor/advisor level agents' career decisions can be classified into three categories:

motivators, career growth opportunities, and career management strategies. Negative influences

on counselor/advisor level agents' career decisions can be divided into two categories: career

overload and j ob dissatisfiers.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE

Background and Setting

The Cooperative Extension System (CES) is a nationwide educational network of federal,

state, and local governments linked to land-grant universities (Seevers, Graham, Gamon, &

Conklin, 1997). Its mission is to disseminate research-based information to the public in the

areas of agriculture, family and consumer sciences, youth development, and community

development. The system provides nonformal, public education that links research-based

information to adult and youth audiences, supports life skills and problem solving behaviors, and

assists communities in developing a better way of life (Seevers, et. al., 1997). Extension agents

transfer information generated by the university through educational programs specifically

designed to address community needs. Educators utilize various methods of program delivery to

reach the maximum amount of people with the minimum amount of resources and costs. There

is no other organization that offers these specialized educational services to the public (Seevers,

et. al., 1997).

The goals of extension focus on reaching out to those "in-need" of reliable, practical

information necessary for empowerment and human growth. Extension serves to make people

more productive members of society and assists them with free educational services. The focus

of public good is the desired outcome (Seevers, et. al., 1997). Extension agents aim to provide

quick and accurate answers to solve existing public problems and encourage lifelong learning.

They work in conjunction with universities to transfer research-based education that aims to

improve society.

The Florida Cooperative Extension System (FCES) is a state outreach division comprised

of national, state, and county educators, administrators, and professionals linked to the land-grant









university. Its goals reflect the national mission to extend knowledge and assist people in

solving personal and professional problems. The relevance of FCES programs is unmatched by

any other state organization because of its needs, research-based curriculum, and combination of

resources available for assistance (Seevers, et. al., 1997). Extension plays an important role in

identifying public needs and responding with educational programs. Specifically, extension

agents are the key to providing services that allow for continuing education of communities and

aim to improve the overall quality of life. Reliance on qualified personnel to perform these

functions is integral to organizational success and community development (Seevers, et. al.,

1997).

The agricultural industry plays a significant role in Florida' s public and economic welfare.

The economic impacts of agriculture in Florida can be seen in its services, enterprises,

commodities, revenue, business taxes, and employment connected to the diverse industry sectors

(University of Florida IFAS Extension, 2002). According to the Florida Department of

Agriculture and Consumer Services (2006), Florida ranks ninth nationally in the value of farm

products. Over 42,500 farms produce 280 commodities for a total production value of $6.4

million. In 2005, agricultural impact on the total economy accounted for nearly $87.6 billion and

supported 756,993 jobs throughout the state. Florida also ranks 16th nationally in the export of

agricultural products at $1.3 million (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,

2006). Local, export, and import markets represent the impact of Florida agriculture. The

agriculture industries offer significant contributions to Florida, the nation, and the world.

Producers need to be informed of changes in agricultural technologies, production practices,

alternative markets, and consumer demand. Educational programs can address these issues and

transfer relevant information to raise agricultural awareness.









However, the extension organization must ensure that its faculty is provided with

necessary career assistance in order to perform their j obs effectively (Conklin, Hook, Kelbaugh,

& Nieto, 2002). Competent, knowledgeable extension agents not only reflect the integrity of

FCES, but the entire organizational reputation. The organization must constantly be engaged

and responsive to agents' work related needs in order to achieve this overall success (Conklin, et.

al., 2002). Administrators and directors must work to address professional career issues. With

approximately 360 extension agents employed with FCES, employee needs are extensive and

must be addressed for job satisfaction and continued career success (Extension County

Operations, personal communication, December 5, 2006). Professional development,

organizational support, and career enhancement activities are commonly employed to address

areas of employee satisfaction and enrichment (Guskey, 2000).

Extension professionals face numerous issues and challenges in the workplace. These

complex problems require agents to maintain high levels of expertise to carry out extension

programs (CES Professional Development Task Force, 1998). Therefore, new and current

extension faculty must be actively involved in valuable, pertinent professional development

focused on career growth. To achieve this, the organization must be prepared to deliver

professional development to all extension agents in order to retain its specialized faculty (A

Comprehensive Approach for Professional Development for UF/IFAS Extension, 2001).

Faculty recruitment and retention are two major issues currently facing FCES (L.

Arrington, personal communication, November 21, 2006). Career decisions of current and

potential faculty determine the future abilities, skills, and competence of extension (ECOP,

2002). As programs shift and public needs change, extension is facing decisions on how to

continue its services and programs with suitable personnel. New and diverse people to work









with changing clientele must be hired to address emerging needs and concerns (L. Arrington,

personal communication, November 21, 2006). However, finding highly qualified agents is

becoming more difficult as career opportunities expand. Extension must seek to identify experts

in the field needed to provide relevant services and attract them to the organization. Once

employed, the organization must strive to keep these agents which will help to improve the

quality of services, reliability of the organization, connection to the public, and reduce

organizational expenses (Ensle, 2005).

Organizational efforts must be directed at understanding current recruitment and retention

issues (ECOP, 2005). This will require administrators to become more knowledgeable about the

reasons agents enter and remain in an extension career. Having an understanding of factors that

affect critical career decisions is invaluable and must be sought to advance organizational efforts.

An exploration of factors that shape extension agents' career decisions will assist the

organization in identifying the following: career influences on extension agents; positive and

negative experiences that affect agents' career decisions; personal and professional issues

common to agents; and, new and current agents' concerns that affect future career decisions.

Knowing this information will be beneficial to the organization in many ways. Results

can be used to help attract new agents, improve recruitment strategies, provide direction for

future professional development and career assistance, and reduce attrition rates. The ability to

retain long-term, high quality professionals is a direct reflection of a successful organization and

must be a high priority for extension to remain a viable educational outreach system (Conklin, et.

al., 2002). However, administrators must increase their understanding of employee needs in

order to address them appropriately. The future of extension will ultimately be determined on









how the organization approaches these critical areas to accomplish its goals and mission (ECOP,

2002).

Theoretical Framework

Career Stages Model

The rapid changes occurring in the areas of technology, education, economics,

demographics, politics, and cultural diversity affect both the organization and the people within

them. As extension positions itself to address these emerging issues, faculty must engage in

lifelong learning in order to maintain professional expertise in relevant areas (Martin, 1991).

Therefore, professional development must become a priority for future survival. The term

professional development can broadly be defined as a variety of learning experiences that build

professional capacities, enhance work performance, and assist in achieving long-term career

goals (CES Professional Development Task Force, 1998).

Continuous growth is vital for agents to be educated on the rapidly changing industry,

improve work and life management skills, and perform effectively in their positions. New agents

specifically need to be educated to successfully transition into the organization in order to remain

long-term employees (Bailey, 2005). However, determining career needs is difficult in extension

which encompasses a variety of job responsibilities, including conducting programs, developing

educational materials, providing community support, and serving as a subj ect matter resource

(Conklin, Hook, Kelbaugh, & Nieto, 2002).

A variety of career development models has assisted in understanding the needs of

professionals. Using Rennekamp and Nall's career stage model as a framework, Kutilek,

Gunderson, and Conklin (2002) adapted the model to create a "systems approach to maximize

individual career potential and organizational success." This more recent career development

model consists of three stages in a person' s career- the entry stage, colleague stage, and the









counselor/advisor stage. In addition, it outlines motivators and organizational strategies that are

beneficial to career growth within each stage (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

In the career stages model, the entry level stage focuses on new agents understanding the

organizational culture and structure, gaining essential job skills, establishing internal linkages,

developing initiative, and moving from dependence to independence. Agents then move into the

colleague stage which centers on development of expertise, problem resolution, gaining

community acceptance and membership, expanding creativity, and moving to interdependence.

The final stage is the combined counselor and advisor stage, in contrast to Rennekamp and Nall's

model that listed each stage separately. The more recent model combined these two stages due

to the similarities found in motivators and organizational strategies at this point within an

individual's professional career. In this counselor and advisor stage, agents acquire a foundation

in expertise, attain leadership and influential positions, engage in organizational problem solving,

become a counselor for other professionals, and facilitate self-renewal (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

Utilization of this model and its career stages provides a theoretical framework for this study of

career decisions of agricultural extension agents.

Statement of the Problem

The foundation of educational organizations is in its human and intellectual capital.

Recruitment and retention are two of the top internal challenges currently facing the Cooperative

Extension System (ECOP, 2005). These issues must be openly addressed in order for the

Cooperative Extension System to continue its public services and programs. Florida Cooperative

Extension System is currently facing the growing problem of faculty turnover and burnout of

new agents (L. Arrington, personal communication, November 21, 2006). Current attrition rates

of extension agents are not readily available from the FCES, but the CES Professional









Development Task Force (1998) found the rate of turnover in extension positions was relatively

high, with an average of 25-30 new county faculty hired annually.

Much of the current research regarding reasons for turnover and attrition rates needs to be

revisited and updated (Kutilek, 2000; Clark, 1992; Rousan, 1995; Riggs & Beus, 1993; Whaples,

1983; Manton & van Es, 1985). Currently, there is a lack of accessible, statistical information

concerning the turnover of agricultural agents in Florida (Extension County Operations, personal

communication, December 5, 2006). However, data from the Florida Cooperative Extension

System New Agent Orientation show that there is an increasing number of agents leaving the

system, particularly in the last seven years.

For extension to survive in this increasingly competitive world, it must prepare its faculty

to grow, adapt, and thrive in a changing environment. Long-term personnel commitments are

the single most important factor inhibiting the "agility and flexibility" of an extension

organization (ECOP, 2002). According to ECOP (2005), low salaries, staff cuts, downsizing,

and aging faculty are causing agents to leave extension. Extension administrators must critically

examine and employ competent staff for long-term survival. Competencies of agents frequently

change to reflect their roles and must be re-examined regularly. Organizational accountability

depends upon agents to become leaders engaged at the local level that conduct desirable outreach

programs. This active engagement demonstrates the public value and commitment of extension

services to community decision makers (ECOP, 2002). Developing hiring, compensation, and

professional development strategies that attract and retain qualified employees for engagement in

a global society is a key component for the future of extension. Organizational resources must

be allocated to assure employees are skilled and engaged in professional development activities

that enhance competencies for critical issues (ECOP, 2002).










Recruitment and retention of agents is becoming increasingly problematic in many

extension systems. High quality agents are leaving the extension system due to organizational

factors, non-work related factors, and individual related factors (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). The

national extension organization must consider these factors and how to best address them.

Exploring extension agents' career decisions and experiences can assist in understanding

influences, factors, issues, and concerns of all levels of agents. The beginning years within

extension can shape the agents' attitudes, behaviors, and practices important for the future. Yet,

it is important that agents are not forgotten once employed. Faced with numerous career related

issues, agents' needs can be met through professional development, in-service training, and

targeted programs. Continual career assistance on professional needs must be available to

maximize agents' career potential. Knowing the needs of agents at various stages within their

careers is essential to determining accurate proactive assistance, motivators, and organizational

strategies (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Appropriate professional development opportunities can then

be created to help reduce attrition rates and retain quality professionals.

To address these problems, the reasons agents enter into their careers and their

expectations must be openly explored. Then, the organization must understand the factors and

influences that affect agents during their careers. Proactive attention that addresses these

concerns will help to recruit and retain agents in an increasingly competitive marketplace. These

issues indicate a prominent need to further examine factors that affect extension agents' career

deci sions.

Statement of the Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the career decisions of agricultural

extension agents. Agricultural agents were selected due to the importance of agriculture in

Florida and the perceived increasing rates of agent turnover prevalent in FCES. The interview










process was used to investigate the factors that affected agricultural extension agents' decisions

to enter and remain in extension, discover positive and negative experiences related to career

decisions, and identify significant influences on agents' careers at different career stages. From

the data collected, a grounded theory was developed that explains the significant issues that

affect agricultural extension agents' career decisions. The key objectives of this study included:

* Objective 1: To understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural
extension agents to enter into the organization

* Obj ective 2: To understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural
extension agents to remain in the organization

* Objective 3: To discover the influences that shape career decisions of agricultural
extension agents at different career stages

* Obj ective 4: To develop a grounded theory that explains the most significant issues that
affect the career decisions of Florida agricultural extension agents

Limitations of Design

This study sought to explain the unique experiences and decisions of each individual, so

the findings cannot be generalized to a larger population. The participants were selected from

the state of Florida and may not be representative of all agricultural extension agents. It was also

assumed that participants provided honest and accurate answers during the interview process.

Finally, in qualitative studies, researcher bias can influence the methodology and interpretation

of data. In order to eliminate this bias, the researcher took a subj ective approach to the interview

process, followed the interview guide for each participant, and provided a subj activity statement

to state predetermined assumptions and alleviate any misconceptions.

Summary

This chapter explained the background and supports the need for an in-depth study of

extension agents' career decisions. The problems associated with extension recruitment and

retention were explained and the organizational importance of long-term faculty was established.









The role of professional development in accomplishing this goal was mentioned as an integral

component to career growth. The career stages model offered a conceptual framework to

examine the influences and factors affecting extension agents' career decisions at all phases of

employment. The purpose, objectives, and limitations of the study were outlined to provide a

foundation for the study.









CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

Introduction

This chapter reviewed the relevant literature that provided the background for this

research. Specific areas of literature include: roles of extension agents, employee recruitment

and retention, professional development, career development models, and human motivation.

The section on county extension agents outlined work responsibilities and duties. Employee

retention and recruitment were discussed to provide an overview of the challenges and issues

facing organizations. Professional development highlighted the need for continuing education

and career growth of employees. Factors of motivation and career theories were outlined to

provide an overview of factors that influence employees' career and life decisions. The career

stages model was described as it provided structure to the study in regards to career development

for extension agents.

Roles of Cooperative Extension System County Agents

The U. S. Cooperative Extension System relies upon local county agents to carry out its

educational services and functions. County agents transfer information generated by the

university through extension programs specifically designed to address community needs.

According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Office of

Human Resources (2006), the duties, functions, and responsibilities of all county extension

agents are:

* Provide leadership for development, implementation, delivery and evaluation of a
comprehensive extension program in cooperation with local and county/state extension
colleagues.

* Establish and maintain an effective system for accountability and public information to all
relevant individuals, groups, organizations and agencies. Maintain an effective program
advisory committee, with appropriate community representation.










* Target programs to achieve program balance reflective of the county's population diversity
and to address the unique educational needs of the county's residents.

* Develop and sustain partnerships with commodity groups, governmental and community
agencies and organizations sharing common goals.

* Develop, sustain and monitor the effectiveness of a volunteer system to staff the program,
including recruitment, volunteer staff development and evaluation/recognition.

* Seek and obtain financial resources to support extension programming.

* Provide leadership for management of all program components including program policies,
records, communications and educational materials.

* Assume other assignments and responsibilities in support of the total extension program.

* Proactive 4-H program involvement is essential.

* Follow all University and county policies and procedures.

Extension agents are personal connection of the organization to communities. County

agents transfer practical and relevant information to the public through nonformal educational

programs, and provide quick and accurate answers to solve existing problems. This service is

critical to empower clientele, build technical skills, and improve the well-being of communities

(Seevers, et. al., 1997). Agents utilize various methods of program delivery to reach the

maximum number of people with the minimum amount of resources and costs. There are few

organizations that offer these specialized, public funded educational services. The goals of

extension focus on reaching out to those "in-need" of reliable, practical information necessary

for empowerment and human growth (Seevers, et. al., 1997). The county agent is necessary for

the organization to meet its goals and accomplish its mission.

Employee Recruitment

One of the most important challenges facing the CES today is recruiting high caliber

individuals who are prepared to function in a rapidly changing society. The recruitment of

adaptable, diverse extension employees is critical to address the problems faced by clientele.









Extension professionals face numerous issues and challenges in the workplace. These complex

problems require agents to have high levels of expertise to carry out educational programs

(Seevers, et. al., 1997). The failure of CES to recruit suitable long-term employees can cost the

organization (Clark, 1992; Ensle, 2005). Additionally, finding highly qualified agents is

becoming more difficult as career opportunities expand. Extension must seek to identify experts

in the field and attract them to the organization. Finding qualified employees can become

challenging, but utilizing a variety of methods can support recruitment efforts.

Methods

All organizations are faced with the critical challenge to recruit and retain qualified

employees (Langan, 2000). Piotrowski and Armstrong (2006) conducted a survey study on

recruitment and pre-employment selection methods used by 151 human resources departments in

1000 maj or U. S. companies. The findings indicated that the majority of companies rely on

traditional recruitment and personnel selection techniques over the use of online communication.

The most common recruitment and selection techniques ranked in descending order were:

resume, applications, reference checks, newspaper/magazine ads, company websites, online job

board, skills and personality testing, online pre-employment tests, job fairs, referrals from current

employees, and job service centers (Piotrowski & Armstrong, 2006).

Psychological tests focused on prospective employees' personalities have received

increased attention to recruit suitable personnel. Additionally, to enhance the chances for

successful recruitment for employers, research has endorsed the "person j ob-fit" paradigm

(Anderson, et al., 2004; Chan, 2005; Hollenbeck, et al., 2002). This emerging paradigm states

that there must be a match between the person's knowledge, skills, and abilities, and the

requirement of a specific job. Also, there must be a congruence of an individual's personality,









beliefs, and values with the culture, norms, and values of an organization. Finally, there must be

a match between an employee's needs and what the organization supplies, such as pay, benefits,

and work (Anderson, et al., 2004; Chan, 2005; Hollenbeck, et al., 2002). Utilizing this

framework can assist in the selection of employees that are compatible with the organization.

With the widespread reach of technology, potential recruitment using online methods

might be used to reach new populations. Kraut, et. al. (2004) identified several benefits of using

the Internet for recruitment including low costs, the ability to attract a large and diverse sample,

and improved visibility to undergraduates and graduate students. In essence, the Internet has

expanded the base for recruitment procedures. Another study focused on the impact of the

Internet on recruitment stated that 1.5 million potential employees were reached over a four year

span (Kraut, et. al., 2004). Clearly, the Internet provides a wider breath over a shorter period of

time than traditional recruitment methods.

Organizational Diversity

Extension must continue to seek out specialized agents to address the diverse audiences in

today's changing population. Traditional agricultural audiences are decreasing and opportunities

to reach new clientele are growing. Recruitment of diverse staff can present challenges and

therefore, common recruitment methods may not be applicable. Grogan and Eshelman (1998)

studied the most effective recruitment strategies for recruiting personnel for a more diverse

workforce. Strategies used most often were personal contacts with suitable applicants; inclusion

of specific universities with a pool of diverse students; active recruitment by staff and board

members; and providing incentives for currently employed diverse staff to assist in recruiting.

Ewert and Rice (1994) researched the management and implications of diversity within

extension. Findings suggested that more culturally diverse organizations are better able to recruit










and retain culturally diverse staff, and expand their "reach" and increase their ability to attract

new clientele. It was recommended that extension set specific organizational goals for the

recruitment of culturally diverse staff. To attract diverse staff, more aggressive recruiting and a

rigorous assessment of the recruitment procedure is needed. An assessment of position

descriptions, job announcements, and the selection process will assist in the recruitment of

diverse agents.

Recruitment procedures must also be re-examined to ensure that cultural barriers are not

placed on potential employees. To overcome barriers, extension must facilitate the recruitment

process with established connections to culturally diverse groups in the community. Building

relationships with potential employees and educating diverse audiences about the career potential

extension offers can assist in recruitment strategies and increase the applicant pool. Cultural

minorities must specifically be empowered to feel valued and included in the organization's

vision in order to improve recruitment efforts (Ewert & Rice, 1994).

Employee Retention

Organizational Effects of Turnover

The foundation of any educational system is its human capital. Retention of employees is

necessary for the CES to continue its organizational services and programs. When addressing

retention issues, it is imperative to assess employee turnover. Turnover refers to the voluntary

termination of participation in employment for an organization, excluding retirement or

pressured voluntary withdrawal, but an individual who received monetary compensation from

the organization (Rossano, 1985). Turnover rates negatively affect the extension organization in

many different ways. According to the Florida CES Professional Development Task Force

(1998), the rate of turnover in extension positions was relatively high, with an average of 25-30

new county faculty hired annually. According to UF/IFAS Extension County Operations Office,









this rate continues today (Extension County Operations Office, personal communication,

December 5, 2006). This information must be continually updated in order to monitor

improvements and changes in organizational retention.

Employee departures cause financial and time strains on the organization (Kutelik, 2000).

These pressures include the disruption of clientele services, interruption of extension

programming, additional time and money to recruit and train new agents, and extra workload on

the remaining staff (Clark, 1992). Departing employees create stress on other staff as they serve

in interim positions and can cost up to 150 percent of the departing employee' s salary in

replacement costs (Clark, 1992; Ensle, 2005). An Ohio State University Extension study

reported that net costs for annual staff departures cost $80,000 in replacement and salary

expenses (Rousan, 1995). Reduction in organizational effectiveness, increased administrative

efforts to replace agents, reduced availability in overall funds, and scarcity of resources to hire

and train new extension agents are common issues faced when dealing with staff turnover

(Rousan & Henderson, 1996). All of these reasons signify to the need to review why employees

leave the extension system. However, understanding these factors will offer valuable insight for

improved retention of agents as well.

Reasons for Leaving Extension

Discovering the reasons agents leave extension must first be identified before targeted

assistance can be provided to retain them. The Ohio State University Extension System

conducted a study to identify the reasons why county extension faculty voluntarily left the

organization between 1990 and 1994. Rousan and Henderson (1996) found that the majority of

staff left the organization for the following reasons:

*Organizational factors, including low pay, excessive work responsibilities, demanding
requirements for advancement, and a lack of career recognition.









* Individual non-work-related factors, including other job offers, family obligations, higher
salaries elsewhere, personal life conflicts, and lack of time for personal relationships.

* Individual work-related factors, including other life priorities, excessive late night
meetings, and conflict with values.

Findings also indicated that those agents who left were more likely to be: (1) Caucasian females

in their early thirties holding a master's degree who are married with no children, and (2) in a

non-tenure track position as a 4-H1 agent in a single county.

Kutelik (2000) also investigated the factors that affected why employees left the

extension organization. Agents identified job stress, low pay, and lack of supervisory support as

the top reasons contributing to their departure. Balfour and Neff (1993) indicated that overtime

hours were one of the key variables contributing to departures, while Gavin (1990) cited low pay

and decreased benefits as leading contributors to personnel loss. Clark (1992) studied stress and

turnover among extension directors and found that higher levels of burnout were associated with

low feelings of personal accomplishment, and higher stress and strain levels mainly due to

responsibility overload. Ewert and Rice (1994) found that culturally diverse staff left extension

for reasons such as isolation, marginalization, perceived lack of power, hierarchical management

styles, inadequate financial compensation, and disagreements over program priorities. The need

for additional research in all areas related to employee loss will help extension retain a more

qualified, diverse, and satisfied staff.

Balancing Work and Family Life

Other studies have linked j ob satisfaction and retention to an agent' s ability to balance

work and family life (Ensle, 2005; Fetsch & Kennington, 1997; Riggs & Beus, 1993; Place &

Jacob, 2001). Maintaining a correct life balance is essential in reducing stress and the potential

for employee burnout. The Illinois Extension Service conducted a study to review why agents

left extension positions (Ensle, 2005). The three primary reasons were:









* Changes in the family situation (marriage, divorce, spouse changed job, etc.)

* Family moving (outside of travel distance to work area)

* Too much time away from family

This study also revealed that agents in general were not happy with the effectiveness and

organization of the extension system. As a result, reduced employee morale affected job

performance and produced higher stress levels. To reduce this stress, leader training were

conducted and new j ob descriptions were written that more closely tied to the work they actually

performed. Supervisors also ensured that work expectations were carefully reviewed with new

employees. However, Illinois never addressed the "too much time away from family" issue, or

clearly defined their "compensatory time" program. Both of these issues greatly affect agents'

ability to balance work and family (Ensle, 2005).

Fetsch and Kennington (1997) examined the balancing work and family struggle for

extension faculty and made the following organizational recommendations:

* Invest significant resources into conducting research into determining the most effective
Balancing Work and Family Programs

* Choose empirically-based educational programs that are linked to known problems and
solutions to balancing work and family issues

Personnel recommendations from this study were:

* Communicate openly with supervisors about Balancing Work and Family problems and
solutions to set goals and priorities for work activities and performance

* Incorporate time and stress management strategies into daily routines

Riggs and Beus (1993) explored j ob satisfaction in extension, and findings indicated that

reframing and passive appraisal were most often used to cope with stressful situations.

Additionally, agents with the highest satisfaction levels reported contentment with the six

components of job satisfaction: (1) the job itself, (2) salary, (3), fringe benefits, (4) authority to










run programs, (5) supervisors, and (6) opportunity for growth. Additional focus on these factors

and their solutions was important to assist employees in developing a healthy balance between

their personal and professional lives.

Place and Jacob (2001) conducted a study to identify factors that cause stress in extension

faculty to determine professional development needs. Research was focused on the exploration

of balancing work and personal life issues among Florida Extension professionals. Findings

indicated that:

* Some faculty have stress under control while other are experiencing high levels of stress

* County faculty perceived slightly higher stress than state faculty

* Greater use of formal planning, planning for meetings, and structured "to do" lists lower
stress levels

* Spending time with family served as a coping mechanism to minimize stress

* Stressful situations can be improved upon through proactive professional development

* Professional development focused on workday planning may help faculty cope with stress

Overall, the study found that greater organizational effectiveness can be achieved through

employees that are prepared and manage stress and work pressures through positive workplace

skills.

Job Satisfaction

There is less research available on why extension agents remain in the organization, but a

commonality among studies is job satisfaction. Factors that influence job satisfaction are

important to acknowledge and address when considering employee retention. Pennsylvania

Cooperative Extension made efforts to improve retention rates and implemented an in-service

training program to address personal and professional issues. The educational sessions received

high evaluations and employees stated that the information was practical and useful (Ensle,









2005). Kansas Cooperative Extension created a series of eight organizational workshops aimed

at increasing pride and addressing work and life responsibilities (Ensle, 2005). The most valued

characteristics related to j ob satisfaction were:

* The staff enjoyed the teamwork atmosphere of extension

* They liked the feeling of belonging to a group who cares for others

* They liked the opportunity to be self-directed

* They enjoyed the variety in their jobs

* They valued administrators and supervisors

Extension agents identified lack of resources and the overall effectiveness of the

organization as barriers to a healthy work environment (Ensle, 2005). Finally, Vermont

Extension conducted a wellness initiative aimed at increasing morale and performance among its

staff (Ensle, 2005). After implementation of the program, all employees received added fringe

benefits, lifestyle enhancement workshops, stress management programs, seminars on balancing

work and life, and relaxation training.

Job satisfaction has been proven to be directly related to continued employment within an

organization. Satisfied employees become lifetime employees. Job satisfaction in extension is

dependent upon many factors. Factors cited by agents related to career retention included that

the job offers a flexible work schedule, personal satisfaction is derived from educating clientele,

and agents enjoy the teaching and learning process (Ensle, 2005). Mallilo (1990) found that job

satisfaction depended upon a number of factors, but the most negative factor was salary. Over

81% of employees did not feel they were adequately compensated for their work responsibilities.

According to Ensle (2005), a Western region survey was conducted with county extension

agents' job satisfaction levels and the factors most highly rated were:

* Satisfaction with j obs, colleagues, and j ob responsibilities










* Adequate salary and fringe benefits

* Authority to manage extension programs for client needs

* Positive relations with supervisors

* Opportunities for growth in the job and organization

* The CES organization

* Supportive colleagues

Additional findings indicated that as the agents' number of job responsibilities increased,

the overall job satisfaction decreased; agents without children were more satisfied; and, agents

used coping strategies to handle stressful job situations (Ensle, 2005). The question can be asked

if these factors are more prevalent with certain agents or contexts more than others. Current

research addressing these concerns is needed to determine if these factors apply to all extension

agents.

Coping Strategies

The issues of job stress, time management, and balancing one's personal and professional

life are prevalent problems in extension today (Place & Jacob, 2001). Kirkpatrick, Lewis, Daft,

Dessler, and Garcia (1996) identified three primary sources of job stress: the employee's

personal life characteristics, the work conditions and environment, and situations occurring

within the job itself. Research indicates that extension agents can reduce work-related stress and

improve their lives by practicing stress and time management strategies (Gentry, 1978, Suinn,

1978, 1980). To achieve a better work and life balance, coping strategies and mediation can be

employed. According to Pearlin (1989), coping is an individual action learned from colleagues,

and mediators are social supports that help alleviate stress. Additional research in coping

strategies indicates that if people are empowered and feel they have control over life outcomes,

then stress levels can be significantly reduced (Pearlin, 1989).









Two organizational methods for reducing employee stress are: (1) modifying

organizational policies and practices that cause stress, and (2) implementing effective balancing

work and family programs (ECOP, 2002). Both methods can lead to reduced stress and

improved productivity among staff, but are not always employed due to various reasons. An

Ohio State University extension study focused on employee burnout identified several successful

coping strategies. These included goal setting, recognition of stress and burnout, asking for help,

having a support system at home and work, maintaining an active social life, good health habits,

taking time off, having professional involvement, and being positive (Ensle, 2005). Clark (1992)

also found that extension directors employed coping strategies, including social support from

friends and family, time away from the j ob, and immediate confrontation of problems, to handle

stress. Fetsch and Kennington (1997) concluded that stress and time management strategies, as

well as organizational policies and practices for improving coping skills and productivity, should

be employed to cope with the pressures in the extension workplace. Reduced stress levels can

lead to more committed and satisfied employees that remain in the organization for longer

periods of time.

Career Development Models

Various career development models have been validated to assist in understanding the

needs of professionals and are useful for planning programs that aim to improve recruitment and

retention rates. Many theorists have developed career models to address differing personal and

professional needs (Rennekamp & Nall, 1993; Conklin, et. al., 2002; Kohlberg, 1969; Flavell,

1971). The majority of models fall into two general categories: competency based and career

stages. Competency based models enhance the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors of

extension employees through career development and training (Cooper & Graham, 2001).

Career stages models are designed to address the needs, motivators, and organizational strategies









that relate to multiple phases of career growth (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). These models provide a

basis for the development and design of career development programs within extension.

There are several different strategies or methods to deliver career development. The

career stages model by Kutilek, et. al. (2002) provides essential background information for

extension administration. The changing attitudes, knowledge, aspirations, skills, and career

needs of employees must be considered when studying recruitment and retention issues. The

influence of these factors and their effects on career growth must be carefully analyzed to

determine appropriate learning experiences. These will ultimately influence the career decisions

of current and potential extension faculty and the future competence of the extension system.

Career Stages Model

Dalton, Thompson, and Price (1977) created the original model for professional career

stages which was later adapted by Roger Rennekamp and Martha Nall (1994). The model

created by Rennekamp and Nall (1994) addressed four stages within a person' s career including

the entry stage, colleague stage, counselor stage, and advisor stage. Within each stage,

motivators were outlined that can direct professional development efforts. This model is

valuable because it recognizes the considerable variations in professional growth seen at the

different phases within a person' s career (Rennekamp & Nall, 1994).

Using Rennekamp and Nall's career stage model as a framework, Kutilek, et. al. (2002)

adapted the model to create a "systems approach to maximize individual career potential and

organizational success." This model is also divided into separate stages that coincide with an

employee's career growth and development. This more recent career development model

consists of three, instead of four, stages in a person' s career- the entry stage, colleague stage, and

the counselor/advisor stage. In addition, it outlines motivators and organizational strategies that









are beneficial to career growth within each stage. Assumptions of the model include the

differing progression of individuals through the stages depending upon prior career experiences

and the career track of the organization (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

The career stages model outlines appropriate motivators for employees based upon the

stage and recommends organizational professional development strategies to address career

needs (Kutilek, Gunderson & Conklin, 2002). The motivators provide the drive for participating

in and the criteria for selecting among various professional development opportunities. The

organizational strategies focus on relevant professional development opportunities for employees

within each career stage (Rennekamp & Nall, 1993). Each stage has different motivators and as

a result, separate career development programs must be tailored for every level. This approach

addresses both individual and organizational career development needs specific to employees

within each stage. Utilizing the most effective career development methods can provide relevant

career strategies that can facilitate employee growth. The following table (Table 2.3) outlines

the stages, motivators and organizational strategies of this model.









Table 2-3. Career development model for the stages of extension agents


Career Stage

Entry Stage










Colleague Stage













Counselor and
Advisor Stages


Motivators
Understanding the organization,
structure, and culture
Obtaining essential skills to
perform job
Establishing linkages with internal
partners
Exercising creativity and initiative
Moving from dependence to
independence

Developing an area of expertise
Professional development funding
Becoming an independent
contributor in problem resolution
Gaining membership and identity
in professional community
Expanding creativity and
innovation
Moving from independence to
interdependence


Acquiring a broad-based expertise
Attaining leadership positions
Engaging in organizational
problem solving
Counseling/coaching other
professionals
Facilitating self renewal
Achieving a position of influence
and stimulating thought in others


Organizational Strategies
Peer mentoring program
Professional support teams
Leadership coaching
Orientation/job training







In-service education
Specialization funds
Professional association involvement
Formal educational training
Service on committees or special
assignments







Life and career renewal retreats
Mentoring and trainer agent roles
Assessment center for leadership
Organizational sounding boards


*Note: (Kutilek, Gunderson & Conklin, 2002)

The career stages model was developed to address the changing nature and attitudes

common in today's workforce. Many employees have shifted their career directions from

striving for leadership positions to searching for job enrichment and satisfaction (Kutilek, et. al.,

2002). To maximize the career potential for each employee and overall organizational success, a










systems approach for career growth and development was needed. Using this approach, all parts

of the system, including input, output, and feedback, must work together to achieve a desired

goal (Kowalski, 1988). As a result, employees can enter and exit the model at the point most

appropriate within their careers (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

The Entry Stage

The initial phases of employment into the job define the entry level stage. Motivators at

this stage include: understanding the organization, structure, and culture; obtaining essential

skills to perform job; establishing linkages with internal partners; exercising creativity and

initiative; and moving from dependence to independence. New extension agents tend to feel

overwhelmed and specifically need to be educated to successfully transition into the organization

and work responsibilities. The first years within extension can shape the agents' attitudes,

behaviors, and practices important for the future, so skills must be developed quickly for career

success (Bailey, 2005). To address professional development needs, a peer mentoring program,

identification of professional support teams, leadership coaching, and orientation/j ob training

programs are implemented (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

The peer mentoring program involves a formal assignment of a carefully selected peer to

each new agent. The selection of the mentor must be a person that could be defined as a

trustworthy advisor, friend, or teacher and is not a person who will later evaluate this new faculty

member. This relationship is designed to provide personal and professional support that is

ultimately beneficial to both persons involved. Professional support teams are assigned to each

new agent and consist of a district director, one or more specialists, and the county chair. The

team is responsible for employee motivation, recognition of success, identifying areas for change

and improvement, goal setting, training needs, and performance evaluation. Leadership









coaching is a retreat for faculty with one to three years of experience. The retreat focuses on the

development of important leadership behaviors and skills that agents utilize in their work

responsibilities. Following the retreat, each new agent is paired with peer coaches who provide

support and follow-up on professional development plans and career growth. Orientation/job

training is provided to new faculty during the first two years to assist them in developing

knowledge and skills in core competency areas. Training programs provide information in

several areas including organizational information, work roles and responsibilities, educational

programming, teaching and learning, and technical subject matter (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

The Colleague Stage

The colleague stage focuses on an agent's career growth and development in the areas of

professional knowledge, independence, and autonomy. Motivators for this stage include:

developing an area of expertise; professional development funding; becoming an independent

contributor in problem resolution; gaining membership and identity in professional community;

expanding creativity and innovation; and moving from independence to interdependence

(Rennekamp & Nall, 1993; Kutelik, et. al., 2002). The length an agent remains in this stage

varies tremendously and is highly dependent upon assigned roles and responsibilities. Self-

directed learning and maturity are common career growth attributes associated with this stage,

but there must also be structured learning opportunities available. Organizational strategies

include in-service education, professional development funding, and formal education

opportunities (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

In-service education is provided to meet the changing needs of agents in a variety of

specialized areas. The training is designed to keep faculty current in their technical expertise and

is important to meet the needs of the public that call on them for assistance. These highly










specialized programs are coordinated by professionals within the technical areas and must be

relevant to current needs. Agents within this stage are more apt to search for resources that assist

in career development needs. Professional development funds allow agents to pursue self-

directed learning in various program areas. Importance is placed on building expertise and

knowledge accompanied by improved self-efficacy and social learning for those that receive the

funding. Formal education is an additional option to further professional development. This may

include access to undergraduate or graduate programs and is supported by reduced costs and

flexible scheduling from the organization (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

The Counselor and Advisor Stage

The final stage is reached when agents are ready to become counselors, contribute to

organizational decision making, participate in job enrichment, and take on leadership positions.

Continuing education is important at this stage, but may be in more diverse areas of expertise

than previously sought. Motivators associated with this stage are: acquiring a broad-based

expertise; attaining leadership positions; engaging in organizational problem solving;

counseling/coaching other professionals; facilitating self renewal; achieving a position of

influence; and stimulating thought in others. The organization addresses employees'

developmental needs in this stage through life and career renewal retreats, mentoring and trainer

agent roles, assessment center for leadership, and organizational sounding boards (Kutilek, et.

al., 2002).

Life and career renewal retreats encourage employees to engage in self-exploration,

discovery, and personal reflection on work and life issues. The retreats center on providing tools

for employees to develop action plans for personal and professional renewal. Group discussions,









individual thought, planning, and communication with others provide opportunities for

employees to reflect and analyze career progress and satisfaction (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

As a mentor and trainer, the agent takes a supervisory role in assisting mentoring pairs

within the district. The mentor agent maintains in regular contact with the pair and is called

upon when problem situations arise. The relationship between the mentor agent and proteges is

critical to guide and direct new faculty as they learn about the extension organization. Others in

this stage may volunteer to participate in on-the-j ob training and internship programs to apply

their experiences (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

The assessment center for leadership was developed to analyze the managerial abilities and

future training needs of extension county chairs. Chairs demonstrate professional skills in

various job-related dimensions and are evaluated by trained assessors. From this assessment,

they learn about their capabilities, integrate results into current work responsibilities, and create a

professional development plan for the future (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

Organizational sounding boards offer opportunities for employees to become more

engaged in the organization, make decisions, and provide input for future directions. These

boards are comprised of senior leaders within the organization to discuss processes and

procedures that affect employees and determine communication strategies. This offers an

opportunity for employees to apply their knowledge and experience to the overall extension

organization and assists in job renewal and satisfaction (Kutelik, et. al., 2002).

There are many delivery methods and programs focused on career development of

extension faculty. Each of these career stages has been developed to help faculty receive career

information and training needed in the most appropriate manner. Throughout all stages in this

model, professional development is integral to career growth and j ob satisfaction. The










organizational strategies employed are useful and beneficial to employees by increasing their

knowledge, skills, attitudes, and aspirations within personal and professional areas of life. This

training is essential for growth within agents' field of expertise and to gain personal satisfaction.

The organization will benefit by having educated and skilled employees to achieve the goals and

objectives of the extension system (Kutilek, et. al., 2002).

Motivation

The concept of motivation influences all aspects of human life. Motivation helps to

explain human actions and behaviors to cope within a changing environment (Heckhauser,

1991). A general definition of the term motivation is an internal state or condition that activates

goal-oriented behavior and gives it direction (Kleinginna & Kleinginna, 1981). The concept of

motivation is important as it drives individuals to accomplish personal and professional goals

and guides the decision making process.

Motivation is a common theme that attempts to predict why humans behave in certain

ways and can be considered developmental in each person (Nicholls, 1984; Deci & Ryan, 2002).

Both cognitive and physical factors can contribute to the different forces of motivation that

influence thoughts, behaviors, and actions; therefore, it is important to examine its influence on

one' s career responsibilities (Treasure, 2003). Research indicates that the sources of motivation

can be external, including behavioral conditioning and social cognition, or internal, such as

cognitive, affective, and biological, conative, or spiritual (Huitt, 2001).

The theories of motivation have taken many directions, but each offers a different

perspective attempting to explain why behaviors occur. Motivational literature provides insight

into areas that relate to current theories. Approaches that have led to the current understanding

of motivation include Maslow's need-hierarchy theory, Herzberg's two- factor theory, Vroom's

expectancy theory, Adams' equity theory, and Skinner's reinforcement theory. However, the









theories most closely related to career decisions are Maslow' s Hierarchy of Needs and

Herzberg's Two Factor Theory. The following outlines these two theories and their

contributions to the evolution of the concept of motivation.

Maslow' s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow (1954) proposed a hierarchy of needs as a means of determining what motivates

people to do certain things and to behave in certain ways. This humanistic theory is based on

two groups of needs: deficiency needs and growth needs (Huitt, 2001). The Hyve categories of

needs that people are motivated to satisfy in sequential order are: physiological, safety,

love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Physiological needs include air, food, water, and

shelter; safety needs include security and freedom from fear; love/belonging includes friendship,

family, and sexual intimacy; esteem includes self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and respect

for and by others; self-actualization includes morality, creativity, problem solving, and lack of

prejudice (Buford, Bedeian, & Lindner, 1995).

Key points of Maslow' s hierarchy are: lower deficiency needs must be met first before

moving to the next higher level of growth needs; the satisfaction of one need triggers

dissatisfaction at the next higher level; and a person can go down as well as up the hierarchy

(Huitt, 2001). Although there have been many variations and alterations by many theorists, this

hierarchy of needs remains widely accepted in supporting how humans act, behave, and are

motivated. An understanding of these needs and their influence on how humans make career

decisions is a critical component that affects professional growth.

Herzberg's Two Factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg developed a theory that links the concepts of employee motivation and

job satisfaction (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959). Specific factors that produce job

satisfaction and j ob dissatisfaction define the theoretical framework. However, it was found that









these job factors were not simply opposites, but instead entirely separate components. Within

the theory, motivation is categorized into two factors: motivators and hygienes. Factors that

produce j ob satisfaction are labeled motivators and factors that prevent job dissatisfaction are

labeled hygienes as shown in Table 2.1 (Buford, et. al., 1995).

Table 2.1:. Herzberg's Motivators and Hygienes
Motivators Hygienes
Achievement Policies and Administration
Recognition Supervision
Work itself Relations with supervisor
Responsibility Relations with peers
Advancement and personal growth Working conditions
Pay
*Note: (Buford, et. al., 1995)

Thus, motivators produce j ob satisfaction, whereas hygienes prevent j ob dissatisfaction.

Buford, et. al. (1995) summarizes the theory as: (a) the degree to which motivators are present in

a job, motivation will occur; when absent, motivators do not lead to dissatisfaction, and (b) the

degree to which hygienes are absent from a job, dissatisfaction will occur; when present, they

prevent dissatisfaction but do not lead to satisfaction. Herzberg's theory has often been

compared to Maslow' s hierarchy of needs where the hygienes are equivalent to Maslow' s three

lowest needs and the motivators are equivalent to Maslow' s two highest needs (Buford, et. al.,

1995).

Professional Development

Definitions

Employees are the most valuable assets of the CES. They serve as an essential link

between the public and university outreach education. Competency models outline necessary

knowledge, skills, and attitudes that effective extension agents should possess (Coppernoll &

Stone, 2005). The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Competency Model offers seven core










competencies: knowledge of the organization, technical expertise, programming,

professionalism, communications, human relations, and leadership. To maintain expertise in

these competency areas, adjust to societal changes, meet the demands and expectations of the

workplace, and improve the organization's public value, professional development must be

offered to fill the educational gaps in work performance (Martin, 1991).

Multiple definitions for professional development exist, but all focus on the importance of

continuous learning for career growth and development. It is essential that new and continuing

extension faculty become actively involved in professional development as CES policy

guidelines state:

The extension organization must foster within staff members, at all levels of the
organization, the desire to continue their intellectual growth as a personal as well as an
organizational responsibility and commitment. Extension staff members must recognize
that lifelong learning is a prerequisite to effective performance and continuing j ob
satisfaction. While the organization has the responsibility of setting the climate for
professional improvement, the ultimate responsibility rests with the individual (USDA-
CSREES, 1987).

According to the CES Professional Development Task Force (1998), the term professional

development refers to a variety of individual and organizational efforts that build agents'

professional capacities and skills, enhances their ability to respond to local needs, and assists in

achieving long-term career goals. The integration of individual and organizational learning

should support staff and become a part of the daily routine within the workplace (A

Comprehensive Approach for Professional Development for UF/IFAS, 2001.). Extension faculty

must actively seek professional development in order to balance work and life responsibilities.

This self-initiated action will assist in job satisfaction and long-term career success. Professional

development is important for all stages of extension employees to support career growth and

success.









Guskey (2000) defines professional development as a process characterized by intentional

efforts to create positive changes, ongoing learning opportunities, and a timely, systematic

procedure. According to Guskey, effective extension professional development consists of four

fundamental principles:

* There is an obvious focus on learning and the learners with clear goals based upon
attainment of learner outcomes for measuring success.

* There is an emphasis on individual and organizational change, and this includes
commitment across all levels of the organization that fosters learning, experimentation,
cooperation and professional respect.

* There is a grand vision that guides all changes. With this grand vision, more positive and
focused changes occur because of clear ownership across all organizational levels.

* Professional development must be an ongoing activity that is a recognizable component of
every educator's professional life. When professional development is built into the
extension system, it becomes a natural expectation thereby opening the door for further
learning, continued sharing, and habitual enhancement of academic and technical skills.

Overall, these professional development principles focus on the need for continuing

education integrated into work responsibilities and the importance of change. One of the greatest

challenges for all organizations and individuals today is the need to cope with change. The

extension organization must undergo some type of change in order to maintain relevant in its

educational services. To successfully navigate through this process, employees must work

together to consider the need for change, the degree of change needed, and the best approach to

adopt change (Burke, 2002). Professional development can offer a practical, experimental

approach for continuous learning and the application of change practices. Learning to lead and

manage change are important skills for all extension faculty. Change is inevitable as the nature

of today's society evolves and transforms on a daily basis. Professional development programs

must address these principles for long-term career success of employees.










Employee Needs

Determining professional development needs can be especially difficult in any

organization, particularly extension where the diversity of work responsibilities includes

conducting educational programs, developing materials, providing public support, and serving as

technical subject matter resource (Conklin, Hook, Kelbaugh, & Nieto, 2002). Extension agents

can feel overwhelmed with all the demands placed upon them by the organization, clientele,

administrators, peers, and supervisors. Therefore, it is critically important that employees

develop career management skills quickly so they can perform their work efficiently and

effectively (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Professional development assists new and continuing agents

throughout their careers to balance work and life. With the ever-increasing demand for

competent agents, growing expectations for accountability, diversification of clientele, and

changing technologies, extension must regard professional development needs as an integral

component to continually develop its employees (ECOP, 2002).

Barriers to staff participation in professional development opportunities must also be

understood. In a study of in-service attendance and employee satisfaction levels in Pennsylvania

Cooperative Extension program, Mincemoyer and Kelsey (1999) concluded the following

reasons why county-based faculty did not attend in-service training: previous commitments,

extended time away from the office, and scheduling conflicts with local programming. Conklin

et al., (2002) found similar barriers, noting that time and scheduling conflicts both contributed to

declining participation in professional development training.

Summary

This chapter focused on the areas of literature important to this study: employee

recruitment and retention, professional development, roles of county extension agents, models of

career development, and human motivation. Employee recruitment and retention are critical










areas to address as the extension organization competes with other employers for qualified staff.

To meet future organizational challenges, highly qualified, diverse staff are needed to fill

positions. Once employed, career development models, motivators, and organizational strategies

must be implemented to retain agents. Professional development was also examined as it offered

insight into career growth for extension employees. From the broad topic of human motivation,

various models, theorists, and concepts were highlighted to signify their influence on employees'

career decisions.









CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH DESIGN AND IVETHODS

Introduction

The chapter explains the research design and methodology used to accomplish the stated

objectives of the study. An overview of qualitative research and its foundations are described

and its influence on the research design is justified. The researcher presents a subjectivity

statement and offers evidence that provides a context for the study. Data collection and analysis

procedures based on grounded theory techniques are outlined. Finally, the target population,

instrumentation, research obj ectives, and measures of validity and reliability are described.

Research Design

This study was designed to explore and describe the how agricultural extension agents

make career decisions. The complexity of these issues necessitated an open dialogue discussion

to collect affective data and did not lend itself to quantitative methods (Merriam, 1998).

Therefore, qualitative methodologies were chosen to achieve insight into agents' thoughts and

perceptions about their employment status. The researcher acknowledges that there is prior

research concerning why employees leave extension, but there is a lack of qualitative research on

why employees chose to enter into extension and the reasons why they stay employed. It is also

unknown whether the reasons why employees leave the organization are comparable to why they

stay. This qualitative study offers exploratory and supportive information that can be used for

future qualitative and quantitative research concerning career decisions of agricultural extension

agents.

Through the use of in-depth interviews, the researcher engaged in the construction of a

narrative to detail the participants' perspectives related to influences on career decisions (Hatch,

2002). A semi-structured interview guide was used to investigate factors that influenced










participants' decisions to enter into extension, career experiences related to retention, and

influences at different career stages. Interview questions specifically focused on the factors that

have positively and negatively affected participants' careers. As stated by Holstein and Gubrium

(2003), this type of research approach relies exclusively upon words, behaviors, and actions, and

open discourse was critical to gain a true understanding of participants and their realities.

Therefore, all interviews were conducted face-to-face at the participants' work office in order to

gain subjective, realistic perspectives.

Grounded theory by Strauss and Corbin (1998) was the primary data analysis procedure

selected due to its focus of how meaning making advances the understanding of personal

perspectives and insight. In particular, grounded theory uses an inductive procedural process to

generate theory about a phenomenon that is developed from the gathered data (Strauss & Corbin,

1990). Grounded theory allows for a theoretical understanding of the studied experience and

permits the researcher to explore, direct, manage, and streamline data collection and analysis

(Charmaz, 2006). This analysis procedure was used to develop a grounded theory relative to the

most significant issues that affect career decisions' of Florida agricultural extension agents.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research stems from constructivist, interpretivist, and subj activist paradigms

that involve detailed, integrated approaches to study people and things in their natural

environments (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003). The researcher attempts to understand and interpret

phenomenon or reality from the participant' s perspective. Qualitative designs are valuable to

gain insight into one's feelings, thought processes, and emotions concerning a phenomenon that

are difficult to obtain using other methods (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). This approach offers

different methodologies for data collection and analysis according to the research purpose and

questions. Methodologies are selected according to their ability to examine and interpret










phenomenon in detail using an emergent design, inductive approach, social interaction, and small

samples (Hatch, 2002). Examples of qualitative methodologies include ethnography, naturalistic

inquiry and observation, phenomenological research, grounded theory, document analysis,

historical research, and action research. Data collection methods commonly used are

observations, interviews, focus groups, archival data, case studies, and life histories.

While the use of qualitative research has been limited in the field of extension education, it

has been used in a number of related social science fields to investigate issues to better

understand complex social phenomena (Yin, 1989). Strengths of qualitative methodologies are

in their ability to provide a holistic and in-depth understanding of human social reality and

phenomenon. Multiple methods can be used simultaneously, such as interviews, observations,

and archives, to construct the fullest understanding of a phenomena and generate theory

(DeMarrias, 1998). In particular, grounded theory methodologies use an inductive process to

generate theory about a phenomenon that is developed from collected data (Strauss & Corbin,

1990). Ethnography, case studies, and naturalistic observation allow study in the participants'

natural settings to gain an in-depth understanding of cultures and social reality (DeWalt &

DeWalt, 2002). All qualitative methodologies take a subjective approach that aims to eliminate

researcher bias as focus is placed on understanding and interpreting meaning from the

participant's point of view (Crotty, 1998). The key research instrument is an adaptable

researcher that is able to capture data in different environments and serve as a critical part of the

process when studying human experiences and situations (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Through

social interaction, the skilled researcher must be able to develop a trusting relationship with

participants in order to gain insight into their realities and a true understanding of personal

perspectives (Holstein & Gubrium, 2003).









However, limitations of qualitative research can include ambiguity, researcher influence

and bias, small sample size, time considerations, inappropriate field skills and abilities, and lack

of generalization. Ambiguity relating to the multiple or inaccurate interpretations of data, data

analysis procedures, and differing research designs can cause reliability and validity concerns

(DeMarrias, 1998). Bias in the collection and analysis of qualitative data is a concern due to its

interpretive nature (Ary, et. al., 2006). As a result, the researcher' s personal interpretation may

not truly represent the data from the participant' s perspective. To confirm findings, the process

of member checking and other credibility strategies are commonly employed.

Findings of the phenomenon may not accurately reflect the actual situation due to

researcher influence. Field research and observation methods are commonly critiqued as a result

of the unknown effects of the researcher' s presence on the setting studied (DeWalt & DeWalt,

2002). Also, the researcher may not have the necessary field skills to perform observations

accurately, or the ability to conduct interviews appropriately.

Due to the intense time requirements associated with qualitative research, sample sizes are

generally small, not random, and rarely representative of entire populations (Hatch, 2002).

Instead, purposive samples are chosen based on the researcher's personal knowledge of

participants that are believed to be informative (Guba & Lincoln, 1981). Results from qualitative

studies are also not generalizable to a larger population; however, findings can be used as

exploratory research to be built upon, provide a basis for additional areas of research, and

discover supportive information for existing research studies. Generation of theories is

important to the development of a field of knowledge in areas which little is known about or

extend knowledge to gain novel understandings (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). In all qualitative

studies, rapport and trust between the researcher and participant must be built; without this,









findings may be inaccurate or unreliable. Therefore, a sufficient amount of time must be spent

between the researcher and the participant to build an open, comfortable relationship for accurate

data collection.

Measures of Validity and Reliability

All researchers must take measures to address validity and reliability concerns. Ways to

control error in quantitative research include internal and external validity, construct validity,

objectivity, and reliability measures. Yet, as Lincoln and Guba (1985) cite, "criteria defined

from one perspective may not be appropriate for judging actions taken from another perspective"

(p.293). Instead, Guba (1981) proposes four criteria to control error that are more appropriate for

qualitative research: "credibility in place of internal validity, transferability in place of external

validity, dependability in place of reliability, and confirmability in place of obj activity" (p.219).

Credibility refers to the truthfulness of the findings and can be addressed by assuring that

the participants are accurately represented. Strategies associated with credibility include

triangulation (the use of multiple investigators, multiple sources of data, or multiple methods for

confirmation), member checking, peer/colleague examination, researcher subjectivity statements,

and submersion in the research, or collecting data over a long enough period of time for

sufficient understanding (Merriam, 1995). Dependability, or trustworthiness, refers to the

consistency that the findings can be found again. Associated strategies include using an audit

trail, peer examination, replication logic, code-recoding, inter-rater comparisons, and data or

methods triangulation (Merriam, 1995; Ary, et. al., 2006).

Transferability refers to the extent the findings can be applied to other situations. While

quantitative research focuses on the generalizability of findings, the goal of qualitative research

is "to understand the particular in-depth, rather than finding out what is generally true of many"

(Merriam, 1995, p.57). Rich, thick descriptions of the context and situations are detailed which









allows readers to easily transfer the findings to comparable situations (Merriam, 1995).

Additional strategies include multi-stage designs that use several sites, cases, and situations;

modal comparison which involves how typical the sample is compared to the maj ority; random

sampling of component parts related to the study; cross-case comparisons, and reflective

statements of the researcher's biases (Merriam, 1995; Ary, et. al., 2006).

Confirmability refers to the idea of neutrality and the importance of bias-free research.

This concept specifically applies to the researcher's approach to procedures and interpretation of

findings. Researchers must ensure that the data collected and the conclusions drawn would be

confirmed by others in the same situation. Strategies include audit trails, triangulation of

methods, and peer review (Ary, et. al., 2006).

Researcher Subjectivity

A qualitative researcher is never separate from the study (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

Therefore, a researcher must explain personal perspectives that may influence the study and offer

a context for readers. There are multiple influences that a researcher may impose on a study due

to personal background, experiences, and education. It is essential that the researcher states

predetermined subjectivities and allows the reader to understand these views. By offering

personal knowledge and beliefs, the researcher is better able to monitor perspectives that could

influence the interview process and misrepresent the data analysis and research findings (Glesne,

1999). The subjectivity of the researcher is therefore presented to state predetermined

assumptions and alleviate any misconceptions.

Growing up in Texas, involvement with agriculture has filled my life with countless

activities, including working on farms, horseback riding, and showing livestock, as well as

opportunities to develop unique human and animal relationships. A career in agriculture has

always been my professional goal. I attended Texas A&M University in College Station and









received a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. In 2001, I completed my Master of

Science degree at Texas A&M University Commerce in Agricultural Sciences and received

secondary agricultural teacher certification. My thesis research focused on the demand of

soybean forages for Northeast Texas dairy farmers.

I am currently completing my doctoral degree in the Department of Agricultural Education

and Communication at the University of Florida with emphasis on extension Education. While

at the University of Florida, my research interests have included exploratory studies in

experiential learning in formal and nonformal educational programs, collaboration between

agricultural and extension educators, leadership development for rural agricultural organizations,

curriculum design in agricultural education, leadership of agricultural extension agencies, and

professional development activities. This academic coursework and research has helped to

develop my interests in teaching and extension education, particularly in the area of agriculture.

My professional experience consists of a combination of agricultural industry and teaching

positions. Upon graduation from Texas A&M University, I worked for the USDA Agricultural

Marketing Service as a dairy market news reporter and as a sales consultant for a livestock

genetics company. Then, I taught high school agricultural education while I completed my

Master' s degree. My interest in higher education strengthened when I was offered the

opportunity to teach Farm and Ranch Management as an adjunct instructor at Texas A&M

University- Commerce. Currently at University of Florida, I have been involved in teaching

numerous courses in Agricultural and Extension Education.

My technical agricultural experiences include dairy, beef, and equine management. I

worked on a dairy for four years as a farm assistant and then as a breeding consultant for a cattle

genetics company. As a high school agricultural education advisor, I supervised all animal










proj ects, attended maj or stock shows with animal exhibits, and managed the school barn and

facilities. Currently, my husband and I own and operate a small farm facility where we offer

horse boarding services, riding instruction, and recreational riding.

As the current operator of a small farm, I understand the importance of reliable

agricultural information. However, as I engage with other producers, their lack of agricultural

knowledge is unsettling to me as an educator and a consumer. Agriculture and the environment

are ever-changing, and it is critical to have contact with a reliable expert to help solve farm

problems. Access to research is important for management and production decisions, and many

owners are unaware of where to find this information. Herein lies the vital function of extension

agents and the need for lifelong public education. Specifically, agricultural extension agents'

responsibilities include the transmission of research-based information to farm owners in order to

manage and care for their livestock properly (Seevers, et. al., 1997). The role and importance of

these nonformal educators cannot be overlooked in the growth and development of society.

They serve as a key link from the university to agricultural owners, like myself, to solve

problems.

These interests and experiences led me to pursue a professional and academic career in

agricultural and extension education. As a graduate student, I have had the opportunity to

collaborate with county agents in their program and professional development efforts. For the

past two years, I have assisted with the Florida Cooperative Extension New Faculty Orientation

program to transition agents into their positions. This year long program allows agents to

understand the extension system, teaching and learning processes, program development and

evaluation, and develop necessary career skills. This particular experience has directly

influenced my interest in the career decisions of extension agents. Not only is it imperative to









attract new agents into extension, it is just as important to train them to perform their j ob s

effectively .

Working with new and veteran agents, I have often seen the need for career assistance and

continuing education in both professional and personal areas of life. Dissatisfied agents are

leaving their positions and finding alternative occupations, while satisfied agents become

lifelong employees. The factors and influences that affect the career decisions of agents must be

recognized if the organization wants to improve recruitment and retention rates. Attention must

be given to agents during all stages of their careers that encourages job satisfaction and leads to

long-term employment. This continuity of personnel is a positive reflection of extension and a

constructive influence on the community. A reliable educational resource builds overall

community education and growth.

I believe that a focus on career growth and development of extension agents must be a

priority for the future of the organization. Emphasis must be placed on understanding the factors

and influences affecting the career decisions of agents. As the link between university research

and nonformal public education, they are critical to societal improvement. Reasons why agents

enter into extension can help improve recruitment strategies and techniques. Reasons why

agents remain employed can help to improve organizational development and personnel

satisfaction. Positive and negative influences on agents in all career stages must also be explored

in order for the organization to provide necessary personal and professional support. In

summary, these experiences, personal interests, and current issues in the field of extension have

led me to pursue this particular research topic.









Ontology and Epistemology


Idealism

The nature of knowledge and truth associated with qualitative research must be considered

during the initial phases of a study. Understanding the ontological and epistemological stances

of qualitative research assists in determining the appropriate design (Crotty, 2004). Ontology

refers to the study of being and is concerned with 'what is' the nature of existence, while

epistemology is concerned with "the nature of knowledge, its possibility, scope, and general

basis" (Crotty, 2004, p. 10; Hamlyn, 1995, p. 242). Both the nature of reality (ontology) and the

nature of knowledge (epistemology) heavily influence the theoretical perspective,

methodologies, and data collection methods used in a particular study.

The ontology associated with qualitative research believes in idealism and the assumption

of multiple realities. Based upon this belief, reality is not considered as a single truth, but instead

is relative to and contingent upon the researcher and participants (Hatch, 2002). This particular

stance influences the framework of a study and the researcher' s engagement with participants.

Using the beliefs of idealism as a basis, the researcher attempts to gain a variety of participants'

perspectives about the 'what is' the nature of reality (Crotty, 2004). This subjective approach

assumes that it is necessary to gain multiple perspectives and that each has its own validity in

relation to the phenomenon. Additionally, the idea that multiple realities exist is an important

assumption that offers support for data collection through personal interviews. This

methodology permits the researcher to gain an understanding of the salient issues affecting

participants' behaviors and actions. The researcher then analyzes and compares participants'

stories to construct a representation of a collective reality.









Constructionism

The ontological stance of idealism directly relates to the epistemology of constructionism

guiding the research process. According to Crotty (2004, p. 8-9), constructionism believes,

"There is no obj ective truth waiting for us to discover it. Truth, or meaning, comes into
existence in and out of our engagement with the realities in our world. There is no
meaning without a mind. Meaning is not discovered, but constructed. In this
understanding of knowledge, it is clear that different people may constructt meaning in
different ways, even in relation to the same phenomenon."

Constructionism recognizes the construction of reality is subj ective to each individual and that

"knowledge and truth are created...by the mind" (Schwandt, 1994, p. 125). It is built on the

foundation that knowledge and understanding of a phenomenon exists as the result of active

engagement with realities in the world. Humans become aware of truth only through exploration

and communication with others.

The meaning of a phenomenon is co-constructted between the researcher and participants

through interactive discourse (Crotty, 2004). This meaning may differ between participants

because it is influenced by many internal and external factors, yet this is an underlying

assumption of constructionism. Although different perceptions emerge, the resultant meaning

represents the nature and scope of knowledge unique and true to each participant (Crotty, 2004).

These variations of individual realities are essential to gain a true understanding of that

phenomenon and critical to build a grounded theory. With constructionism, social interaction

and engagement are necessary to examine meaning in different ways in relation to the same

phenomenon. Therefore, a study must be designed appropriately and the researcher must be

skilled in order to elicit this meaning from the participant.

Theoretical Perspective

Constructivism









A theoretical perspective is "a way of looking at the world and making sense of it. It

involves knowledge and embodies a certain understanding of what is entailed in knowing, that is,

how we know what we know" (Crotty, 2003, p.8). The theoretical perspective of constructivism

supports the exploration of self-perceived meaning through the subj ective nature of knowledge

(Hatch, 2002). To understand one's perspective, meaning must be self-constructed through

interactions in a social context (Crotty, 2004).

Constructivism views understanding as the generation of meaning and is dependent upon

critical reflection of experiences. Learning is the process of internal construction of reality and

knowledge unique to each individual. Learners attempt to make sense of and interpret

experiences for complete understanding (Crotty, 2004; Merriam & Cafferella, 1999). Key

contributors to constructivism beliefs include Dewey, Piaget, Candy, Rogoff, Mezirow, and

Vygotsky. Theorists' perspectives on the importance of experience, the construction of

knowledge, cognitive development, social interaction, transformational learning, and individual

meaning making are combined to represent this theoretical orientation (Merriam & Cafferella,

1999).

The use of constructivism focuses on the unique experiences of each individual and

acknowledges the validity of each person's method of making sense of the world (Crotty, 2003).

Through the use of in-depth interviews, the researcher and the participants engage in the

construction of a narrative to detail the participants' perspectives of the phenomenon. Each

participant shares distinct personal beliefs and individual experiences as this approach allows

them to reveal their thoughts and provides evidence of the decision making process in a

structured format. Therefore, the use of constructivism is a suitable theoretical approach to cause









reflective thought of participants' experiences, factors, and issues to assist in the self-generation

of meaning (Crotty, 2004).

Grounded Theory

Grounded theory allows for a theoretical understanding of the studied experience and

permits the researcher to explore, direct, manage, and streamline data collection and analysis

(Charmaz, 2006). The use of grounded theory offers the following benefits to a research study,

Theory derived from data is more likely to resemble "reality" than is theory derived by
putting together a series of concepts based on experience or solely through speculation.
Grounded theories, because they are drawn from the data, are likely to offer insight,
enhance understanding, and provide a meaningful guide to action (Strauss & Corbin, 1998,
p. 12).

The systematic methods of grounded theory offer principles that assist in the formulation of

theory and generation of critical concepts. It is important when using this analysis method that a

researcher does not begin with a preconceived theory in mind, but rather chooses an area of

study and allows the theory to emerge from the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

Grounded theory strategies advocate development of theories from research grounded in

the data rather than using hypotheses or existing theories. According to Charmaz (2006), this

method encourages the researcher to learn about participants in the research setting and discover

their lives. Then, researchers study the participants' statements and actions and try to make

meaning from their perspectives. By starting with the data, the researcher can construct meaning

through observations, interactions, and materials gathered and follow up on key concepts.

Grounded theory is based on the technique of coding. Coding attaches labels to units of

data that synthesize its meaning and allows for comparisons among other data segments (Strauss

& Corbin, 1990). In this way, grounded theorists emphasize interpretation of the data for

understanding. Open, axial, and selective coding procedures offer a systematic approach to

streamline the data. The constant comparison technique allows comparisons of similarities and









differences throughout data to gain an analytic understanding of the data and develop relevant

categories. Memos also offer additional data useful in creating the theory. Memos are

preliminary analytic notes written by the researcher about the codes, comparisons, and ideas

important to the data. Coding and memoing are the structured techniques that a researcher must

employ to define and interpret the data through analytic categories (Charmaz, 2006).

Methodology

The purpose of this study was to explore and describe how agricultural extension agents

make career decisions. Qualitative methodologies were selected to achieve insight into factors,

experiences, and influences on agricultural extension agents' initial, past, present, and future

career decisions that have affected their employment status.

Research Objectives

The interview process was used to investigate the factors that affected agricultural

extension agents' decisions to enter and remain in extension, discover career experiences related

to recruitment and retention, and identify significant influences on agents' careers at different

career stages. From the data collected, two grounded theories were developed that explain the

significant issues that affect agricultural extension agents' career decisions. The key objectives

of this study included:

* Objective 1: To understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural
extension agents to enter into the organization

* Obj ective 2: To understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural
extension agents to remain in the organization

* Objective 3: To discover the influences that shape career decisions of agricultural
extension agents at different career stages

* Obj ective 4: To develop a grounded theory that explains the most significant issues that
affect the career decisions of Florida agricultural extension agents









Participant Selection

A comprehensive list of Florida Cooperative Extension agents generated through the Dean

of Extension office was used to help identify the population. The list was subdivided by the

extension program development and evaluation director to include only agents that have

commercial agriculture as a part of their job responsibilities. As determined by the researcher,

the following program areas were defined as commercial agriculture: agronomy, horticulture,

livestock, agriculture and natural resources, pest management, agronomic crops, citrus, dairy,

vegetables, small farms, fruit crops, agricultural development, agricultural safety, farm

management, and rural agribusiness development. This list of 108 agricultural extension agents

served as the eligible population for the study. The researcher then requested further information

from the Dean of Extension office on percentage appointment specifically in agricultural

programs, county, gender, contact information, and years of employment in extension.

The researcher used the information and a panel of experts to determine the sample. First,

all participants must be currently employed extension agents that have at least an 80%

appointment in commercial agriculture designated in their job responsibilities. A panel of

experts consisting of the researcher, an extension education university professor, the Associate

Dean of Extension, and the Associate Dean of agricultural programs in the state of Florida used

this list to narrow the sample further. These particular individuals were chosen as experts

because of their familiarity and regular interaction with agricultural extension agents. In a

scheduled group meeting, the researcher explained the purpose, goals, and obj ectives of the study

to the panel and requested their assistance in selecting successful agricultural extension agents.

This status was determined through personal interactions, positive performance evaluations,

career achievements, and professional reputations. Thirty dependable and respectable agents










with consistent work performance as identified by consensus from the panel constituted the

sample.

The panel of experts then separated the sample of 30 agents into the three categories of the

career stages model- entry, colleague, and counselor/advisor- according to a list of defining

characteristics (Table 3.1) compiled from three career stage theories and models- (Kutilek, et. al.,

2002; Dalton, et. al., 1977; Rennekamp & Nall, 1994).












Table 3.1 Defining individual characteristics of extension agents in the career stages model


Stage when entering into a new profession or job
Psychological dependency- dependent upon and must be willingly to
accept supervision and direction from others
Developing knowledge and understanding of the position, the
organization, and clientele
Attaining skills to perform the job
Building formal and informal channels of communication
Works with a mentor
Shows initiative and innovation in problem solving and risk taking
Works as an apprentice to gain experience and respect receives
assignments as part of a larger proj ect director by a senior professional
Gaining acceptance among supervisors and peers
Building relationships, respect, and acceptance among clientele
Developing an area of expertise

Gaining independence without close supervision
Developed a reputation and accepted as a professional in the organization
Recognized in an area of specialization and shares expertise with others
Has a high level of professional skills
Self-confident and visible in the organization
Peer relationships take on greater importance
Independently contributes expertise to solving problems
Some remain in this stage throughout their careers by making substantial
contributions to the organization and experience a high degree of
professional satisfaction

Prepared to assume formal or informal responsibility in developing others
Seek to broaden their interests, capabilities, skills, and areas of expertise
Takes on leadership roles
Interested in personal growth, development, and self-renewal
Confident in own abilities to produce significant results
Builds confidence in others
Recognizes interdependency and accomplishes work through others
Have established internal and external networks
Influential in defining the direction, growth, and survival of the
organization
Catalyst for positive organizational change
Established national reputation and credibility due to professional
achi evements/publi cati ons


Entry Stage














Colleague Stage














Counselor/Advisor
Stage









The 30 agents were then further divided by the researcher and an extension professor to

select twelve interview participants. Due to the intense time requirements associated with

qualitative research, sample sizes are typically small, not random, and almost never

representative (Hatch, 2002). Instead, purposive samples are chosen based on the researcher's

personal knowledge of participants that are believed to be informative (Guba & Lincoln, 1981).

This type of sampling advocates the selection of information-rich cases for study to provide

thorough understanding and insight, rather than generate empirical generalizations common in

quantitative studies (Patton, 2002).

A purposive sample based on aforementioned researcher-imposed criteria was used to

select a total of twelve agricultural extension agents, four in each category of the career stages

model, as the final participants. This table is presented in Chapter 4. To assist in transferability,

dependability and credibility of findings, the participants represented different educational levels,

ethnicities, commercial agricultural areas, ages, and years of employment. Additionally, male

and female participants represented twelve separate counties and all five district regions

throughout the state. This process helped to ensure the interview participants were as equally

distributed as possible among to the study population in these particular areas.

In qualitative research, the number of participants required is not straightforward due to the

number of factors involved and varying conditions between studies (Morse, 2000). Instead, the

researcher must estimate based on each situation. Factors to consider are saturation and

determinants of sample size (Morse, 2000). A single reference citing the specific number of

participants needed to create a grounded theory was unavailable, however theoretical/data

saturation was an important concept considered in the decision making process (Strauss and

Corbin, 1990). To achieve saturation, the researcher designed the interview to permit continuous










expansion of the participants' responses until new and relevant information was no longer

provided (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Patton (2002) recommends the selection of information-rich

cases that can provide thorough understanding and insight rather than empirical generalizations.

The panel of experts assisted in the selection of suitable participants that could offer relevant

data. The nature of the research was also believed to be important issues to participants.

Therefore, it was expected that the discourse would be open and meaningful, while the quality of

data obtained would be detailed, experiential, and sufficient requiring fewer participants (Morse,

2000).

From the population of 108 Florida agricultural extension agents, 30 were identified by the

panel of experts, and then 12 were purposively selected for the final sample. The 12 agents

represented approximately 1 1% of the population. The selection of the number of participants

was also based on previous qualitative studies in agricultural education and extension research,

including Warner (2006), Mutchler, et. al. (2006), and Smith, et. al. (1995). Each of these

research studies used nine to twelve participants as the sample size to gather qualitative data.

Data Collection Procedures

The first step in the data collection process was to create an interview guide that was

appropriate for the theoretical perspective and research objectives guiding the study. The content

of the interviews focused on participants' initial career decisions, recruitment and retention

factors, career experiences and influences, and professional needs. The guide was also designed

to investigate previous findings in the literature in the areas of job satisfaction, career success,

recruitment, organizational support, retention, motivation, work and life balance, and social

relationships. Questions specifically focused on influences that have positively and negatively

affected the participants' career decisions. Open-ended questions encouraged participants to

reflect on their thoughts and express significant career factors and experiences.










A panel of experts revised the interview guide and offered suggestions for improvement.

Upon approval from the panel, the IRB protocol and informed consent was submitted for

approval. The informed consent document can be found in Appendix E, IRB protocol approval

is in Appendix D, and the interview question guide is located in Appendix F.

The interview guide was pilot tested with two agents from the population to ensure

credibility. Pilot tests are a form of pre-testing in which subj ects from the sample population are

given the instrument and provide feedback to determine if the instruments is measuring what it is

supposed to measure (Black, 1999). Cognitive interviews according to Presser, et. al. (2004)

were conducted with the two pilot participants. These interviews focused on obtaining

participants' thoughts to the questions immediately after the interview in order to reveal the

process involved in interpreting the questions and arriving at the answers (Presser, et. al., 2004).

Following the two pilot tests, the researcher made minor revisions to the interview guide.

The selected interview participants were initially contacted via email to explain the

purpose and importance of the study, the value of their participation, and the data collection

procedure. (Appendix G). Of the twelve agents, 11 agreed to participate and one was unable to

be contacted. Therefore, the next agent identified in the sample at the colleague/advisor level

was contacted and became the final participant. Upon agreement to participate, the researcher

arranged interview times and dates on the telephone with each agent. The researcher sent a pre-

interview questionnaire to participants one week prior to the scheduled interview date in order to

gain demographic and background information beforehand, facilitate the interview process, and

build rapport with participants. The interview questions were also included in the e-mail to

encourage participants to reflect prior to the interview.










The researcher collected data from participants in twelve different counties representing all

Hyve districts within the state of Florida. The researcher traveled over 2000 miles to conduct

face-to-face interviews. Prior to each interview, the researcher spent time with the agents to

learn about the county, clientele, and extension programs, and gain an understanding of their

personal and professional backgrounds. Having an understanding of work interests and duties

was critical for the researcher to build a relationship and rapport with participants, and it

conditioned the environment for open and honest dialogue during the interview.

A semi-structured interview format was used to organize the process which allow for more

freedom and exploration during the interview sessions. This type of interview supported the

ability of the researcher to present initially prepared open-ended questions, question

unanticipated responses, probe for further clarification and thought, and improvise based on the

participants' responses (Wengraf, 2001; Holstein & Gubrium, 2003). The researcher used the set

of guiding questions during the interview, but added probing questions to expand and clarify

statements made by the participants (Hatch, 2002). All of the interviews were conducted at the

extension agent' s office. With the consent of the participants, all of the interviews were audio

taped for transcription at a later time.

The constructivist framework influenced the researcher' s approach to the data collection

process. Interested in the co-construction of knowledge, the researcher asked the open-ended

and probing questions which encouraged participants to reflect and construct a personal

understanding of career decisions. Interviews were primarily participant directed as the

researcher initiated questions through a relatively passive role that allowed participants to

explore their self-perceived realities. This structure was critical for participants to reflect,

discuss, and explore the career decision process. It was important for the researcher to remain










obj ective in order to eliminate any personal bias and influence on the direction and content of the

interview. As a result, an in-depth understanding of participants was gained through progressive

expansion of interview questions.

Sixty to ninety minute interviews were conducted and audio-recorded. An informed

consent form was signed by each participant prior to the interview process. During and after

each interview, researcher field notes and memos were recorded which included key points,

impressions, and observations from the interview. The researcher also ensured that the

participant understood that future contact and discussion would be needed for clarification

purposes and informed them of the member-checking process. The member checking process is

defined and detailed below in data analysis procedures.

Data Analysis Procedures

Grounded theory by Strauss and Corbin (1998) was the primary data analysis procedure

used due to its focus of how meaning making advances the understanding of personal

perspectives and insight. Grounded theory is "a detailed grounding by systematically analyzing

the data sentence by sentence by constant comparison as it is coded until a theory results"

(Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 16). This method allows for the establishment of a close connection

between the data collection, analysis, and resulting theory and encourages the researcher to

create a conceptual understanding of concrete realities that were expressed during interviews

(Strauss & Corbin, 1998; Charmaz, 2003). The use of grounded theory offered the following

benefits to the research study,

Theory derived from data is more likely to resemble "reality" than is theory derived by
putting together a series of concepts based on experience or solely through speculation.
Grounded theories, because they are drawn from the data, are likely to offer insight,
enhance understanding, and provide a meaningful guide to action (Strauss & Corbin, 1998,
p. 12).









Grounded theory strategies including concurrent data analysis and collection, a specific data

coding process, constant comparisons, refinement of emerging ideas, and integration of theory

were implemented and applied to form the foundation of the analysis (Charmaz, 2003). "The

result sought in grounded theory is a small set of highly relevant categories and their properties

connected by theoretical codes into an integrated theory" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 42).

Each interview was transcribed verbatim and analyzed. Approximately 90% of the

interviews consisted of the participants' responses generated through expansive questioning and

probing from the researcher. Re-reading the interviews and listening to the tapes several times

provided additional steps to identify possible misinterpretations, cross-check statements, and

increase credibility and trustworthiness. Field notes were clarified and Einal comments were

added to the transcription.

To address credibility, trustworthiness, and confirmability, the researcher asked each

participant to review the transcript of their interview to ensure that the responses were accurately

recorded (Appendix G). This review process is commonly termed the member checking process

(Hatch, 2002). The member checking process was performed after each interview was fully

transcribed by the researcher. The researcher emailed the participants only their specific

interview transcript to ensure validity and reliability of information. Each participant viewed

only his/her interview transcription and no other participants. The researcher provided clear

instructions for each participant to carefully review the interview transcription and clarify any

misinterpretations of words or thoughts for accuracy purposes. The researcher also allowed the

participants to eliminate any data that they felt was incorrect or harmful in anyway. This process

ensured the participants were aware of the information being used in the research process. The









researcher made minor revisions to the interview transcripts using the participants' responses

before the data was analyzed.

During analysis, the researcher used an objectivist grounded theory approach. When the

researcher assumes this approach, the goal is to uncover the external reality that is already in

existence. This method required the researcher to remain obj ective and work as an external and

detached interpreter of the participants and their realities (Charmaz, 2003). In this way, the

researcher only used the collected data to discover an external reality and did not offer any

personal insight (Charmaz, 2006). Although some degree of interpretation in data analysis is

inherent, in-vivo codes using the exact words of the participants were used as often as possible

(Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This obj activist grounded theory approach helped to ensure that the

data were a collective representation of the participants with minimal manipulation from the

researcher.

Coding

To study the data, the researcher separated, sorted, and synthesized the data using

qualitative coding. "Coding helps us gain a new perspective on our material and to focus... and

leads us in unforeseen directions" (Charmaz, 2003, p. 258). According to Strauss and Corbin,

(1998), coding procedures: (a) build rather than test theory, (b) provide researchers with analytic

tools for handling masses of raw data, (c) help analysts consider alternative meanings to

phenomenon, (d) are systematic and creative, and (e) identify, develop, and relate concepts that

are the building blocks of theory (p. 13). Coding offers structure for the researcher to link data

with information, topics, concepts, and themes. This process assists in focusing, organizing, and

conceptualizing the data to develop categories and ideas (Morse & Richards, 2000). Analytic

coding was specifically used to develop themes and facilitate interpretation for the grounded

theory. Analytic coding highlights emergent themes, allows exploration and development of










new categories or concepts, emphasizes comparison techniques, and most importantly, questions

the data for new ideas (Morse & Richards, 2000).

Initial analysis began with open coding of all twelve interviews concurrently using

meaning units as separation points. The process of open coding "opens up the text to expose

thoughts, ideas, and meanings" contained within and serves as a starting point to uncover and

develop grounded concepts (Strauss & Corbin, 1998. p. 102). This procedure involves breaking

down the text into discrete parts and close examination for similarities and differences among the

data. In-vivo codes, or exact words that occur in the data, were used to represent the statements

of participants as closely as possible and reduce biased interpretation from the researcher (Glaser

& Strauss, 1967; Morse & Richards, 2000). Open codes that emerged after analyses of all

twelve participants' responses were then sub-categorized into connecting axial codes between

participants. Categories of similar events, actions, objects, and interactions were grouped to

create axial codes, or concepts with shared properties (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

The technique of constant comparison was used throughout analysis process. Constant

comparison involves "the elements of theory... generated by comparative analysis are first,

conceptual categories and their conceptual properties; and second, hypotheses or generalized

relations among the categories and their properties" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 35). Using

comparative analysis, an action, obj ect, behavior, event, or happening that has the same

characteristics with another was given the same code (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

Once the links between axial codes established clear concepts, selective codes were created

to contextualize the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). The synthesized selective codes were used as

a basis for the grounded theory. To explain the findings, interpretations of participants'

responses were supported with direct quotes and utilized to construct a grounded theory










representative of the emergent selective codes (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The axial codes, and

selective codes generated from the data can be found in Appendix A. Diagrams in Appendix B

and C were also created as they helped to create a conceptual understanding of the developed

theories (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

Credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability measures were addressed

throughout the analysis and coding process. To improve the credibility of Eindings, triangulation

of data was achieved using multiple methods of confirmation including verification of transcripts

through member checking, codes were examined by an extension professor, and in-vivo codes

were utilized when possible. The transferability of findings was enhanced by rich descriptions of

the interview context and situation; the use of twelve extension counties and all fiye districts in

the state; the variety of characteristics used to select interview participants to represent the

population as closely as possible; and, the use constant comparison to compare codes across

participants. Dependability measures were acknowledged with coding-recoding strategies, use

of two coders, and maintaining an audit trail of transcripts, codes, and correspondence. Finally,

confirmability was addressed in the researcher's approach and interpretation of the data. An

obj activist grounded theory approach was during analysis to eliminate researcher bias, in-vivo

codes were used when possible, and findings were confirmed by an extension professor for

accurate representation of participants' perspectives.

Summary

This chapter explained the research design and methodology used to accomplish the stated

obj ectives. An overview of qualitative research and its foundations was explained through the

researcher subjectivity, ontology, epistemology, and theoretical perspective related to the study.

Research objectives, participant selection, instrumentation, data collection, and data analysis









procedures were outlined in the methodology section. Finally, measures of qualitative validity

and reliability were addressed.









CHAPTER 4
RESULTS OF AGENTS' DECISIONS TO ENTER AND REMAINT IN EXTENSION

This chapter discusses the results found from the research obj ectives (1) to understand the

factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to enter into the organization,

(2) to understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to

remain in the organization, and (4) to develop a grounded theory that explains the most

significant issues that affect the career decisions of Florida agricultural extension agents.

At the conclusion of the transcription process, 198 pages of text were utilized in the data

analysis process. From the data, categories emerged specific to factors and experiences regarding

the decisions of agents to enter and remain in the organization. The systematic process of coding

was used to separate, sort, and analyze the data. The constant comparison technique was also

employed to identify similarities and differences of patterns found in the data. The figures

included in Appendix A illustrate the relationships discovered between the open codes, axial

codes, and selective codes. A grounded theory is also presented in Appendix B to conceptualize

the career experiences of the twelve participants in the study and illustrate the theory that

resulted from the analysis.

Description of Participants

To provide an overview of the participants in the study, the number of years employed

with extension, gender, and researcher defined career stage has been outlined in Table 4.1.

Participants were classified into the three career stages by the panel of experts based upon

personal interactions, positive performance evaluations, career achievements, and professional

reputations, not solely years of experience. Participants worked in the following areas of

commercial agriculture: agronomy, horticulture, livestock, agriculture and natural resources, pest

management, fruit and vegetable production, small farms, agricultural development, agricultural










and pesticide safety, and farm management. The ethnicities of participants included African

American, Hispanic, and Caucasian. Additionally, four rural counties, three urban counties, and

five mixed urban/rural counties were represented in the sample. To protect the confidentiality of

participants in this sensitive subj ect matter, all demographic, background, or other descriptive

information has been omitted. Pseudonyms have also been used and specific identifiers have

been deleted throughout the analysis process.

Table 4. 1 Description of Participants

Pseudonym Years Employed in Extension Gender Career Stage
Jessica 4 Female Entry
Eric 2 Male Entry
Tammy 1 Female Entry
Benjamin 2 Male Entry
Sean 14 Male Colleague
Brenda 7 Female Colleague
Samantha 6 Female Colleague
Adam 7 Male Colleague
Harry 19 Male C oun selor/Advi sor
Gabby 25 Female C oun sel or/Advi sor
Matt 11 Male C oun sel or/Advi sor
Patricia 7 Female C oun selor/Advi sor


Agents' Decision to Enter into Extension

The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to enter into the organization were

agent background, career contacts, service to agricultural community, nature of extension work,

position fit, and university supported education. All of these categories emerged as influential

factors and experiences that affected participants' decisions to pursue a career in extension. An

outline detailing the relationships between the open codes, axial codes, and selective codes is

shown in Appendix A, Figure A-1. Each specific category is detailed below.










Agent Background

The category, agent background, was comprised of two axial codes including academic

and work experiences and lack of knowledge of extension. The participants revealed similarities

in their academic and work experiences within agriculture, however there were differences found

in the amount of knowledge that each held about extension work prior to employment.

Academic and work experiences. All of the participants had prior involvement in

commercial agriculture through one or more of the following ways: industry work, research,

academic programs, and growing up on a farm. Four participants specifically indicated that they

were raised on a family farm, while seven had previously worked in the agricultural industry.

Work experiences included equine operations, beef cattle management, livestock production and

processing, agricultural sales, veterinary work, vegetable and crop producers, and nursery

management. Those participants familiar with extension work prior to employment indicated that

their knowledge of extension was obtained through internships, research assistance, industry

collaboration, agent presence, or extension programs. Benjamin reflected upon his industry

work with farmers and how it related to extension work, "I realized that I was nothing more than

an agricultural extension agent... I was more involved in DEVELOPlVENT, the development of

management skills, the development of farmers' ability to make money, more so than looking at

rudimentary daily issues."

Each of the participants had at least one academic degree in a technical agricultural area.

The various degrees held were animal science, horticulture, agricultural engineering, agricultural

and rural development, general agriculture, plant and vegetable science, and entomology. Of the

twelve participants, only four had a degree in extension education prior to employment. From

those with a degree in extension, each exuded confidence in their expected career path as an

agent. Tammy stated, "I always wanted to be a livestock agent so I was on that career track,"









while Harry discussed his attitude at the completion of his graduate program, "When I got done,

I didn't think about what I should be doing. By that time, I knew that what I wanted to do was to

be a county extension agent."

All participants obtained a variety of work experiences during their academic programs.

Graduate research was specifically cited by seven participants as a significant influence that led

them to pursue extension. Research experiences ranged from working with extension and

specialists to various types of livestock, plant, crop, and vegetable production-based research.

However, many realized that they did not want to remain in a research type career. Gabby knew

that research was not her desired path as she stated, "I knew I wanted something more practical

in nature, so when the job in extension came up and I found out what is was, it sounded like

something that I wanted to do."

Lack of extension knowledge. Although all participants held an agricultural college

degree, not all had prior knowledge of a career in extension. Seven of the twelve participants

lacked extension education training before becoming an agent, and therefore, did not really know

what to expect. Jessica discussed her lack of exposure to extension while in college, "I had no

clue as to what extension was. How could you be in an Ag college and not know what extension

is? But I had no idea because I wasn't involved in 4H when I was in high school." Gabby was

looking for a suitable job and "had no idea what extension was," while Jessica said she had "no

real clue." Matt had heard about extension when he was in college, but "just didn't really know

much about it" because he was not involved in 4-H or FFA and "didn't have a lot of exposure to

extension agents other than the youth fair and livestock judging contests."

Sean had worked in the industry, but said that he "really didn't know much about

extension...my involvement in 4-H was very limited." Once the position became available, a










friend encouraged him to apply and his response was, "I was interested but I don't have any idea.

What do they do?" He further explained, "I didn't know a lot about extension or have a personal

relationship with extension. I never really used the extension office when I grew up."

Additionally, only one participant was specifically recruited for an agent position, and just one

had participated in an extension internship.

Career Contacts

The category, career contacts, was comprised of two axial codes including encouragement

by others and influential relationships. Each of these factors played a significant role in the

participants' pursuit of an extension career. However, each described their personal contacts and

influential networks differently.

Encouragement by others. Positive encouragement from peers, clientele, administrators,

friends, and advisors was influential on each of the participants' decisions to pursue and enter

extension. Patricia regarded encouragement by the Dean of Extension as one of the main

reasons she applied:

I had already applied for another position in extension and when the Dean interviewed me,
he said you would be a really good fit for extension and that actually had a lot to do with
me considering that position... he made comments about... have you considered working
with youth in 4-H, and here are some other positions that we have open, so that encouraged
me to continue looking at extension. So when that position came open, I went ahead and
applied for it.

Samantha was not looking for another j ob when the extension position became available,

but "the clientele came to me and said... we think you'd be good, we'd like you to apply." After

consideration, she said, "So I did and I called the county director and talked to him about it and

he was very excited." Matt gave credit to his former farm manager and friends within the system

for encouragement:

I was kind of uncertain about it, but I had a good friend that I went to college with... and
he was an extension agent... and an old family friend was an agent... so knowing two










agents was very key because I could talk to them about it and ask what' s involved, what do
you do, and I think that' s one of the hard things unless you've had personal relationships
with an agent, a lot of stuff that we do are behind the scenes.

Brenda had not even considered a position in extension until her graduate advisor, who

was also an extension specialist, told her, "You really want to work in extension and I said, I do?

And she said yeah, that' s what you want to do." Brenda discussed how her confidence was built

as her advisor said that she could "see that spark in me... and that I would be good at that j ob."

Jessica' s graduate advisor also encouraged her to pursue extension when she told her, "With

your personality, you' d probably enj oy being an extension agent" and sent her Internet links with

available jobs. Benjamin and Adam were both encouraged by people from the University of

Florida to seek out available positions.

Six participants indicated that they had previously applied to extension before obtaining

their current position as a result of encouragement by others. Samantha did not enter into

extension earlier because "at that time, the extension pay scale was very low," but was

continually recruited by stakeholders, clientele, and her county director. Brenda previously

applied but "the extension salary at that time was low and there was no way that I could take that

job," yet received continued encouragement from her graduate advisor.

Eric personally sought out extension as an alternative to working in the industry and said,

"It took me a long time and several tries... I had looked at a couple of positions, but didn't quite

get in there, and finally got this one." Sean described his career path as a lengthy process, "I

filled out an application and interviewed for the job, went to campus and interviewed with all

those people, interviewed with a county committee and did not get the job... later I applied for

the j ob again, same as before, and went through all of those processes and was hired." Even

though participants did not obtain a position on the first application, continuous encouragement










from others had a direct influence on their decision to keep trying. As Eric stated, "Persistence

pays, I guess."

Influential relationships. Interaction and exposure to extension agents played an

important role in participants' decision to enter into the organization. The local agent was

commonly described as a role model that participants admired and respected. Harry explained

his perception of the agent that he encountered on his family farm as a young boy, "The local

county extension agent that was there just happened to be one of those world renowned county

agents and he was a super guy." He continued, "I didn't know necessarily what this was all

about, but I knew when this guy came, he was treated special by our family." The desire to

pursue a career in extension grew as Harry went to college and worked closely with research

specialists. He explained the influence that these relationships had on his career decisions:

That whole series of events of seeing the respect that our local county agent had and being
able to live it as a student going through school with very good mentors and very good
people... I was fortunate enough to work with just super people and knew that' s what I
wanted to do.

Tammy also had a role model growing up that influenced her, "I think the reason that I went into

extension was because of another agent I knew... I grew up around him and thought that it

would be a really cool job to have."

Eric's prior exposure to extension was through involvement with state specialists and

participation on advisory committees that he was in contact with while working in the industry.

While Samantha said that the previous agent in her position strongly encouraged her to apply, as

well as her grandfather who had been an extension agent. Brenda was most influenced by

extension colleagues in her Master' s program and her graduate advisor, "I had some peers that

thought it was a pretty good j ob. But I think my advisor just thought that I would be really good

at it, she saw something in me that I really did not see. And I'm glad she encouraged me."









Service to Agricultural Community

The category, service to agricultural community, was comprised of the axial code, ability

to work with farmers. A common theme that occurred throughout all the interviews was

participants' interest in helping agricultural producers to solve problems. Tammy was

particularly interested in working with the clientele, "I could work with cattlemen and be in

agriculture, and go to different functions... work with the people and with what I love to do."

Sean saw extension as a way to "help producers with obj ective advice...as an agricultural

consultant, not a salesman." Jessica was interested in "helping farmers," while Eric wanted to

"find answers for people with problems."

Benj amin, Adam, and Harry regarded the service aspect as one of the main reasons that

they entered into the organization. Benj amin displayed his feelings about working with farmers,

"I am definitely at my best when I believe that I have the freedom to do the things that directly

benefit the people that I am working for." He continued to describe his role as a link to help

farmers solve problems and said you must evaluate the situation and realize, "The farmer is

always right until you make him righter." Adam was pleased the university "is addressing the

issue of helping people to increase their knowledge... and be able to better understand what they

are doing." His devotion to the agricultural community was apparent as he described the results

of one of his programs:

One time the wife called me back and cried because her husband was able to get a license
which means he was able to hold a job and get a pay increase. So I felt very appreciative
to that and for helping this community to get something.

Harry reflected on his reason for entering extension and his mission as an agent:

I knew that my mission was going to be to serve farmers and beyond that, I don't know
that I had a real clear picture...but I did know that my mission was going to be to help
serve farmers, help them sustain what they were doing, change things, and make a better
life for them on their farms. And regardless of what the crops were, or what the
technologies, or whatever the practices were is sort of immaterial as long as you have in










your mind that my job is to help this clientele group, and for me that was commercial
farmers and that was pretty clear cut.

The opportunities to work with agricultural producers and provide service to the community

were explicit factors that influenced participants' decision to enter into the extension

organization.

Nature Of Extension Work

The category, nature of extension work, was comprised of one axial code, job expectations.

Participants' job expectations centered on the organizational mission and goals of extension:

helping people, practical work, challenging situations, solving problems, and providing advice.

Although participants had different expectations of what was involved in their work, each

commented on their experiences and the need for more detailed information about the

responsibilities of being an extension agent.

Job expectations. Some of the j ob expectations expressed by participants were "helping

farmers with their problems," "providing obj ective advice," and "answering questions in a non-

biased way." The ability to help people with practical problems and utilize personal skills was

cited by many as an attraction to extension. Matt left the agricultural industry because he

realized that he "...was really more talented working with people and with thinking outside the

box, maybe a little more creatively with problem solving." He also felt that his personal and

professional background was a good match for an agent position, "I had some expertise and I had

some talents that fit more with people skills and communication skills, but I also had a practical

background that fit with the job."

Tammy expressed her expectations and desire to "educate producers about best

management practices and educate youth about career choices." Brenda chose extension "to be

an educator and I felt like I could make a difference and I feel like I am making a difference."









During her interview, she saw the potential growth in the job and thought, "This was an exciting

place and I took the job. I came and I've not been sorry."

Matt described his first day on the job and his mistaken assumptions about how an agent

works with the public:

It is hard in the beginning in a very flexible open j ob with no set structure. I mean there
are certain things that are expected. You're expected to do at least two maj or educational
programs, you're expected to do some kind of written communication and you're expected
to make contact with the people you serve. That' s pretty loose. So, I think that was the
thing that I struggled with is I just wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, or what I was
expected to do and I was pretty naive. I thought the University of Florida hired me and
I've got a college degree and I've got this experience, people are just going to call me.
Wrong.

Although participants had a general idea of what was involved as an agent, several

described the lack of clear, stated j ob expectations as "frustrating" to a new agent. Patricia

commented, "Honestly, I didn't know what agents did when I applied for the job," while Gabby

had a similar attitude as she searched for a place to start her programs, "I had no clue. I didn't

know what to expect because the previous agent in the position wasn't real forthcoming about

things." Jessica did not have any previous exposure to extension so she had few expectations as

a new agent, "I didn't have a definitive idea. I had nothing to base it on." Brenda discussed

how she believes this issue of lack of job expectations could be addressed by the organization:

I think the applicants need a realistic view of what extension involves and that it is a
special kind of job. It' s not a 9 to 5 j ob where you go home and forget about your j ob at
the end of the day... I know the application has vague basic things, but if there was some
way to provide them with a realistic outline or flyer or booklet or something that gives
some of the specifies of extension so they have some realistic expectations prior to going
into the job.

Several participants agreed with Brenda' s comments about the need to have clearly stated job

expectations and its importance in guiding new agents' career efforts.









Position Fit

The category, personal and professional position fit, was comprised of the axial code,

position descriptors. These descriptors included the details of position announcement, such as

salary, location, and duties. The advertised description was cited by two participants as a

deciding factor to apply for the j ob. Adam stated "the description of the j ob really, really

identified with what my background was" and aligned perfectly with his career interests. Harry

was happy working in another state extension system when he became aware of a position in

Florida. He explained his thought process and how the position announcement affected his

career decision:

This position description came along...and it would be a lot more contact with the on-farm
demonstrations and things like that... Just the general description was a big factor. Prior to
that, a standard position, I don't know if I would have felt like that was worth the risk of
taking something that I already knew I could be happy at. So, the notion that I could have
more freedom, more on farm, more guaranteed contact to develop my own programs and
be under my own control...that was certainly a factor because I left something that I was
already happy and satisfied in for the long term, my long term happiness.

Others cited various reasons related to personal and professional fit of the job to their

needs. Examples were the j ob allowed "freedom and variety," the "j ob was available," the

starting salary was "very competitive," and it was the "right time and the right place." Two

agents specifically cited the job benefits as an important factor in their decision. Tammy

commented, "...the benefits are what makes it worthwhile...that is a maj or additive to the

position to have really good benefits," and Eric agreed, "...the benefits are tremendous... lot of

people don't' realize how important benefits are. I mean how to translate that into their real

work." Therefore, the importance of a detailed job description made a positive impact on

participants' decision to apply for a position that fit their lifestyle and interests.









University Supported Education

The category, university supported education, was comprised of the axial codes non-formal

structure and University affHliation. Each of these codes related to the unique partnership of the

system and the non-formal work structure commonly associated with extension education.

Nonformal structure. The nonformal structure that appealed to participants included the

flexible organization and environment of extension. Adam particularly enjoys the different work

environments in his job, "I like the combination of being at my office but also being able to drive

away and meet different people, talk to different people, and see different clientele." Brenda

described her expectations for the j ob and liked the fact that "I would be an educator, it would be

non-traditional education, and I wouldn't be teaching in a classroom." Matt discussed the

flexible scheduling that extension offers to agents, "Well, there' s not many jobs that I am aware

of where you set your own schedule and your own calendar...there are some mandated

scheduling, but it' s pretty minimal." Benj amin values the creative freedom to plan programs

and exercise innovation to meet the needs of his clientele. He compared the nonformal

environment of extension to the more formal industry workplace:

First, you have the flexibility to be able to do things and come up with ideas to and see that
idea come to life rather than the rigidity of actually working for a particular company and
doing a particular thing that is imposed on you. I'm not really comfortable in those
environments.

The ability to take risks and try new things in programming without acceptance from

others is another benefit that participants embraced. Benj amin appreciates the risk-taking

behavior permitted in his work decisions, "You don't even have to have your directors or

anybody agree with you at first, they can be really skeptical, but as things start happening, they

start seeing the value and they go huh, that really wasn't such a bad idea." As shown,










participants cited a variety of factors related to the nonformal structure of extension that

compelled them to seek an agent position.

University affiliation. Participants agreed that the connection of the extension system

with the University provides personnel and informational resources needed to support agents in

their work. Sean describes his view on the advantages of the Extension-University relationship

and its recognized reputation to the public:

I wanted to be able to provide information and advice and help to those people and said
Ok, I know a little something and I've got an opportunity to share that information with
other producers and it' s the University information here. I mean the University's
respected, although there' s still a whole lot of people that don't have a clue or know what
extension is... very few people in this state don't understand what the University of
Florida is... that' s got name recognition and when you talk to producers, they respect the
University of Florida.

Several participants specifically remarked on the benefits of having the resources of the

university available to Eind answers to client questions. Eric understands that he does not have to

be an expert on everything, but rather know where to Eind assistance, "...having the full

resources of the University at your disposal...that you don't have to know everything and do it

alone, but you do have those resources to help you get your j ob done." When Adam compared

his previous extension system to Florida, he was impressed by the distribution and coverage of

state resources, "We worked with very little resources and now here, you have plenty of

resources to work with." He continued to explain how he utilizes offices, information, agents,

clientele, and facilities around the state, and its positive effects on his work:

I think it' s the resources that the University has to work in extension and you feel good that
you have the support to do your j ob with technology, infrastructure, and communication. I
think overall the resources that the University provides for the extension system allows you
to feel comfortable and see results. If you use these resources in a good way and you apply
it to your program, you will see some results.

The stability of a job in extension was cited by nine participants as a factor that played a

role in their career decisions. Specifically, Eric had been working in the industry, but decided to










enter extension because it "was a little bit less risky than some of those production j obs." He

discussed his experiences as a farm manager and the buyouts that were occurring as producers

went out of business. Even though he made more money in the industry, he described the reason

that he left, "I said well I can go for this extension job or I can stay here and the place is probably

going to sell and I'll be out on the street again...I' m getting to the point where it' s kind of hard

to, especially over in the area we we're living, there' s just no ag production jobs around

anymore." The university resources, public recognition, research-based education, and career

stability were maj or factors that influenced participants' decision to enter into the organization.

Agents' Decision to Remain in Extension

The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to remain in the organization were

internal satisfaction, community leadership, external motivators, career benefits, change agents,

network of support, and extension work environment. All of these categories emerged as

influential factors and experiences that affected participants' decisions to stay in an extension

career. An outline detailing the relationships between the open codes, axial codes, and selective

codes is shown in Appendix A, Figure A-2. Each specific category is detailed below.

Internal Satisfaction

The category, internal satisfaction, was comprised of two axial codes including positive

encouragement and emotional fulfillment. The encouraging feedback received about individual

work performance and personal satisfaction gained from work experiences were both influential

on agents' attitudes to remain in the organization.

Positive encouragement. The feedback received from clientele, peers, supervisors, and

administrators was cited as internal motivation by all participants. Positive feedback from

clientele was the most important factor to participants' internal satisfaction. Samantha discussed

her experiences working with producers and the satisfaction she feels from their feedback, "The










most satisfying is your clientele. When you help them with a problem or solution... and then

they tell you, we couldn't have done it without you and we appreciate it."

Harry discussed how he gauges his own success based on "clear messages from the

clientele that what we were doing was right." Matt also regarded feedback from producers as

encouraging but stated "if you live for that you're going to starve because that doesn't come that

often and it certainly doesn't right away, so that' s something that comes overtime." He

understands that "you've got to build a long term relationship with people before you really start

to get some positive feedback."

Feedback from supervisors was also considered as positive encouragement. Benjamin

discussed his relationship with his extension directors, "I think I have a pretty fascinating CED

and established a good rapport with the DED. He sends little tidbits and ideas and tries to nudge

people in certain directions. Those have been really meaningful." Matt commented that the

maj ority of his feedback comes from supervisors, "Probably the most feedback you get is from

your supervisors...some are better than others, but the supervisors give you feedback to let you

know you're doing a good j ob." More importantly, Matt regards feedback from his peers as the

best way to gauge professional success:

I think your peers give you some feedback too and sometimes that's where you gauge
yourself is by your peers. I get a lot of agents now that call me to ask my opinion. That
didn't happen when I started, that' s something you build over time and it's the same as the
clientele, you've got to build those relationships.

Feedback from many different people was regarded as inspiring and encouraging to agents' work

performance .

Emotional fulfillment. Participants regarded internal pride gained through work

performance and clientele interaction as emotionally fulfilling. Brenda found the appreciation

and interaction with clientele personally satisfying, "People are just so appreciative of you









answering their questions or just giving them information...I think it' s the fact that people

appreciate what we do for them and that' s really satisfying." Samantha enj oys the challenge

encountered in her j ob on a daily basis, "I just like the challenge because every day is different

and you are solving problems for people."

Gabby explained that she gauges her personal success on "whether I have made a positive

impact on the producers, made their life a little easier, helped them understand the rules and the

changes a little bit better." Patricia commented that there are many job-related factors, such as

pay and unequal recognition, that can be frustrating, but she feels "the clients that I work with

have always been very rewarding" and give her that motivation to continue.

Three of the participants, Sean, Matt, and Harry, pointed out that job satisfaction must be

"internal" when working in an organization that provides advice to solve problems and does not

require clients to report results. Matt discussed his personal philosophy on job satisfaction and

its connection to helping people:

The number one thing that' s important is your personal satisfaction and I think that' s
probably one of the things that weeds people in or out of extension. If you don't enj oy
what you do, then you're not going to be successful. I have seen some success working
with people, the relationships you build, things that you work on and do well, and I feel
like I'm helping people. Most days you feel like, I was a help to somebody today, and it
may be something as little as just who to call for some service they need. But to me, that' s
the mission of extension, we're here to help you.

Sean also believes "that satisfaction is going to have to be self-satisfaction" because "when

you provide a program or when you answer a question, people don't call you back and say Hey,

that was great." Harry has relied upon "intrinsic reinforcement coming from clientele" to satisfy

his emotional fulfillment. Personal work commitment, pleasure, and client experiences helped

participants to be emotionally fulfilled in their careers.










Community Leadership

The category, community leadership, was comprised of two axial codes including public

relations and community recognition. The abilities to provide needs-based education and be

respected by the community were specific factors related to agents' decision to stay employed

within extension.

Public relations. Similarities found among participants were in their desires to work with

a variety of public audiences, meet client needs, and promote agricultural education. When

asked to describe their primary clientele, participants included government officials, public

leaders, youth, adults, private and commercial businesses, agricultural producers and growers,

small farmers, master gardeners, homeowners, and the general public. Jessica described her

clientele as "anybody that produces any type of thing on their place and ...the public as a

whole."

Adam's dedication to meeting public needs was his primary motivation to stay in

extension, "Just the fact to be able to socially help somebody or a community that is in need.

Reaching out to people and trying to increase their salaries by getting a license or by getting

education and being better prepared with j ob skills that they need to have." Gabby commented

on how she works with numerous public agencies to implement programs to meet client needs:

I don't work alone. I can't say that any one thing that a grower does to make a big
difference in their operation was just because of me. NRCS works with them and there are
so many other groups and organizations that work with them. I think of it as a group effort
and that' s why it' s kind of hard to come up with impacts for the university because I don't
feel like anything I do is just strictly by me or because of my work.

Promotion of agricultural awareness to the public was also a priority. Gabby tries to

schedule meetings at the Rotary club or Kiwanis whenever she can to promote awareness, "I will

go talk about the importance of agriculture in the county and how important it is in the

economy." Jessica also wants "the general public to have a good view of agriculture in the










county and wants them to see it in a positive light." She discussed her efforts to promote

agriculture and the importance of public perceptions:

When I do hear somebody, like at the farm tour, seeing some of our farmers doing
something like, Wow I didn't know farmers were so technologically advanced or I didn't
know farmers really work as much to protect the environment, that makes me feel good
because it's showing them in a good light and that' s what I'm here for. I want them to
have the best public perception...I want them to be viewed in a really positive way because
it' s a great job. I mean they do a great job for everybody. I'm proud of the farmers.

The promotion of agriculture to public audiences through needs-based education constituted

important experiences that influenced agents' to remain in extension.

Community recognition. Participants welcomed the opportunity to become a part of the

community and be considered a community expert. Participants discussed the integration into

the community and the feeling of acceptance gained from that recognition. As a new agent,

Tammy understood the importance of being visible in the community, particularly at youth

functions, "I was there to support the kids and to meet different clients. If you don't get out in

the community on those odd hours, then you don't get to make those contacts." Because she

made the effort to build those relationships, Tammy has received personnel and resource support

from various agricultural associations, public agencies, and community organizations. Jessica

also worked hard to gain the respect of the community and as a result, she received assistance

with her farm tour, attended a national agricultural association meeting, and won county and

national awards.

Acceptance and recognition were encouraging to agents as they integrated into the

community. Jessica noticed the acceptance in client behaviors, "The community, I really like the

people here and they seem to respond well to me. They don't treat me like an outsider." Harry

was encouraged to pursue personal interests that benefited both his family and the community

during his career. While at the same time, he created positive organizational visibility and client










relationships. Matt was proud to be a member of the community and the dignity associated with

his job:

It' s nice to be recognized in the community as a kind of a community leader... you are
somewhat of a local person that' s well known...it' s kind of nice to be recognized as
someone...part of the community. You're not just somebody who' s working an 8-5 j ob
and you go home and you're a nobody, I mean we're fairly plugged in here to what' s going
on.

Participants agreed that building and maintaining community relations was a significant factor

affecting their work progress.

Career Benefits

The category, career benefits, was comprised of three axial codes including professional

development, position benefits, and university resources. Each of these codes revealed the

importance that agents placed on meeting personal needs, participating in professional growth

opportunities, and having access to resources.

Professional development. Professional development opportunities were cited as

contributing experiences to agents' career growth. Participants concurred that professional

development helped to broaden knowledge bases, improve skills, and refine talents. The ability

to enroll in higher education courses, attend in-service training, and participate in leadership

workshops offered valuable career development. Three of the twelve agents completed their

Master' s degree since being employed, while one is currently working on a doctoral degree.

Leadership workshops, conferences, and symposiums were also considered "good learning

experiences."

Eric values the in-service received as he transitioned from the industry into the extension

organization, "I needed to be brought up to date on how things are being done and we're allowed

to go to these training and kind of see things from that aspect so that helps a lot... I was

computer literate somewhat, but I really had to get up to speed on using a lot of these programs."









He also had the opportunity to travel to Brazil within the first years of starting in UF/IFAS

Extension and found it to be a "good hands-on experience." Tammy also appreciates the in-

service training offered, "...in industry, you don't have professional development opportunities

like you do in extension." Patricia credits her happiness to the wide range of career development

opportunities offered through the organization:

I have really been happy in extension because I'm someone who has a strong desire to
continue to learn new things and that' s definitely encouraged in extension. And we
definitely have opportunities, sometimes more than others, but we definitely have
opportunities to travel to national meetings, to go to in-service training, to take formal
courses, so that's appealing to me.

Brenda discussed several professional development opportunities that she has participated

in during her career. Her district director organized a series of training for county directors and

program leaders focused on improving management and people skills. Although Brenda had

previous experience as a manager, she found it "extremely helpful to have refresher courses." In

addition, she has taken advantage of the professional development grants and "got to go

someplace that I would not have gotten to go." She attended a national extension meeting and

said, "It was a great experience that I would never have a travel budget big enough for."

Samantha was pleased with the new teams that have been formed to guide in-service training

and reflected on the first group meeting with the specialists, "We got together, talked about

problems, talked about issues, hot topics that all of our clientele have and then they're going to

rank those and work on in-service."

However, four participants said that some professional development opportunities often

interrupted their work responsibilities. Gabby found many of the required "meetings" prohibit

her accessibility to clientele:

The way I look at things is if there is a meeting and I can get something out of it that will
directly benefit my growers or help me do my job, then I will go. Otherwise I don't have
the time, my growers want me here. They told me if a problem comes up, they expect me









to be here to help them quickly...sometimes it's expected that you go to so many meetings
a year and I don't believe in that.

Benj amin also believed that some professional meetings are unnecessarily forced upon agents

such as, "the imposition of some of the core requirements of UNIFAS ... where you need to do

five or six district meetings... or you are required to spend three days in Gainesville for the

symposium." Regardless of whether they were required or not, professional development

opportunities were seen favorably among participants to receive updated information and

training necessary to perform work duties.

Position benefits. Participants acknowledged the benefits of being an extension

employee, including salary, opportunities for advancement, flexible work hours, and j ob benefits,

as a deciding factor in their career decisions. Eric and Tammy were particularly pleased with the

medical insurance, annual, sick and vacation time as part of the fringe benefits package. Tammy

said, "I think compared to the industry, the extension salary is pretty good...but the benefits are

what makes it worthwhile." Samantha also found the extension salary to be highly competitive

with agricultural education teachers, "The salary they started me out at was a lot better then what

I was making in teaching."

Matt worked in the industry prior to extension and "realized how challenging it is and how

few management positions are available." The opportunities for advancement within extension

were more tangible and realistic to him. One of the reasons that Gabby, Samantha, and Adam

chose their positions in extension was simply due to location, "the j ob was here," "I grew up in

this county," and it happened to be "the right time and right place." Harry was encouraged by

the flexibility to balance his personal and professional lives with extension. His supervisor

supported his desire to pursue his personal interests and have time for his family, "That was a

real critical thing and it allowed me to be with the family." While participants had different










personal interests, position benefits were an influential factor in agents' decision to continue

working in extension.

University resources. Participants categorized university resources in different contexts

including in-service training, networking opportunities, professional development, offices, the

Extension Digital Information System, research information, specialists, and money. Resource

accessibility was an important factor for Jessica to perform her j ob and she found that "whenever

you need something, there's somebody to offer a resource. It may not be my county director, it

may be one of the other agents, it may be somebody in a different county, it may be somebody

within the county, or another county department that'll help you out." Matt claims one factor

that adds to his job satisfaction is "I feel like we have resources that can help people do what

they need to do." Tammy classified professional development as a useful resource because

"You have to go to a lot of meetings to be able to interact with these different people and to get

resources to take back to your clientele." Adam appreciates the quality of resources available to

support his work:

I think the System, the University Extension in Florida is a very, very high quality system.
It' s very rewarding to work with high quality professional persons and be able to connect
to resources that are there and you feel like you have great support having the University of
Florida behind your back.

When conducting multi-county programs, Adam utilizes various resources located at each

extension office in the state, "I have been very successful to network with the county and the

agent in that particular area so they will connect me with the clientele there, we use their

facilities, we use the mailing list, so many things that I can use in multiple locations."

All twelve participants agreed on the importance of university specialists as a valuable

resource. Sean uses specialists to obtain current research information, "One of the things that

has helped me the most is those extension specialists that I work with... that's where I get the










university information to share with the producers... so that's been a really big organizational

help to me, all of those specialists." Patricia contacts specialists particularly when there is a

client question that she cannot answer, "A lot of times it is just going straight to the specialists

and saying this is what I've got with this grower, what do you think, what do you recommend,

and going straight to them... a lot of times the questions pertain to things that you aren't even on

EDIS, they haven't made it that far yet." There are a variety of resources offered by the

university to support agents and enable them to function effectively in their positions.

External Motivators

The category, external motivators, was comprised of two axial codes including measurable

performance indicators and external rewards. Each of these factors provided encouragement that

shaped the agents' decision to remain in extension.

Measurable performance indicators. Program participation and evaluation results were

the primary performance indicators used by participants. Sean discussed program participation

as a gauge of performance because "people do come to programs, they fill out the little

questionnaires that we give them...and most of those survey results are positive." Harry sees

client loyalty and repeat customers as reliable indicators, "Most of what I base whether I have

been successful or not is the relationships with the growers. I still have these growers that are

repeat customer types that obviously want me to be involved with them and helping them."

Adam measures his performance based on clientele comments, "I really see a lot of satisfaction

coming from the clientele, a lot of good statements that they are telling me, and I really can

measure how much I'm helping them." Tammy receives encouraging feedback through program

evaluations when she "gives the people a survey and they've all been very positive. They want

more education, they want me to come out and do farm visits, and they give me suggestions for

new programs or new ideas." While Jessica referred to the change in clients' attitudes as an










observable measure, "Since from when I first started to now, they've called more. They've

asked me more questions, when I go by to see them, they're not just ignoring me and they're real

friendly with me." She has seen their confidence in her increase as well, "They're just more

accepting of me... and that says they have some kind of confidence in me."

External rewards. Participants labeled external rewards as awards, scholarships,

recognition, promotions, financial incentives, and grants received during their careers as positive

experiences. Harry discussed the rewards of extension work and views personal success in two

ways, one is "related to interaction with clientele" and the other is a "more outward way, a more

tangible way of viewing the success from the university side would be in the area of awards and

recognition." He has won awards from "a state and national standpoint" and feels he's "gotten

more than enough as a member of teams and recognition within the institution," as well as

"gained recognition from my colleagues through the county agents association...as peer awards."

Jessica and Brenda both received grants that allowed them to do attend conferences and

implement programs that they would not have been able to do with their limited budgets.

Samantha attended leadership conferences, completed her Master' s degree, and received "some

promotions along the way and little incentives from the university which have been good." Matt

earned state and national recognition for his work and has been recognized by his peers as a top

agent "so that means a lot." He explained what he has learned through the years about receiving

awards and the importance of self-promotion:

This is a different kind of industry. You've got to promote yourself and that took me
several years to get over because all those awards I've won, I had to fill out the application
for. So you've kind of got to toot your own horn, but that' s also kind of how you gauge
yourself...that' s part of playing the game to get promoted.

Jessica revealed her feelings about receiving a national award and being recognized as county

employee of the year, "I don't know if that constitutes success but I feel it' s been good."










Change Agents

The category, change agents, was comprised of the axial code affecting social change. The

maj ority of participants regarded themselves as "change agents" and discussed several

experiences concerning change in extension. Harry's internal reinforcement of success is based

upon behavior changes seen over the years in client practices:

I see changes as a result of what we've been doing so the adoption of plastic mulch early
on my career going from zero acres to probably 15,000 acres in the region, there's things
that you can visibly see the impact that you're making. So I would say the measure of
success would be for me related to what' s it mean to the people I'm working with for the
most part. I'm seeing things that we're working on, I'm seeing them change, I'm seeing
them adopt the practices and learn how to do it themselves and then not needing me other
than maybe just a little bit of help along the way to continually guide them.

Gabby talked about the importance of career longevity for agents to see the change occur,

"Change happens slow and unless you've been here for a while, you don't see much change. If

you come in as an agent and stay three or four years, you are not going to see much because

change doesn't happen that fast and that can be frustrating for new agents." She continued to

explain the difficulties in changing behaviors and her shared role in the process:

Change is hard and it' s hard to get growers to change. Something has to happen in order to
make them do it, either money or regulations or something. So once that happens and it' s
been set, then I can step in and help them achieve that goal to meet that change. That's the
way that I think of it more than just me going out and say look what I have done, I got this
many growers to go to drip irrigation. It wasn't just me, it was part regulations, part the
water management district, and all this kind of stuff. But, I feel like I have been successful
in helping them.

Adam supported Gabby's view on the length of time it takes for change to occur, "... after four

or five years that you've spent here, then you see some results." Harry discussed the problems

with instability and turnover in agent positions when dealing with change:

It takes time in an area to vision and the longer that you are stable in the position, the better
that person probably is about doing that. So if there is constant change, turnover, and
constant turmoil, I think that is tough to be able to do those kinds of things. It' s important
in my mind that county agent positions in particular have long term continuous
relationships with people.









The ability to affect societal change is a priority for extension agents, but requires long-term

commitment to clientele and work responsibilities.

Network Of Support

The category, network of support, was comprised of the two axial codes including

supportive relationships and teamwork activities.

Supportive relationships. Relationships with peers, specialists, mentors, clients, advisory

committees, administrators, and office staff had a direct influence on agents' career decisions.

Participants regarded community and clientele relationships as the most influential in their

careers. Jessica experienced a "huge amount of support" from the community as they

"responded well to me" and helped her to become an established agent. Eric received "pretty

good feedback from clients" and as a result, decided to stay in his current position when another

job became available. He said, "I've developed a lot of good will over here... and some of the

relationships I've developed with the people in the industry is probably one of the big reasons I

didn't pursue it."

Organizational relationships also provided essential support. Tammy received support

from "within the office, the other agents around the state, and the agents here in my office" and

gives a lot of credit to her county director for being "very, very supportive of me... she just tried

to support me and help me to make the right decisions." Jessica showed her appreciation for

the Dean of Extension and the way that he interacts with agents, "He' s very interested in the

agents and wants to know them and does...he' s a big advocate for Extension like a Dean should

be, he's a good fellow." Sean described the importance of having a mutual relationship with

specialists, "The specialists that I deal with and I use those specialists and work with them

regularly because they come and help me do programs, and I go and help them do programs and









so forth. If I didn't have a good relationship with those people or didn't get along and work with

them well on a regular basis, I would not be here."

Teamwork activities. Benjamin credited teamwork as one of the reasons for his overall

j ob satisfaction, "I think there is quite a bit of teamwork going on in the extension office and

people see each other as comrades and are supportive of your programs." Eric saw the benefits

of teamwork when he was involved in several local and statewide programs, "I think the team

things, the more you can do, the better. It seems like the more ground you can cover." Matt

stated that "at about a year and a half, I was ready to quit," but explained how his peer group

reversed his decision to leave when he was struggling as a new agent:

I had some problems in the office I worked in. I didn't have very good supervisor, he gave
very little support, so I felt like I was on my own, struggling and if it hadn't been for the
other agents, I don't know that I would have stayed. So it was definitely the...that peer
group... I learned from them how to do a program. By going to the programs, I got
refreshed as to what the current information is and then I also had a group that I can
bounce ideas off of and build some success with, so I got some success out of something
they had already started, their momentum.

Samantha attributed her professional success to "working with a group of agents, I think

it' s good to have some collaborative effort with other agents because if you're out here by

yourself, you can sink or swim pretty quick." Matt also credited his peer group for helping him

to become established:

The thing that was probably the most significant for me was the county agent group that
was a group of mid level agents and veteran agents that were all working in the same
Hield... That peer group really pushed me along, I've also benefited from the Florida
Association of County Agriculture Agents and that certainly that has been good because it
opened me up to folks outside of our district and to a broader focus...so that has been very
helpful and it gives you an avenue to apply for awards and get to go on some trips to see
other states and see a more, broader, diversity of things than just what' s found in your
county and a neighboring counties.









Extension Work Environment

The category, extension work environment, was comprised of the two axial codes

including freedom and variety in job and characteristics of extension work.

Freedom and variety in job. The freedom and variety in extension work was referred to

by all of the participants as a determining factor to remain in the organization. The daily variety

of environments, situations, clientele, and activities were valuable assets to the job. Being a

former teacher, Samantha found that she enjoyed her career in better because of the diversity in

clientele and responsibilities encountered in a typical day, "Everyday is different... Every day I

get different phone calls about different problems dealing with people... and you never know

what' s going to occur." Jessica explained that her primary motivation to remain in her position

was the variety in the work environment, "I mean this job changes, you know it' s not like you're

stuck doing the same thing day after day and it's not like you're stuck in an office looking at four

walls or looking at the back of somebody's head or even in a cubical." Matt appreciates the

flexibility to help people with their problems and finds his work interesting:

That' s what it' s about, it' s helping folks and when you're helping people with problems
or...things they just want to do. It' s interesting. I mean you never know what today is
going to bring. Sometimes things are frustrating until you work through them, but there's
a lot of variety and you have some freedom to kind of choose what you're going to focus
on and what you're doing.

Participants enj oy the freedom to decide program needs for the clientele without needing

approval from supervisors. When asked about the one factor that influenced job satisfaction the

most, Brenda replied:

We have a lot of freedom in this j ob, even though we are accountable, we have a lot of
freedom. We can assess what needs to be done in our county, we can develop our program
around those needs, I would like to say that we can set our hours and our timeframe. But I
think that freedom is really nice, I have had in my working career a lot of different jobs
where I have been in management and I don't think any of them have been as satisfying as
this job.










Patricia supported this perspective, "I think that I have a lot of creative freedom and a lot of

opportunities to make decisions about how I want my programs to go. I like the input of

advisory committees... but I still feel like most of the decision making falls to me and I like that,

it appeals to me. I like the flexibility that I have to try new things." Gabby had opportunities to

leave extension as other agencies attempted to recruit her throughout the years, but her main

motivation to stay was "the lack of having to travel a lot and the flexibility in hours and things,

set my own schedule, and pretty much determine what my own program is with assistance from

the growers, I'm pretty well left alone to develop the program that I see the need for and that' s

good."

Characteristics of extension work. The absence of micromanagement, flexible work, j ob

stability, independence, work environments, and challenging situations were characteristics that

participants value in extension. Adam enjoys the freedom to structure his program around client

needs and is proud of the success he achieved from "taking a pilot program to a permanent

program" specifically designed by himself. Gabby appreciates the flexible nature of work, "I

think in industry sometimes, you're not allowed that flexibility, you are told here is what you are

gonna do and go sell this." To reach clientele, she "uses every educational tool that we can

think of to reach these people" including newsletters, emails, fax, meetings, site visits, research

demonstrations, grower trials, and public tours.

Matt likes the ability to make his own decisions in a non-restrictive office atmosphere,

"There's nobody who stands over your shoulder and tells you, you're going to do this today."

This allows him the freedom in his job to assist clientele in the best manner possible. He also

believes that extension is unique as it offers agents the opportunity to use "their own talents" and

improve upon them even though they may be different from others. In this way, he points out










that "you can both do the same job and do it well and do it differently. There is no magic

formula."

Grounded Theory

From the data analysis, a grounded theory was developed to describe the career decisions

of the twelve Florida agricultural extension agents who participated in the study. A grounded

theory is a "theory derived from data, systematically gathered and analyzed through the research

process where data collection, analysis, and eventual theory stand in close relationship with one

another and the theory emerges from the data" (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 12). The grounded

theory presented conceptually in Appendix B illustrates the multiple influences that made

varying impacts on the participants' decisions to enter and remain in the extension organization.

Factors that encouraged participants' decisions to enter into the extension organization are

represented in Figure B-1. Agricultural academic and work experiences, as well as the lack of

extension knowledge, comprised the influential agent background factors. Position fit of the

extension position to participants' lifestyle and career interests was an encouraging aspect.

Participants' career contacts of influential relationships and positive encouragement from peers,

colleagues, administrators, and clientele played an important role. The university affiliation and

nonformal work structure of extension were additional factors. Service to the agricultural

community was participants' desire to help agricultural producers solve problems. Participants'

job expectations related to the nature of extension work, including helping people, practical

work, challenging situations, and providing advice. All of these categories emerged as

influential factors and experiences that affected participants' decisions to pursue a career in

extension.

The factors relevant to participants' decision to remain in the extension organization are

represented in Figure B-1. Participants received internal satisfaction from positive feedback and









emotional fulfillment from extension work. External motivators consisted of measurable

performance indicators and rewards received for work accomplishments. Career benefits

consisted of professional development, position benefits, and university resources that provided

valuable career assistance. Network of support focused on supportive relationships and

teamwork activities that were beneficial to participants' work responsibilities. The extension

work environment included freedom and variety in the j ob and characteristics of extension work

as positive influences. Community leadership focused on the positive experiences in public

relations and expert community recognition. The ability to serve as a change agent and affect

societal change was also a positive factor. All of these categories emerged as influential factors

and experiences that affected participants' career decisions to remain in the extension

organization.

Summary

This chapter explained the results found from the research obj ectives (1) to understand the

factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to enter into the organization,

(2) to understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to

remain in the organization, and (4) to develop a grounded theory that explains the most

significant issues that affect the career decisions of Florida agricultural extension agents.

The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to enter into the organization were

agent background, career contacts, service to agricultural community, nature of extension work,

position fit, and university supported education. The selective categories relevant to agents'

decisions to remain in the organization were internal satisfaction, community leadership, external

motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environment.

A grounded theory was created to conceptualize the career experiences of the twelve participants

in the study and Appendix B illustrates the theory that resulted from the analysis.









CHAPTER 5
RESULTS OF INFLUENCES ON AGENTS AT DIFFERENT CAREER STAGES

The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the career decisions of agricultural

extension agents. This chapter discusses the results found from research objectives (3) to

discover the influences that shape career decisions of agricultural extension agents at different

career stages, and (4) to develop a grounded theory that explains the most significant issues that

affect the career decisions of agricultural extension agents.

At the conclusion of the transcription process, 198 pages of text were utilized in the data

analysis process. From the data, categories emerged specific to positive and negative influences

that shaped career decisions of agents at different career stages. The systematic process of

coding was used to separate, sort, and analyze the data. The constant comparison technique was

also employed to identify similarities and differences of patterns found in the data. An outline

detailing the relationships between the open codes, axial codes, and selective codes is shown in

Appendix A, Figure A-3. A grounded theory is also presented in Appendix C to conceptualize

the career influences of the twelve participants in the study and illustrate the theory that resulted

from the analysis.

Influences on Agricultural Extension Agents at Different Career Stages

Entry Level

The decisions of entry level agents were categorized into positive and negative influences

according to participants' responses. Comments from all twelve participants have been included

in this section as each reflected on the entry level career stage.

Positive influences

Positive influences on entry level agents' career decisions were comprised of the six axial

codes including personal skills and characteristics, knowledge bases, internal motivators,










external motivators, support system, and informational support. Participants were asked to

reflect on their experiences as an entry level agent and discuss factors that affected career

growth.

Personal skills and characteristics. Personal skills focused on agents' ability to apply

their individual talents, such as critical and creative thinking, problem solving, relationship

building, public speaking, people skills, and communication and listening. Participants enjoyed

"helping farmers with their problems," "providing obj ective advice," and "answering questions

in a non-biased way." Matt entered into extension because he realized that he "...was really

more talented working with people and with thinking outside the box, maybe a little more

creatively with problem solving."

Being able to help producers with practical problems was an appealing feature of extension

work to participants. Benj amin offered his opinion on skills that new agents must posses, such

as people skills and the ability to establish relationships:

First and foremost, you have to be a people person because you are working with people
and that can be hard for some agents to learn especially if you haven't been exposed to that
environment before. And you don't have to be effervescent or bubbly all the time, but you
have to learn how to establish relationships and make connections with potential clientele.
Also never dismiss anyone regardless of how ridiculous the question is because that person
is highly likely to be an asset in something else or another area and may well be giving you
ideas that will definitely help you. Those are very important to understand.

He continued to say that flexibility and willingness to change can make the difference between

program success and failure:

Flexibility, make sure that you have the skills to see there is a need to make a change and
making a change sometimes is not easy. But if you have to do it, you really should
because it can make the difference between having a meaningful outreach or not. So, if
something is not working properly or the program is not working properly, be willing to
drop it or to change it.

Essential personal characteristics according to participants were willingness to learn,

humbleness, patience, comfort with people, organization, self-confidence, and a challenging and










cooperative attitude. Jessica explained how dependence on others was a critical factor for her

survival as a new agent, "You must have a willingness to admit that you don't know something.

Don't think you're going to know things. I mean maybe you will, but if you're fresh out of

college, you're going to know nothing probably. So, not being afraid to ask someone for help

because you're going to have to ask somebody for help. You cannot do this alone." A

cooperative attitude assisted in agents' ability to network and relate to clientele. Jessica learned

how to use public partnerships to her advantage, "You have to know what other departments do

and not just county departments, but federal departments too, and how they can work into doing

stuff with you or how you can help them because they have their clientele base built up already

and it's usually your same clientele base."

Personal interests in community education, program development, and production

agriculture were additional dimensions that matched to professional responsibilities. Tammy

expressed her desire to "educate producers about best management practices and educate youth

about career choices." Matt felt that his personal and professional background was a good match

for an agent position, "I had some expertise and I had some talents that fit more with people

skills and communication skills, but I also had a practical background that fit with the job."

Brenda chose extension "to be an educator and I felt like I could make a difference and I feel like

I am making a difference." During her interview, she saw the potential growth in the job and

thought, "This was an exciting place and I took the job. I came and I've not been sorry."

Knowledge bases. Having knowledge in the areas of extension, evaluation, program

development, community development, change, and production agriculture were beneficial to

understanding work responsibilities. This knowledge allowed agents to immediately address

clientele problems and build relationships upon entering the system. All of the participants had










prior involvement in commercial agriculture through one or more of the following ways:

industry work, research, academic programs, and growing up on a farm. Each had at least one

academic degree in a technical agricultural area and obtained a variety of work experiences

during their academic programs and graduate research. The maj ority of participants indicated

that their knowledge of extension was obtained through internships, research assistance, industry

collaboration, agent presence, or extension programs.

Participants specifically discussed the importance of practical field experience in

agriculture as a primary factor influencing their career success. Tammy believes that having

practical experience is critical to complement the academic knowledge of new agents:

Just the basic knowledge of whatever the clients need... I have such a strong knowledge of
it because of my background. I mean you can go to the classes and stuff, but if you don't
have the experience, hands on experience and really working with it, then you're not able
to give that advice, like personal advice...if you can't offer them real hands on experience
then...it would be really hard for the agent to give advice if they don't know.

She said that the lack of having practical experience is one reason why agents leave because

"they don't know how to answer the questions and it's really hard." Tammy continued to

explain how experience helps to develop an understanding of client problems:

You can relate to what the people are going through and you can kind of feel their pain for
them, so it really helps the client for them to know that you understand what they're going
through because if they think that you know what they are talking about, I think they are a
lot more apt to ask you a question.

Additional areas of knowledge that were beneficial to agents included reporting and

accountability measures, tenure and promotion requirements, computer programs and

technologies, and diversity in agriculture.

However, participants agreed that two current problems with many new agricultural agents

is the lack of field experience and limited exposure to careers in extension. Four participants

believe that agricultural field experience should be a requirement for new agents. Tammy said,









"I think a lot of the problems with getting new agents is that there' s not people educated in the

subject matter." Matt supported this statement, "I honestly believe that we should, especially in

agriculture, require our new agents to have an internship somewhere working in the field we're

going to be working in... it would sure help folks if they just had a little bit of taste of what the

industry is doing." Samantha also agreed that "less kids coming out of college have an

agriculture background...so that' s the problem, they don't have the experience or the

background to jump into a position like this."

The other issue mentioned by participants was the limited exposure of agriculture students

to careers in extension. Only five of twelve participants had deliberately been exposed to

extension prior to employment. Tammy stated, "...there aren't young people with that education

or they just don't know those j obs are available. So I think just getting extension more visible

into maybe the high schools or FFA so that those students that want to go into agriculture know

that extension is a really good career to go into." Matt gave his view on the existing recruitment

process and the need to improve strategies:

I feel like we've done a very poor j ob of recruitment. I mean it' s basically if you want a
job with us, there' s all these jobs in our website, but that' s not how you get good people.
If you want the best football player to come play for the Gators, you don't just tell them
well you just apply on-line and you can come play football, you go out and find them and
you recruit them.

Several participants referred to the adage, "extension is the best kept secret" and identified

this as one of the problems with recruitment. As Patricia stated, "That' s the biggest hindrance in

hiring people in extension would be people don't know about it. I think even in agricultural

colleges, people don't know about it." Matt pointed out that it is important to "have the right

person for the right job...and sometimes we just settle for whatever is in the pool and we pick the

best in the pool. Maybe some of those times we should have just started over."










Support system. A strong support system was mentioned by all agents as a positive

influence on their career decisions. Having the support of peers, supervisors, mentors,

colleagues, specialists, clients, and administrators had a direct impact on new agents as they

began. Matt was very appreciative of guidance from his supervisor when he began his position,

"It makes a lot of difference when you start and you have a boss who's willing to take the time to

tell you what' s expected and what are some things that you need to do right away." Jessica

experienced a "huge amount of support" from the community as they "responded well to me and

don't treat me like an outsider" which helped her to establish herself as an agent. Tammy has

received support from "within the office, the other agents around the state, and the agents here in

my office," as well as from her advisory committee, "They give me ideas and suggestions."

Most importantly, Tammy appreciates her county director because she "keeps up with the agents

and supports them with what they're doing, I think that' s really beneficial." She gave an

example of how her director shows interest in each agent every week:

She walks around on Monday morning and says how did your program go this weekend
and she wants to know everything that happened and a lot of times, she'll even come to
your programs and I think that' s just really important to have a good CED.

Eric' s praised his district director' s management style as he explained "if you need

something, he is more than happy to give you feedback, but as long as you're cruising along,

he's not going to mess with you." Jessica specifically made it a point to compliment the Dean

of Extension for his interest and familiarity with agents:

The Dean really seems to care about you which surprised me. I mean he's the Dean of
Extension. There's a bunch of us, but he knows all of us. How does he do that? And he
seems to actually care...how many managers of big companies...they don't care. I think
that if I actually had something going wrong with my family, he'd care.

Harry was strongly influenced by a colleague agent that he worked with and described him

as a mentor that shaped his perspective of being an extension agent:









He knew how to work with people and he was a people person and starting out in
extension with a guy like this was a godsend to learn how to treat people and service
people and have fun in the j ob and all that kind of stuff...he had been there a long time and
just had the respect of everybody that he ever touched, a storyteller, and starting out with
him as a mentor was just really phenomenal. I don't think it could ever be replaced.

Matt summarized important considerations for new agents, "The thing that' s going to make it

good or bad is when you step into that j ob in that county, what support system do you have? Are

you just left on your own or is there somebody strong there that' s going to kind of guide you and

give you some directions, take you out...I mean, get in the truck with them and go riding and

meet some of the key people."

Informational support. Access to educational resources, in-service training, new agent

orientation, professional development, specialists, and university resources were positive

influences on entry level agents' career growth. Eric appreciated "having the full resources of

the university at your disposal" and the fact that "you don't have to know everything and do it

alone, but you do have those resources to help you get your j ob done." Resource availability was

important for Jessica to perform her j ob as she found "whenever you need something, there' s

somebody to offer a resource. It may not be my county director, it may be one of the other

agents, it may be somebody in a different county, it may be somebody within the county, or

another county department that'll help you out." Matt claims one factor that added to his job

satisfaction was "I feel like we have resources that can help people do what they need to do."

All twelve participants agreed on the importance of university specialists as a valuable

resource. Sean uses specialists to obtain current research information, "One of the things that

has helped me the most is those extension specialists that I work with... that's where I get the

university information to share with the producers... so that's been a really big organizational

help to me, all of those specialists." Patricia contacts specialists particularly when there is a

client question that she cannot answer, "A lot of times it is just going straight to the specialists









and saying this is what I've got with this grower, what do you think, what do you recommend,

and going straight to them... a lot of times the questions pertain to things that you aren't even on

EDIS, they haven't made it that far yet."

Professional development opportunities including extension symposium, focus teams,

short courses, in-service, conferences, and new agent orientation were also critical for new

agents to build their knowledge and expertise. Tammy values the in-service training provided

for entry level agents," I think things like that really help because it gives you programs you can

provide for your clients and then it also helps to educate yourself at the same time with new

information to keep you up to date on what' s going on in the industry." She continued to discuss

the additional benefit of social networking at the training, "It gets new agents oriented into

what' s going on, trains them, and gets them introduced to new agents, or other agents and other

programs that are going on around the state." Adam appreciates the quality of resources

available to support his work, "I think the system, the University Extension in Florida is a very,

very high quality system. It' s very rewarding to work with high quality professional persons and

be able to connect to resources that are there and you feel like you have great support having the

University of Florida behind your back."

Internal motivators. Internal motivators created positive reinforcement for entry level

agents to gauge their success and provide direction for the future. Feedback, freedom, job

variety and flexibility, goal setting, and reputation establishment were all positive influences.

Feedback received from clientele, peers, and supervisors guides agents as they become

established in the county. Tammy relies upon program evaluations to establish a needs-based

program agenda, "Having the surveys is really helpful to know what they want and what I can










provide for them that they will be interested in." Benj amin agreed, "Evaluate everything because

that actually gives you feedback on what you are doing right and what you are not doing right."

Positive feedback from clientele was considered the most important factor to participants'

internal satisfaction. Samantha discussed her experiences working with producers and the

satisfaction she feels from their feedback, "The most satisfying is your clientele. When you help

them with a problem or solution... and then they tell you, we couldn't have done it without you

and we appreciate it." Harry discussed how he gauges his own success based on "clear messages

from the clientele that what we were doing was right." Matt also regarded feedback from

producers as encouraging but stated "if you live for that you're going to starve because that

doesn't come that often and it certainly doesn't right away, so that' s something that comes

overtime." He understands that "you've got to build a long term relationship with people before

you really start to get some positive feedback."

Feedback from supervisors offered positive encouragement. Benjamin discussed his

relationship with his extension directors, "I think I have a pretty fascinating CED and established

a good rapport with the DED. He sends little tidbits and ideas and tries to nudge people in

certain directions. Those have been really meaningful." Matt commented that majority of his

feedback comes from supervisors, "Probably the most feedback you get is from your

supervisors...some are better than others, but the supervisors give you feedback to let you know

you're doing a good job."

The freedom and variety in extension work was referred to by all participants as a

determining factor to remain in the organization. The daily variety of environments, situations,

clientele, and activities were valuable assets to the job. Being a former teacher, Samantha found

that she enjoyed her career in extension better because of the diversity in clientele and work










responsibilities encountered in a typical day, "Everyday is different... Every day I get different

phone calls about different problems dealing with people... and you never know what' s going to

occur." Matt appreciates the flexibility to help people with their problems and finds his work

interesting:

That' s what it' s about, it' s helping folks and when you're helping people with problems
or...things they just want to do. It' s interesting. I mean you never know what today is
going to bring. Sometimes things are frustrating until you work through them, but there's
a lot of variety and you have some freedom to kind of choose what you're going to focus
on and what you're doing.

Jessica explained that her primary motivation to remain in her position was the variety in the

work environment, "I mean this job changes, you know it' s not like you're stuck doing the same

thing day after day and it' s not like you're stuck in an office looking at four walls or looking at

the back of somebody's head or even in a cubical."

The freedom to decide program needs for the clientele without needing approval from

supervisors was also appreciated. When asked about the one factor that influenced j ob

satisfaction the most, Brenda replied:

We have a lot of freedom in this j ob, even though we are accountable, we have a lot of
freedom. We can assess what needs to be done in our county, we can develop our program
around those needs, I would like to say that we can set our hours and our timeframe. But I
think that freedom is really nice, I have had in my working career a lot of different j obs
where I have been in management and I don't think any of them have been as satisfying as
this job.

Patricia supported this perspective, "I think that I have a lot of creative freedom and a lot of

opportunities to make decisions about how I want my programs to go. I like the input of

advisory committees... but I still feel like most of the decision making falls to me and I like that,

it appeals to me. I like the flexibility that I have to try new things." The one thing that Jessica

really enj oys about her j ob is "that the university allows a lot of freedom in deciding what your

programs are." Eric appreciates the self-directed type of work characteristic to extension, "I










don't see a whole lot of ultimatums passed down, you will do this or you will do that. It' s kind

of up to you and I think they should keep it that way."

External motivators. External motivators referenced by entry agents included client

behavior changes, program participation, teamwork efforts, recognition, peer encouragement,

awards, scholarships, and grants. Success accomplished through teamwork was described as an

important experience that helps agents establish their reputation. As Harry reflected, "It' s

obvious to me that teams are also what help the new agents survive those first Hyve years."

The ability to see client behavior changes was noted as principal motivating factor.

Benj amin explained his primary motivation is his comfort in helping others to change:

The fact that I understand what I am doing, the fact that I am comfortable in this zone, the
fact that I believe that one of the greatest satisfiers for me is to make somebody else happy
with making a decision that I have suggested, to make a change based on what I suggested,
and it works out in their favor both economically and otherwise. To quite a degree, those
things are more meaningful than money.

He added his view on the importance of visible changes, "I really want to see change happen and

I want to be a part of that change. I've been there before, I've done things and changed things

and I was and still am very very happy about some of those things that I have seen. It makes me

feel like I am leaving a mark, an ecological mark on this earth."

Participants discussed the struggles of program development including where to start

programming efforts, how to identify clientele, and where to obtain program funding. Jessica

discussed her gratitude for professional development grants to develop new programs and

expand her outreach:

Those mini grants that they offered...that is so welcomed and so appreciated because I
mean we might have these grandiose ideas, but we don't have any money. So having a
few dollars to work with can really help you get some of your ideas off the ground...and
maybe to people that don't know about extension. Some of the money, what we're using it
for is going towards people who don't know about extension or don't know about what
your program is.










Not only did grants give her financial support for programs, it also helped to expand her clientele

base, gain public and peer recognition, receive awards, and motivate her to continue.

Negative influences

Negative influences on entry level agents' career decisions were comprised of the four

axial codes including initial mandated requirements, personal work management issues, lack of

direction, and job pressures.

Initial mandated requirements. Meetings, reporting and accountability, tenure and

promotion, completion of a Master' s degree, programming efforts, and the hiring process were

difficult to handle as an entry level agent. Participants referred to the initial hiring process as

"time consuming," "lengthy," and "inefficient." Matt said, "It takes forever for us to hire

somebody." Patricia has seen the organization lose highly qualified candidates as a result of the

length of hiring process, "They are moving onto other things because they don't have the time to

wait so we're losing out on some wonderful people."

Matt discussed the combined pressures on entry level agents to succeed and obtain a

Master' s degree at the same time, "I think that it' s pretty tough to try to go to school and

establish yourself... the first year you're frustrated, the second year is when you start to come up

with something, and the next thing you know, you're trying to go to school too." Jessica is

working on her graduate degree and regrets not completing it earlier "because it stresses me out

not having it done and always being bothered and asked about it." Sean agreed, "I think it

would've been nice to have Master' s before I got here," but he also recognized the advantages of

experience while being enrolled in the program and working at the same time.

Several of the twelve participants commented on the difficulties encountered with the

reporting and accountability requirements. A commonality found among all agents was the










negative experiences with the reporting system. As Benj amin stated, "it must be easier to work

with...it' s time consuming and cumbersome... if reporting is not made easier, more manageable,

and less cumbersome, then it' s gonna drive people away." Participants discussed the stress of

having to complete an annual report without proper training and supervision upon entering their

positions.

Personal work management issues. Personal work management issues that negatively

affected new agents included scheduling difficulties, poor time management, inadequate salaries,

limited access to resources, long work hours, and out of pocket expenses. Salaries and high cost

of living was an issue new agents were trying to overcome. As living costs rise in the state,

Tammy said, "It's really hard to find a place to live with the way housing and land development

is going." Even though salaries may increase, she stated, "I don't know if that increase will be

enough to make it over what the cost of living will be."

Several agents had initial troubles with organization, time management, planning, and

efficiency in their work. Eric discussed the difficulties he faced, "I was kind of haphazard with

that and there's times when you spend half a day trying to find an email, just little things like

that, that' just learning...when you go from getting four or five emails a month to four or five

an hour, it' s a whole different world. So just understand how much information you're dealing

with and getting my plans all set out." Lack of self-confidence can also be prohibiting to new

agents as Jessica stated, "I don't know if I am ever going to be the kind that will be able to

answer questions right off the bat just about some random thing...I probably wish I knew more."

Lack of direction. Lack of direction, unclear guidance and expectations, inadequate

leadership, and the absence of a job description were problematic during the early years. Matt

commented on the vague job expectations that confront new agents, "That' s the biggest thing









I've heard is people starting out...they don't understand the expectations." Brenda reflected on

her first day and how she felt lost, "I sat at this desk, didn't have a phone, didn't have a

computer, and I thought okay what does an extension agent do?" Matt described similar

experiences as he reflected on his challenges in the first year:

It' s hard...extension agents are very independent. Nobody tells you when you come in,
you've got these Hyve things to do today...you kind of feel like you're on your own.
There's nobody to tell you what you need to be doing...It is hard in the beginning in a very
flexible open j ob with no set structure. I mean there are certain things that are expected.
You're expected to do at least two maj or educational programs, you're expected to do
some kind of written communication and you're expected to make contact with the people
you serve. That's pretty loose. So I think that was the thing I struggled with is I just
wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, or what I was expected to do.

Tammy explained how lack of leadership and program understanding among directors

negatively affects new agents:

Some of the CEDs, they don't have very good leadership skills and they try to
micromanage their agents and that doesn't work at all. I mean that makes people leave
extension really fast...so having good leadership is really critical...even the district
directors, they may not understand what the ag agents deal with on a daily basis, they don't
have agriculture experience so they don't understand why we do the programs, the way we
do them, or why we don't have that many programs for the cattlemen because they just
don't come.

She added that directors' inadequate support for agents can cause added stress:

I think the county directors and the district directors and all the way up they have to
understand what' s going on in the county level and to be able to know what the agents are
doing. And support the agents, not criticize them.

Although participants had an idea of general responsibilities as an agent, several described

the lack of a clear, stated job description as "frustrating" to a new agent. Matt explained, "There

is no job description that tells you what to do. You're just supposed to relate and do problem

solving and do education programs for these folks, whatever group of folks you were hired to

work with and nobody says, this is what you ought to do." Patricia commented, "Honestly, I

didn't know what agents did when I applied for the job," while Gabby had a similar attitude as









she searched for a place to start her programs, "I had no clue. I didn't know what to expect

because the previous agent in the position wasn't real forthcoming about things." Jessica did

not have any previous exposure to extension so she had few expectations as a new agent. She

remarked, "I didn't have a definitive idea. I had nothing to base it on." Brenda discussed how

she believes this issue of lack of job expectations could be addressed by the organization:

I think the applicants need a realistic view of what extension involves and that it is a
special kind of job. It' s not a 9 to 5 j ob where you go home and forget about your j ob at
the end of the day... I know the application has vague basic things, but if there was some
way to provide them with a realistic outline or flyer or booklet or something that gives
some of the specifics of extension so they have some realistic expectations prior to going
into the job.

Job pressures. Job pressures assumed by entry level agents can be overwhelming. These

pressures include the pressure for success, tenure and promotion requirements, building

programs, and obtaining a Master' s degree. Matt believes that "backing off the pressure" would

be helpful because "the first year you're frustrated, the second year is when you start to come up

with something, and the next thing you know, you're trying to go to school too." He continued

to discuss the issues faced by entry level agents and the pressure to succeed, "You've got to have

some recognition, you've got to show them some excellence, and you have to have written some

things. So there' s a fair amount of pressure now on new people coming in to succeed and

succeed quickly when they really don't know what they're doing."

Although Tammy completed her degree before entering extension, she revealed her

thoughts on this issue, "If I was a new agent and I had that to tackle, that might be one reason for

getting out of extension. I think maybe that is why a lot of younger agents have left just because

they don't have their Master' s and they have that staring them in the face...so I think having

your Master' s degree is critical to starting a career in extension." Eric discussed the increase in

number of farm visits, programs, and work responsibilities he experiences as a new agent, "I










guess now there' s gotten to be more and more on my plate and that' s the toughest thing to keep

up doing what you're doing, so I need to figure out a way to be able to continue." Preparation

for tenure and promotion was mentioned by all participants as a constant pressure that is

enforced, but lacks clear guidelines, expectations, and standards.

Colleague Level

The decisions of colleague level agents were categorized into positive and negative

influences according to responses by participants. Comments have been included from eight

participants, four colleague and four counselor/advisor agents, in this section as each reflected on

this career stage.

Positive influences

Positive influences on colleague level agents' career decisions were comprised of the five

axial codes including internal motivators, external motivators, career growth opportunities,

career management strategies, and collaboration with key people.

Internal motivators. Internal motivators that positively influenced agents included

completion of tenure and promotion, long-term visible results, client behavior changes, feedback,

peer and community recognition, and an established reputation. Brenda' s described her internal

motivation as client-focused, "I'm very driven and I get a lot of personal satisfaction from what I

do. Whether other people consider it successful or not, I think I have been successful... I think I

made a difference...to make a difference and to be able to affect change for the better." At one

point, she told the Dean of Extension, "I would almost pay you to do this j ob because it really is

a very satisfying j ob and I enj oy it...I think it' s the fact that people appreciate what we do for

them and that' s really satisfying."

Samantha explained the professional satisfaction that she felt after completing the tenure

and promotion process, "I feel pretty good about what I've done...I finished my five years and









went up for tenure and promotion...so I think that' s pretty successful if you can stick with it for

that five years and get the promotion packet completed." Adam discussed the importance of

being able to see changes happen and how it drives him to continue. He recognized the

importance of longevity in a position and its connection to results:

It would be different if I wasn't here for four or five years... I would really have to look
around and see how can I answer that but for me, that gap is filled. I can see my job
connected with the clientele and also the clientele making some progress or some results,
so I think that' s the main thing that really keeps me going at this point.

Internal motivators were helpful in building agents' self-confidence as they developed internal

and external networks, leadership skills, and solidified their reputation with peers and clients.

External motivators. External motivators mentioned included awards, promotions,

financial incentives, program success, recognition, community acceptance, increased salary,

work expansion, clientele improvements, and an established reputation. Samantha has received

"some promotions along the way and little incentives that the university provided which have

been good." Along with incentives, she appreciates recognition and approval from her

supervisor, "A pat on the back every once in a while... it can be pretty lonely with the

workload." Brenda considered evaluation feedback as encouraging performance measures, "I

have good numbers and survey results which have shown relevance and that they have learned

something." Peer recognition was also an external motivator as Patricia explained, "Peers have

been really important and encouraging me to apply for awards and asking to share my work with

them. I am getting good feedback on that." She added, "I have been called on by people from

around the state to help with things and that's nice too, that's a nice incentive to keep doing the

job."

Career growth opportunities. Participants discussed various career growth opportunities

that positively influenced their careers including professional development, conferences,










completion of Master' s degree, leadership positions, and in-service. Sean reflected on the

completion of his Master' s program and offered mixed emotions on the experience:

I think it would've been nice to have a Master' s before I got here... But, as I went through
that Master' s program, even though it took me forever, there is a lot of benefit to being in
the real world before you go and get a Master' s... I learned a lot that maybe I wouldn't had
learned if I had gone straight through... it was just a lot more real-life application.

Samantha also completed her Master' s degree while employed and appreciated the financial

support the organization offered, "They waive your tuition and everything...so that's a pretty

good deal."

Patricia has served in several leadership positions including program leader, committee

chair, district director, and on a national board which have all "been positive." Samantha was an

officer in local and state associations and found that "working together with those groups has

probably help me develop in leadership and also helped me with just working together with

people so you've got somebody you can call." She was also selected by her county director to

participate in a leadership conference which was "a good learning experience." Brenda was

especially appreciative of the approachability of administrators:

I'm pretty happy with the way things have gone. I have gotten a lot of support along the
way, I think that extension administration is very approachable and it was very refreshing
to find people in administration so approachable and I'm not intimidated. So I felt like if I
needed information and I wasn't getting it, I can just go to the top... Definitely, you feel
like you can voice your concerns and that to me is very important and I'm very
appreciative and glad about that.

Professional development and in-service were regarded as beneficial career improvement

activities. Brenda specifically appreciates the in-service training and grants available to agents,

"I received maybe eleven hours of training over this past year and that was extremely helpful

because I have had a lot of it before, but it doesn't hurt to have it again because refresher courses

are good...Also, the administration offers professional development grants and I applied for one

and I got it and got to go someplace that I would have not gotten to go."










Career management strategies. Participants reflected on career management strategies

that influenced j ob satisfaction including experiential learning, client communication,

establishing limits, organization, time management, resource utilization, empowering others,

independent learning, overcoming obstacles, and program promotion. Establishing personal

limits and time management were particular strategies that agents learned as they became more

experienced. Samantha commented on the importance of scheduling, "Don't get too

overwhelmed with everything you can do. Because we can't do everything...I've learned to say

no some because at the beginning, I was doing everything and you can't do that, you can't.

You've got to learn to say no and learn to schedule your time." She gave an example of her

approach, "I've learned to try to schedule and spend more time with my kids and my family...

I've also tried to schedule my evening meetings so that I don't have them back to back or three

in one week which when I started, it was like that....you've got to learn to schedule

programming time and work that accordingly." Sean improved his time management skills and

said, "I think you learn it. You learn how to manage your time more efficiently if you're

working on something on how to get it done efficiently that is still turning out a quality product."

Brenda makes it a priority "at the beginning of the year to put days off...even if you may not

take it at that point, at least you've got it already sequestered and you have the possibility of

having time off. It took me several years to learn that in order to get free time, you had to make

it first."

Samantha recommended to "keep a separate record" of information and "don't rely on the

database... develop your own system." Sean spent the majority of his early years building a

reputation and as he reflected on this experience, he saw how this time was well spent:

You work and hopefully through that work you develop a good program... You are
building a reputation early in that career and that pays off for you later. But at the same










time, it can't be tell me what you did for me, it' s tell me what you did for me LATELY.
It's all got to be current. You can't just rely on a reputation.

Brenda credits her success to the time available at this point in her life, "I not sure that I

would've been as successful in extension if I had come to it younger when I still had children at

home. I think I have the ability to give more time now because I have it."

Participants emphasized the importance of experiential, independent, and continuous

learning. Not having a formal background in education, Brenda learned as much as possible on

teaching methods, "You have to learn about adult education and the techniques. And I think if

you don't get that pretty soon after you come into this job, then it makes it pretty hard." Patricia

agreed and devotes time to observe other agents' programs to improve her teaching skills, "So I

really spent a lot of time, well still now, but even those first years, I spent a lot of time

intensively looking and seeking out other people who were doing a good j ob, attending all their

classes, stealing their ideas, trying to get into other trainings...most of everything that I do has

been taken from somebody else." Adam would like to "increase skills in one particular area of

knowledge...get more specific opportunities to increase education and methodology skills...and

really become a highly specialized person."

Collaboration with key people. Collaboration with advisory committees, colleagues,

specialists, communities, and professional associations provided positive experiences for

colleague level agents. Samantha collaborates with her advisory committee not only to plan her

program agenda, but the group serves as her support system, "You need to work very closely

with an advisory committee because they back you up in programming if you ever have a

problem, they're there to back you up. I've got ten or twelve people on my advisory committee

that are my best friends, I can call them up for anything, and they're also large producers in my

county, so I think it's good to have that clientele advisory committee relationship." She also










relied on association involvement as "that gives you opportunities to win awards which looks

good"~ ~ ~ ~~~I adseilssbcue"ts hard for young agents to get a j journal article, but if you can,


pair up with a specialist."

Matt gave credit to a multi-county agent group for his early successes, while Samantha

also relies upon her colleagues for support, "Working with that group of agents, I think it' s good

to have some collaborative effort with other agents because if you're out here by yourself, you

can sink or swim pretty quick." Samantha' s dedicated involvement in the agricultural agents

association has been a commitment that has provided numerous career contacts, "Our Ag agents

association, FACAA, I've found that through the years it's good to get involved because that

gives you some people all over the state if you need to call or need help." Brenda also

understands the importance of collaboration as she serves as program leader and manager in her

office. She has "divided up sub-management," "empowered the master gardeners," has "a

supportive office," and works with colleagues in teams to accomplish goals. The regional teams

that she worked with offered "a wealth of experience...a good informational sharing

organization and good for learning and getting support for what you were doing or to know that

you were on the right track."

Negative influences

Negative influences on colleague level agents' career decisions were comprised of three

axial codes including performance evaluations, salary disparity, and personal work management

issues.

Performance measures. Inconsistencies in the reporting system, performance

evaluations, promotion requirements, and evaluation guidelines negatively affected agents' job

satisfaction. Difficulties with the reporting system were referenced by all participants as a










negative experience in their careers. Sean described his ongoing experiences with reporting,

"They ought to do whatever it is in their power to streamline annual reporting and it might help

with retention of future employees. I see that as an annual obstacle that usually is a maze of stuff

...and you know the thing is, the report that they want you to do is different every year."

Samantha believes the university needs to "work out the kinks in the reporting system so that it' s

easier and user friendly because that right there can drive an agent away."

The constant changes in the reporting systems have been detrimental to organization and

record keeping. Samantha explained how she faced these changes and their effect on her tenure

and promotion process:

Get organized, get your own system because they told us that when you get ready to do
your tenure and promotion packet, we can combine all these four different databases or
four different systems that I've been on, or we can pull it all together and it will be right
there in the format. No it' s not. Wrong, it doesn't happen.

Sean reiterated this lack of reliability and compatibility of the reporting system, "We would get

this system and they would say if you fill these out, then it' s gonna generate your promotion

packet and it wouldn't. Actually, the promotion packet is a whole different thing." Adam faced

particular difficulties with the tenure and promotion process and said, "I was very

disappointed...and it was frustrating...you expect to have a very fair evaluation...you have to

have very clear rules because if you don't then the guidance for people will not really be good

and people will get disappointed with the system."

Salary disparity. Disparity in salary compression, program comparisons, and pay raises

were cited as negative influences on career satisfaction. Salary compression was the primary

concern among agents at this level. Samantha expressed her perceptions of the problem with

salaries and agent experience:

Salary compression is a problem because now people with Master's degrees are starting
out at $40K which I did not start out at six years ago and so they get closer and closer to










what I'm making now. It' s worse for people that have been in the system for 15 or 20
years, so I think that' s an issue...there's agents making not much less than me that started
just a year ago and don't have the experience that I have.

Patricia agreed that pay was an issue when "people starting out are gonna get as much as you are

with no experience because they adjusted the salaries." Adam felt that salaries need to be more

competitive, considerate of the different living costs throughout the state, and compensate for

expanding areas of work.

The correlation between evaluation scores and pay raises was also an unsettling issue.

Sean offered his view on the ineffectiveness of the current pay raise system, "They've got a

system where they read and evaluate your reports and they give you a score and that score is

from one to seven...my point is there is no spread in that raise whether you get a three or a four

or if you get a seven...It doesn't convert to anything real."

Personal work management issues. Personal work management issues that negatively

affect agents' careers included lack of contact with specialists, travel issues, increasing

responsibilities, time constraints, and community conflict. Brenda compared the differences in

the type of stress between industry and extension work, "The stress that I have here in extension

is the kind of stress that I create for myself. Deadlines, pressures to succeed, or to do too much

in one week and that's a little bit easier to manage than stress that is put on you by other people."

Gabby reflected on the increasing demands from clientele and the university that

contributed to her burnout at this point in her career:

I think it was when I first hit that first burnout period which I think everybody hits after
about 10 years, 8-10 years. You finally have gotten one promotion and now you're
looking at a second and third promotion and they want national and international type of
experience and they really start wanting more and more. By then, people know you and
they start calling you more and your time gets spread thinner and thinner and I do think
people tend to burnout at about 8 years or so. So, that was a time when I looked really
seriously at some of the other positions because the salary wasn't that great.










She added, "You start getting put on more committees, getting more asked of you from the

university, and from even within the counties, and it just seems to be all of a sudden almost more

than you can handle." According to Patricia, the increasing responsibilities "make you feel

there is not enough hours and that you are just not gonna get finished and there are too many

things happening."

All colleague level agents recognized the value of specialists to complete their work

responsibilities, however there were specific problems related to contact with specialists. Brenda

described her frustration with the sharing of information between specialists and agents:

Probably one of the most frustrating things, occasionally there will be a ...problem that a
researcher at the university is working on, but they haven't shared that information with us.
This happened to me twice and there has been an article in the paper about it and we didn't
know about it. I hate people calling me and asking me for information on something that I
have no idea about and that' s embarrassing to us. If they are working on something that is
that important and it gets into the paper, then we need to know about it two or three weeks
at least before the paper is working on it.

She described another experience stemming from the lack of communication with specialists,

"Sometimes extension specialists come into the county invited by groups other than extension

and we don't even know about it. We'd like to know, we might come or we might use them

while they are here. So, I think that is a communication thing. So communications could

probably be better between specialists and agents."

Counselor/Advisor Level

The decisions of counselor/advisor level agents were categorized into positive and negative

influences according to responses by participants. Comments from the four counselor/advisor

level agents have been included in this section as each reflected on this career stage.

Positive influences









Positive influences on counselor/advisor level agents' career decisions were comprised of

the four axial codes including internal motivators, external motivators, career growth

opportunities, and career management strategies.

Internal motivators. Internal motivators for agents included personal enjoyment, helping

people, having an expert reputation, positive feedback, recognition, community respect, client

loyalty, colleague interactions, and challenging work. Harry has remained in extension because

"I feel like this is what I was born to do." Patricia described the personal satisfaction that she

receives from working in extension, "I really enj oy what I do and that has been the driving factor

in keeping me in extension, I do enj oy what I do, I feel like I am making a difference and that' s

important." Matt had a similar opinion on what drives agents to stay in extension:

Everybody talks about money, but it' s not about money...the reason you do all that extra
stuff is because you have pride in your j ob and you want to do your best and you have that
drive to do your best, but you also genuinely want to help people. I don't know that the
administration can give you that, drive and satisfaction.

Matt regards feedback from his peers as the best way to gauge his professional success:

I think your peers give you some feedback too and sometimes that's where you gauge
yourself is by your peers. I get a lot of agents now that call me to ask my opinion. That
didn't happen when I started, that' s something you build over time and it's the same as the
clientele, you've got to build those relationships.

Gabby finds the challenge of extension work motivating, "Everyday I say well, I learned

something new today. It' s a challenge keeping up with these growers because they're so

intelligent. I have learned a lot more about agriculture." Harry's internal satisfaction was

apparent as he reflected on his career choices, "I would say the likelihood that I could've done

any better, fit any better, enjoyed it any better, I don't think that would've been likely."

External motivators. External motivators at this career stage included awards, outreach

funding, creating independent learners, community impact, client behavior change, feedback,

teamwork results, outcome indicators, and client success. Matt was proud to be recognized as a









member of the community and the dignity associated with his j ob, "It' s nice to be recognized in

the community as a kind of a community leader...you're not just somebody who' s working an

eight to five job and you go home and you're a nobody."

Changes in client behaviors were a primary motivator for agents. Harry's measurement of

success is based upon changes seen over the years in client practices:

I see changes as a result of what we've been doing so the adoption of plastic mulch early
on my career going from zero acres to probably 15,000 acres in the region, there's things
that you can visibly see the impact that you're making. So I would say the measure of
success would be for me related to what' s it mean to the people I'm working with for the
most part. I'm seeing things that we're working on, I'm seeing them change, I'm seeing
them adopt them practices and learn how to do it themselves and then not needing me
other than maybe just a little bit of help along the way to continually guide them.

Gabby gave her opinion about change and her supportive role in the process:

Change is hard and it' s hard to get growers to change. Something has to happen in order to
make them do it, either money or regulations or something. So once that happens and it' s
been set, then I can step in and help them achieve that goal to meet that change. That's the
way that I think of it more than just me going out and say look what I've done...But, I feel
like I have been successful in helping them.

Harry discussed the rewards of extension work and views personal success in two ways,

one is "related to interaction with clientele" and the other is a "more outward way, a more

tangible way of viewing the success from the university side would be in the area of awards and

recognition." He has won awards from "a state and national standpoint" and feels he's "gotten

more than enough as a member of teams and recognition within the institution." He has also

"gained recognition from my colleagues through the county agents association...as peer awards."

Patricia appreciates the "incentives, whether it be awards, scholarships, or whatever" that are

offered by the organization and for "allowing education and formal coursework to continue."

Matt has earned state and national recognition for his work and has been recognized by his peers

as a top agent "so that means a lot."









Career growth opportunities. Advantageous career growth opportunities were

mentoring, continuous learning, improved talents, leadership positions, and career stability. The

mentoring program was motivating for agents to influence others and grow professionally.

Patricia did not have a formal mentor when she first started her position, but feels it is an

important part of her j ob, "I know there is a mentoring program now and I think that is really

important. I am mentoring somebody else in the system now and I can see that as being a really

positive thing and should be taken advantage of more often." Gabby has served as a mentor to

several new agents and discussed the mutual benefits of the relationship, "Well, getting to know

them, but in helping them learn more about their j ob, it actually gives me a different perspective

on what I'm doing and some new ideas and some interactions where we can work together and

collaborate to do bigger and better things." Matt believes mentoring should involve all

colleagues, "I think it' s important that the other agents, not just the director, but other agents in

the office, mentor the new folks and a lot of times that j ob gets dumped on somebody two and

three counties away and you just don't have that contact with them."

Leadership positions have offered valuable career growth to all counselor/advisor level

agents. Matt has been involved in numerous leadership training as he prepares for "a more

administrative role" and learned that "you get out of everything what you want to, what you put

into it, how much you take it home and think about it and try to apply it." Harry has assumed

several leadership roles throughout his career, and has recently been appointed to a new

management challenge. Gabby makes it a priority to become involved in local and statewide

leadership that "directly benefits the growers."

Career management strategies. Strategies for career management include self-

promotion, clientele guidance, humbleness, limiting non-productive activities, aggressively seek









clientele, prioritization, separation of work and family, and setting personal goals. Matt

explained what he has learned through the years about receiving awards and the importance of

self-promotion:

This is a different kind of industry. You've got to promote yourself and that took me
several years to get over because all those awards I've won, I had to fill out the application
for. So you've kind of got to toot your own horn, but that' s also kind of how you gauge
yourself...that' s part of playing the game to get promoted.

Harry credits the involvement and support of his family for his ability to manage his career:

The understanding from my family certainly played a big factor and having their support
has been immense in what I have been able to achieve and there's no question in that... So
I think there was a conscientious strategy on our part of how can we pay the bills and get
through raising the family...but we've not always had the luxury of financially doing what
we want to do.

Matt has also learned to prioritize family and work, "I don't need to kill myself and

sacrifice my time with my family and all that to be there, so I think that' s part of trying to learn

what really is important and what we make important." Placing personal limits on time was

extremely beneficial to balancing responsibilities, "I have consciously tried to go home at

6:00...but the longer you're in extension, the more you get involved in and the more you work

on, you can't get it all done and you just finally have to draw a line and say, I'm going home, it'll

be here tomorrow and it'll get done when it gets done." Factors and experiences that have

helped Patricia to be successful included goal setting, creative freedom, advisory committee

input, flexibility to try new things, and having a supportive office work environment.

I think overall in the whole course of my tenure of being in extension, the fact that I set my
goals for the year and my performance then is measured on those goals that I set for my
self. I think that I have a lot of creative freedom and a lot of opportunities to make
decisions about how I want my programs to go. I like the input of advisory committees but
I still feel like most of the decision making falls to me and I like that, it appeals to me. I
like the flexibility that I have to try new things, my happiness here in this office has to do
with the work environment in this office...Having supportive support staff and having
extension agents work well together as a team, having a supervisor that is supportive,
anything but a micromanager.










Negative influences.

Negative influences on counselor/advisor level agents' career decisions were comprised of

two axial codes including career overload and j ob dissatisfiers.

Career overload. Participants discussed career overload as a time period of increased

responsibilities, stress of promotion requirements, salary concerns, and excessive assignments

that led to questioning career impacts and consideration of other j obs. Each of the four agents

expressed the overwhelming responsibilities that they have encountered with years of

experience. Disappointment with the promotion process was expressed by Gabby, "Incentives

are nice, but if you're one of the ones who doesn't get it, it' s a real disincentive...it makes a

difference in how you see the university." Harry's devotion to his work can sometimes create

undesirable stress, "I love what I am doing, but the frustration at times is to figure out how to do

all the things I want to do. So the stress for me is self-imposed to a large degree." Matt

discussed the increasing number of leadership training that he is involved in, "I feel like I've

been hit over the head with a skillet because they've started several and they wanted me to be in

all of them." In addition, he remarked on his excessive committee assignments and its relation to

employee burnout:

The other thing that does get a little frustrating is the longer you're around, the more they
know you, the more you get stuck on task forces and committees and they need all that
stuff, I understand it, but it does wear you down... If you overload good people, you burn
them out and you take away their drive to excel if they're overloaded... It helps the
organization, but it really doesn't help with their mission and their j ob. You've just added
frustration to their job and so I think that' s something the administration needs to keep an
eye on. We need to protect our good people, not overload our good people.

Harry has seen "the biggest strain in the last couple years" as he has taken on "two

different j obs...and having a little more of a gray area in terms of supervisory stuff which has

been challenging." In addition, it has been difficult to handle "mixed messages from

administration...so having a clear message from all different points of administration is really










critical." The main problem he has seen is the ability of the organization to support his needs,

"Their ability to listen to what I felt through the experience was learned and so...I needed

support for what I was being asked to do.

Job dissatisfiers. Participants described factors that produced j ob dissatisfaction at this

career stage as burnout, lack of professional support, overwhelming responsibilities, increased

leadership positions, time limitations, excessive committees, reporting limitations, promotion

process, disregard for service quality, lack of financial incentives, self-induced stress, and

unequal recognition. Gabby explained how required meetings interfere with her ability to serve

clientele effectively and limit her time, "I just want to do my j ob to the best of my ability and I

will do whatever I have to do to do that or learn more to do that, but I'm not just gonna go to a

meeting, a three day meeting, to get a couple of hours of information, I just don't have the time."

Focus on quantity and not quality of service for reporting and accountability purposes was also

upsetting to Gabby. She discussed how the emphasis on numbers can mask the significant

impacts of extension work on her small clientele group:

The university is more interested in the numbers that we generate more than the actual
quality because my clientele as a group is small as compared to an urban agent where you
may have the whole population in the county as your clientele group. So mine is small
when compared so I am not going to generate those huge numbers so I think it' s more of a
quality issue.

Insufficient pay raises was a negative issue expressed by all four agents. Gabby explains

why she is more concerned with the happiness of her clients rather than her performance

evaluation results, "I pay more attention to what they say than the number on my evaluation each

year because it doesn't really make much difference if you get a 1% or a 2% raise. Raises

haven't been enough to worry about to be honest." Matt expressed his discontent with the raise

system, "We pay the same...basically the same raise to the sorriest people as we do the best

people...only two or three years did we actually get a raise based on our evaluation, a merit pay









increase." He believes that the organization should "use Einances to reward excellence...it is a

little frustrating when I got the top score and a 3.25% pay increase and the guy who got the

lowest score got a 2.8% increase...it didn't make a lot of difference, so why kill yourselfi"

Reporting and accountability issues were additional job dissatisfiers. Gabby reflected on

the constant changes in the reporting system, "It seems like it changed every year...It would be

nice if for once we got a consistent reporting system so that we could go through the year

reporting on this system and know that it is still gonna be there next year." She further

explained, "We hear people talking about quitting when it is around report time. It gets

frustrating." Harry continues to have difficulties with the compatibility of the system to report

his accomplishments, "If you're doing good things, then sometimes you say, I WANT to report

this and where can I fit this into the report and UNIFAS to a certain degree doesn't give that

ability ... there's only a limited little space in that area for success stories and so that area is

WAY too limiting."

However, the salary itself did not seem to have an influence on the four agents in a positive

or a negative way. Gabby explained her view on salaries, "The salary is not a huge factor, it

could've been less, it could've been more, but it didn't make much difference because I like what

I was doing. I could've made twice as much with industry, but I don't want to have to travel."

Harry explained that "it has not been a detriment, but I'm certainly not in it for the money." He

described the financial strains that his family confronted in his career:

We recognized that that was a sacrifice that we were wiling to take. But, that was
something we accepted. So to me, money was not an attraction or a detraction, it's been
adequate and it' s getting better. I would say this though if somebody is getting into this
career to make money, that' s a BAD mistake, a BAD mistake.

Matt adds, "It' s got to be personally satisfying. We're not going to be paid enough to do this job

even if we hate it."









Grounded Theory

From the data analysis, a grounded theory was developed to describe the career decisions

of the twelve Florida agricultural extension agents who participated in the study. A grounded

theory is a "theory derived from data, systematically gathered and analyzed through the research

process where data collection, analysis, and eventual theory stand in close relationship with one

another and the theory emerges from the data" (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 12). The grounded

theory presented conceptually in Appendix C in Figure C-1 illustrates the positive and negative

influences that shaped career decisions of participants at the different career stages: entry level,

colleague level, and counselor/advisor level.

Positive influences on entry level agents' career decisions can be classified into three

categories: personal traits, motivators, and support systems. Within personal traits, individual

characteristics and skills focused on the agents' ability to apply their talents and personality to

extension work, as well as having foundational knowledge in agriculture, extension, and program

development. Motivators can be classified as internal or external depending upon their effect.

Internal motivators focused on internal satisfaction and positive reinforcement as a gauge of

success. External motivators included client engagement and awards to measure work

performance. Finally, support systems can be categorized into people and information.

Dependence on others is important for survival as a new agent and having a network of people at

all levels assists in career understanding and establishment. Informational support was valuable

to build knowledge, answer client questions, and develop a community reputation. These

influences were beneficial for agents to understand work responsibilities, immediately address

clientele problems, and build relationships upon entering the system.

The negative influences of entry level agents can be divided into four areas: lack of

direction, personal work management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements.










Lack of direction was the primary negative influence cited by agents. Unclear guidance from

supervisors and absence of clear, stated j ob expectations caused agents to be uncertain of duties,

responsibilities, and programming efforts. Initial mandated requirements and job pressures

encompassed the overwhelming responsibilities placed on a new agent and the pressure for

success from the university. Personal work management issues referred to the agents' inability

to organize and manage time in accordance with work responsibilities common at the beginning

of an extension career.

Positive influences on colleague level agents' career decisions can be classified into four

categories: motivators, career growth opportunities, career management strategies, and

collaboration with key people. Motivators can be classified as internal or external depending

upon their effect. Internal motivators included observable results, client behavior changes,

feedback, and expert recognition important for reputation establishment. External motivators

were awards for work performance, promotions, and financial incentives that motivated agents to

excel. Advantageous career growth opportunities focused on professional development,

leadership positions, and career achievements that offered continual learning. Career

management strategies improved agents' ability to manage time, establish personal limits, and

balance personal and professional responsibilities. Collaboration with key community leaders,

professionals, and colleagues provided positive experiences to solidify relationships.

Negative influences on colleague level agents' career decisions can be divided into three

categories: performance measures, salary disparity, and personal work management issues.

Inconsistencies in the reporting system, evaluations, promotion were specific experiences

causing dissatisfaction with the organizational structure. Disparity in salary referred to










disproportionate salary adjustments among all levels of agents. Personal work management

issues referred to agents' struggles in balancing increased work demands and available time.

Positive influences on counselor/advisor level agents' career decisions can be classified

into three categories: motivators, career growth opportunities, and career management strategies.

Motivators can be classified as internal or external depending upon their effect. Internal

motivators focused on personal satisfaction measured through positive feedback and community

respect. External motivators centered on community impact and client success resulting from

work performance. Career growth opportunities were motivating for agents to influence others

and grow professionally through mentoring and leadership programs. Career management

strategies improved agents' ability to prioritization time and achieve career goals.

Negative influences on counselor/advisor level agents' career decisions can be divided into

two categories: career overload and job dissatisfiers. Career overload was a time period

characterized by increased responsibilities, promotional stress, and excessive assignments

associated with having an established professional identity. Job dissatisfiers that led to burnout

included self-induced stress, lack of support, unequal recognition, insufficient pay raises,

reporting difficulties, excessive committees, and disregard for service quality.

Summary

This chapter discussed the results found from research obj ectives (3) to discover the

influences that shape career decisions of agricultural extension agents at different career stages,

and (4) to develop a grounded theory that explains the most significant issues that affect the

career decisions of Florida agricultural extension agents. A grounded theory of the positive and

negative influences that shaped the career decisions of agents was created from the analysis.









CHAPTER 6
DISCUSSION

This qualitative study sought to explore and describe the career decisions of agricultural

extension agents. The interview process was used to investigate the factors and experiences that

affect agricultural extension agents' decisions to enter and remain in extension, and discover

positive and negative influences related to decisions of agents at different career stages. From

the data collected, two grounded theories were developed that explain significant issues that

affect agents' career decisions.

To carry out this research study, a purposive sample was used to select twelve extension

agents who worked primarily in commercial agriculture. They were identified by a panel of

experts as having a dependable and respectable work reputation, and then they were classified

into one of the three stages of the career stages model. Each of the agents participated in an in-

depth interview to share their thoughts on influences that shaped their decision to enter into the

organization, remain in the organization, and shaped their decisions at different career stages.

Grounded theory was used as the primary data analysis method.

Results from the analysis were presented in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5. From the 198 pages

of transcribed data, 47 axial codes were grouped into 20 selective codes. These selective codes

comprised the categories relative to each of the four research obj ectives and were used to create

the grounded theories. The open and axial codes provide additional support and evidence for the

selective codes.

The selective categories relevant to agents' decisions to enter into the organization were

agent background, career contacts, service to agricultural community, nature of extension work,

position fit, and university supported education. The selective categories relevant to agents'

decisions to remain in the organization were internal satisfaction, community leadership, external










motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environment.

The categories relevant to the positive and negative influences that shaped career decisions of

agents at different career stages are detailed in the previous chapter. This chapter will present

key findings from the research, offer recommendations for future research, and discuss

implications for the extension organization.

Key Findings

Agents' Decision to Enter into Extension

Primary influences related to the agents' background on their decision to enter into

extension were prior industry experience, graduate research in extension, and having an

agricultural degree. These findings support the importance of a match between a person's skills,

knowledge, and abilities to the j ob requirements endorsed by the person-fit paradigm (Anderson,

et. al., 2004; Chan, 2005; Hollenbeck, et. al., 2002). Industry experience was considered

beneficial for Samantha to "have the experience and the background to jump into a position like

this." Tammy found her knowledge base provided "hands-on experience to be able to provide

advice" when working with clientele. Graduate research experiences provided participants with

a better understanding of the opportunities and careers in extension. Although all participants

held an agricultural college degree, significant differences were found in the amount of

knowledge that each held about extension. Seven participants stated that they lacked exposure to

extension as a youth and in college, as many agreed with Jessica's statement, "I had no clue as to

what extension was."

Career contacts were a maj or influence on all participants' decisions to enter into the

organization. These findings support the significance of personal contact with applicants as an

effective recruitment strategy studied by Grogan and Eshelman (1998). The most influential

relationships were those with extension agents, advisors, and specialists. Each was considered a









role model that participants' admired and respected. Positive encouragement from peers,

clientele, administrators, friends, and advisors to apply for jobs in extension was motivating.

This gave participants confidence in their abilities to seek out and learn more about available

careers. Additionally, half of the participants had previously applied to extension before

obtaining their current position as a result of encouragement by others.

Providing service to the agricultural community and the ability to work with farmers were

two primary reasons for entering extension. Participants found that extension allowed them to

help agricultural producers solve problems with research-based educational advice. Harry's

comment illustrates the personal commitment to service shared by all participants, "My mission

was going to be to help serve farmers, help them sustain what they were doing, change things,

and make a better life for them on their farms."

The nature of extension work was centered on the j ob expectations held by participants.

The ability to apply individual talents, educate clientele, and utilize personal professional

knowledge were attractive features of extension work. However, participants commented on the

need for more detailed information about the responsibilities of being an agent. The lack of

clear, stated job expectations was "frustrating" to entry level agents. Participants shared

Patricia's opinion on this issue, "Honestly, I didn't know what agents did when I applied for the

job." Brenda discussed the need to solve this problem, "I think the applicants need a realistic

view of what extension involves and that it is a special kind of job. It' s not a nine to Hyve j ob...

they need some realistic expectations prior to going into the j ob."

The fit of the position to participants' lifestyle and background was ultimately determined

by the advertised position description. The importance of the position description relates to the

person-j ob fit paradigm and the need for the j ob to support the applicant' s personal and










professional needs (Anderson, et. al., 2004; Chan, 2005; Hollenbeck, et. al., 2002). The detailed

position announcement and its alignment with career interests made a positive impact on

participants' decisions to apply for the job. Harry stated, "Just the general description was a big

factor... the notion that I could have more freedom, more on farm, more guaranteed contact to

develop my own programs and be under my own control...that was certainly a factor." The

description of the work expectations and fringe benefits were cited as the most important details.

The affiliation of extension with the university and its nonformal work environment were

beneficial aspects. These findings relate to the valued characteristics of job satisfaction reported

by Ensle (2005). The flexibility and variety of work, creative freedom, ability to take risks, and

challenging environment compelled participants to seek agent positions. In addition, participants

specifically remarked on the benefits of having the personnel and informational resources of the

university available to support their work. As Eric expressed, he does not have to be an expert

on everything, but rather know where to find assistance, "...having the full resources of the

university at your disposal...that you don't have to know everything and do it alone, but you do

have those resources to help you get your job done." Finally, the stability of a j ob in extension

was cited by nine participants as a factor that played a role in their career decisions.

Agents' Decision to Remain in Extension

Encouraging feedback received about work performance and personal satisfaction gained

from work experiences motivated participants to remain in the organization and is supported by

the belongingness and esteem needs in Maslow' s Hierarchy of Needs (Huitt, 2001). Positive

feedback from clientele, peers, and supervisors were the most important factors of internal

satisfaction. Samantha expressed, "The most satisfying is your clientele. When you help them

with a problem or solution... and then they tell you, we couldn't have done it without you and

we appreciate it." Participants also regarded internal pride gained through work performance









and clientele interaction as emotionally fulfilling. Brenda commented on her personal

satisfaction, "It's the fact that people appreciate what we do for them and that' s really

satisfying." However, participants realize that clientele feedback can be limited without follow-

up on results.

The desire to work with a variety of public audiences, promote agricultural awareness, and

meet clientele needs through education influenced participants' decisions to remain in the

organization. Each agreed that building and maintaining community relations was a significant

factor affecting their work progress. They welcomed the integration into the community and the

feeling of acceptance gained from that recognition. Matt was proud to be a member of the

community and the dignity associated with his job, "It' s nice to be recognized in the community

as a kind of a community leader... part of the community. You're not just somebody who's

working an eight to Hyve j ob and you go home and you're a nobody."

The career benefits that influenced participants' decisions included professional

development, position benefits, and university resources. These Eindings are supported by the six

factors of job satisfaction outlined by Riggs and Beus (1993). Higher education coursework, in-

service training, and leadership workshops were all contributing experiences to agents' career

growth. However, four participants said that some professional development opportunities often

interrupted their work responsibilities. Participants acknowledged the fringe benefits of being an

extension employee, including salary, opportunities for advancement, flexible work hours, and

vacation time. Finally, accessibility to university specialists and resources enables all agents to

function effectively in their positions.

External motivation from performance indicators and rewards had a positive effect on

participants' career decisions. Program participation, client loyalty, and positive evaluation









results were considered reliable indicators of work performance. Tammy receives encouraging

feedback through program evaluations when she "gives the people a survey and they've all been

very positive. They want more education, they want me to come out and do farm visits, and they

give me suggestions for new programs or new ideas." Participants also value the financial

incentives, promotions, and awards received as a measure of professional success, however peer

nominations and recognition were the most significant awards.

The ability to affect societal change was a priority for participants, but requires long-term

commitment to clientele and work responsibilities. Internal reinforcement of success was based

upon the creation of independent learners and changes seen in client behaviors. Harry's

perception of change offers an overview of participants' comments, "I see changes as a result of

what we've been doing...there' s things that you can visibly see the impact that you're making.

So I would say the measure of success would be for me related to what' s it mean to the people

I'm working with for the most part. I'm seeing things that we're working on, I'm seeing them

change, I'm seeing them adopt practices and learn how to do it themselves and then not needing

me other than maybe just a little bit of help along the way to continually guide them."

Having a network of support directly related to participants' level of job satisfaction. This

factor directly relates to the organizational strategies defined in the career stages model (Kutilek,

et. al., 2002). Support at all levels was needed, but emphasis was placed on clientele and

organizational relationships, specifically administrators, specialists, and office staff. Teamwork

activities with colleagues were regarded by all participants as a primary factor of success. Teams

provided a source of support for programming, cooperative proj ects, experiential learning, and

establishment as an agent. Samantha attributed her professional success to "working with a










group of agents, I think it' s good to have some collaborative effort with other agents because if

you're out here by yourself, you can sink or swim pretty quick."

The freedom and variety in extension work was referred to by all of the participants as a

determining factor to remain in the organization. These findings were supported by the job

satisfaction factors found by Ensle (2005). The daily variety of environments, situations,

clientele, and activities were valuable features to the job. Participants described extension as

unique because it offers the opportunity to use "their own talents" and improve upon them even

though they may be different from others. Matt explained, "You can both do the same job and

do it well and do it differently. There is no magic formula." The flexible nature of scheduling

and making decisions gives participants the freedom to structure programs around client needs.

The absence of micromanagement and j ob independence were additional characteristics valued

by participants as Matt stated, "There's nobody who stands over your shoulder and tells you,

you're going to do this today."

Influences on Agricultural Extension Agents at Different Career Stages

The positive and negative influences of entry, colleague, and counselor/advisor level

agents are outlined in Chapter 5. When reviewing these influences, it is important to identify

how these findings approve or disapprove findings from previous literature. It is also important

to notice the most influential factors and experiences of each career stage. Primary influences on

each career stage will be highlighted and then compared to past studies, theories, and models.

Entry Level

Positive influences defined by participants can be divided into three main categories:

personal traits, motivators, and support systems. These findings directly support the career

stages model motivators, organizational strategies, and individual characteristics of entry agents

(Kutilek, et. al., 2002; Dalton, et. al. 1977; Rennekamp & Nall, 1994). Personal characteristics,









skills, and knowledge bases are essential to perform the job and encourage creativity and

initiative as described in the model. Personal and informational support systems assist agents in

understanding the organization, structure, and culture, as well as establish linkages as defined in

the model. Support systems displayed the importance of dependence on others for survival, and

supported the model's progress of agents from dependence to independence. Finally, the

importance of mentors, teams, new agent orientation, and in-service training was helpful to all

participants and directly aligns with the organizational strategies of the model. The influences

cited by participants, but not specifically mentioned in the model were motivators and affecting

societal change. However, participants regarded internal and external motivators and the process

of change as positive reinforcement necessary to gauge their success and provide direction.

These findings offer examples of positive influences and experiences necessary to motivate entry

level agents and add to the specificity of the model motivators.

The negative influences of entry level agents can be divided into four areas: lack of

direction, personal work management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements.

These findings support the previous literature on reasons for leaving extension. Personal work

management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements fit into the organizational,

individual work and non-work related factors of Rousan and Henderson (1996). Lack of

direction and supervisory support confirms findings from Kutilek (2000) and isolation mentioned

by Ewert and Rice (1994). The negative influences not referenced in the literature, but found in

this study were the difficulties in reporting and accountability system. This was a common

negative experience that created additional stress, confusion, and job pressures on participants.









Colleague level

Positive influences defined by participants can be divided into four main categories:

collaboration with key people, career growth opportunities, career management strategies, and

motivators. These Eindings were directly supported by the career stages model motivators,

organizational strategies, and individual characteristics of colleague agents and relate to the

literature on job satisfaction (Kutilek, et. al., 2002; Dalton, et. al. 1977; Rennekamp & Nall,

1994). Riggs and Beus (1993) reported six factors of job satisfaction including the authority to

run programs, the job, supervisors, salary, fringe benefits, and opportunity for growth which

were all positive influences on participants in this study. Job satisfaction factors noted by Ensle

(2005) such as flexible work schedule, personal satisfaction from educating clientele, and

personal enj oyment, and Herzberg' s Theory motivators were also mentioned by participants

(Buford, et. al., 1995). Participants discussed career management strategies that identified with

the literature on coping strategies, but offered more specific examples that could be useful for

direct application (Place & Jacob, 2001; Fetsch & Kennington, 1997). The influence that was

not mentioned in the literature, but found to be important was the importance of observing

changes in clientele behaviors and communities as a result of their assistance.

Negative influences defined by participants can be classified into three main categories:

personal work management issues, salary disparity, and performance evaluations. These

findings support previous literature on factors of job dissatisfaction, including high stress levels,

overload, and burnout (Rousan & Henderson, 1996; Ewert & Rice, 1994; Riggs & Beus, 1993;

Place & Jacob, 1991; Buford, et. al., 1995). Salary disparity was supported by the literature,

however participants' concerns were specifically on salary compression and insignificant pay

raises. The negative influence of performance evaluations could be considered a hygiene factor










by Herzberg's Theory, but revealed more specific problems (Buford, et. al., 1995).

Inconsistencies in performance evaluations, the promotion process, and unreliable reporting

systems were negative experiences expressed by participants.

Counselor/Advisor Level

Positive influences defined by the four counselor/advisor agents can be divided into three

major categories: career growth opportunities, career management strategies, and motivators.

These findings were also directly supported by the career stages model motivators,

organizational strategies, and individual characteristics of counselor/advisor agents and relate to

the literature on job satisfaction (Kutilek, et. al., 2002; Dalton, et. al. 1977; Rennekamp & Nall,

1994; Buford, et. al., 1995). The motivators defined in Herzberg's Theory of achievement,

recognition, the work itself, responsibility, and advancement for personal growth were common

themes found in the analysis. The motivators in the career stages model, including expertise,

leadership, and influence, directly connected to the findings. Participants engaged in career

growth opportunities and considered mentoring as a mutually beneficial experience. Client

loyalty, community impact, and change were also positive influences not specifically highlighted

in the literature, but critical to personal satisfaction of the study participants.

Negative influences defined by participants can be classified into two main categories:

career overload and job dissatisfiers. These findings support previous literature on factors of job

dissatisfaction and reasons for leaving extension. Participants discussed career overload as a

time period of increased responsibilities, stress of promotion requirements, salary concerns, and

excessive assignments that led to questioning career impacts and consideration of other j obs.

These factors mirror the organizational factors related to reasons for leaving extension found by

Rousan and Henderson (1996) and stress and turnover among extension directors reported by










Clark (1992). Factors that produced j ob dissatisfaction including burnout, lack of professional

support, increased leadership positions, stress, unequal career recognition, time limitations, and

excessive committees, were similar to Eindings from Ewert and Rice (1994), Rousan and

Henderson (1996), Kutilek, (2000), and Buford, et. al.,(1995). The job dissatisfiers not

specifically stated in the literature but emphasized by participants were reporting limitations,

inefficient evaluation system, and disregard for service quality. Each of these factors also had a

negative influence on counselor/advisor level agents' careers.

Recommendations for Future Research

Previous qualitative research in the area of career decisions of extension agents is limited.

This study uncovered specific variables beneficial to understanding Florida agricultural

extension agents' career decisions. Additionally, previous studies on job satisfaction and

dissatisfaction tend to concentrate on people who have left extension rather than those who are

currently employed. Future research must be conducted to discover the influences on current

agents, so the organization can take a proactive approach to meet their career needs and retain

highly qualified agents. A mixture of quantitative and qualitative research can offer mutually

supportive information, so each must be utilized to verify and expand findings.

While this study provided worthwhile information about reasons for entering and

remaining in the organization from the twelve participants in the study, this research must be

expanded to include all agricultural extension agents. It is important to explore the career

decisions of the entire population of agricultural extension agents in Florida and throughout the

United States to discover similarities and differences. It would also be beneficial to conduct

research with international extension agents, particularly those with similar agricultural clientele

and work responsibilities. This particular study could be replicated as a comparative analysis

between the perceptions of agents versus administrators and directors on agents' needs and









influences at different career stages. Finally, this study could be expanded to include agents

from other program areas, such as community development, 4-H1, and family and consumer

sciences, to discover the factors and experiences that have influenced their career decisions.

Findings from this study identified various key competencies and skills needed by

participants to succeed in extension and requires more in-depth research. This directly correlates

to the Agricultural Education in Domestic and International Settings: Extension and Outreach

research priority area two in the National Research Agenda in Agricultural Education and

Communication 2007-2010. Continual investigation of the needs and competencies of extension

agents, including required knowledge bases, skills, and professional competencies, must be

conducted. This research might also utilize the person-j ob fit paradigm and test its applicability

to the extension hiring and selection process.

Career influences that shape decisions of agents at different stages must also be expanded.

Research that focuses on agents in each specific stage must be conducted to verify the positive

and negative influences. This information can then to be used to create career development plans

for agents within each stage. This could include a guide of job expectations, first year activities,

and the key experiences identified in this study for new agents. It can then be extended to

include necessary individual and organizational support important for colleague and

counselor/advisor level agents with a yearly checklist of accomplishments. This plan could be

created and tested on its usefulness in assisting agents' career growth and satisfaction, as well as

add to the general understanding their career needs.

Longitudinal studies focused on the career decisions of extension agents should be

designed. These studies can be beneficial to discover changes in agents' attitudes and needs over

the course of their careers. It is important that researchers continually develop this area of









research and discover how changes in society, clientele, technology, and agriculture affect

agents' career needs. A longitudinal study of the participants in this study should also be

conducted as follow-up research.

Research on the retention, turnover, and organizational costs must be conducted on the

Florida Cooperative Extension System and nationally by the USDA Cooperative State Research,

Education, and Extension Service. Although recruitment and retention of agents is commonly

identified as a problem by Florida Cooperative Extension administrators, there is currently a lack

of verifiable, statistical information available. Having these data will not only clearly identify

the issues, but can provide evidence to support additional funding requests for career and

professional development of extension agents.

The lack of knowledge of extension displayed by participants did not discourage them

from applying for extension positions, however more research is needed to discover how to

promote extension as a viable career opportunity. This research could assist in the promotion

and marketing of extension programs and services, as well as provide information that could

supplement recruitment efforts. It is important to understand how people discover extension,

why they choose to attend extension programs, what they know about extension, how they use

extension services, and what they know about extension careers. Findings could then be applied

to develop organizational promotion campaigns that lead to improved recruitment.

Finally, the importance of social relationships emerged as the primary factor that affected

participants' decisions to enter and remain in extension at all career stages. Connections with

extension agents and specialists, peers, mentors, clientele, administrators, and advisors were

critical to career satisfaction and longevity. Personal contact with these individuals encouraged

participants to pursue a career in extension, while positive encouragement and feedback served









as the driving factor for internal satisfaction during careers. Collaborative teams also offered

significant personal and professional assistance to accomplish work responsibilities. These

networks played an important role in motivating agents and provided necessary physical,

emotional, and mental support that assisted in career success. This area of research should

become a priority to identify personal connections that agents have made before entering

extension and those that have remained influential during employment. Emphasis should be

placed on discovering the types of personal connections that are most significant and why to aid

in understanding the roles of relationships on career satisfaction. Additionally, opportunities for

agents to build and maintain working relationships were important for participants' career

growth. Research on the effects of teamwork, agent groups, collaborative programming, and

social networks should be investigated to discover their career impacts. Having an

understanding of the effects of social relationships can ultimately assist in organizational

recruitment, retention strategies, and career development programs.

Implications and Recommendations for Extension

Participants explained that extension continues to be the "best kept secret" and lacks

recognition among students and potential applicants. In order to increase awareness, clearly

detailed position announcements must be publicized beyond the extension website at places such

as career resource centers and professional agricultural websites to reach larger audiences.

Agents and extension educators must seek out opportunities to promote careers to youth, college

students, and the agricultural industry. Members of 4-H and FFA must be made aware of

potential careers in extension as they plan their academic programs with advisors and counselors.

Agent presence at career fairs, agricultural events, and industry functions can also increase

organizational visibility.










Though having a degree in extension education had a positive impact on confidence in

participants' career choices, an extension education degree was not required to be successful.

Therefore, the organization must not only emphasize recruitment of extension education

graduates, but also seek out college students with technical agriculture degrees, graduate

students, and those in agricultural careers. Agents should also make it a priority to promote

careers within college classrooms and offer job shadowing opportunities. The majority of

participants entered into extension with industry experience, prior relations with extension, or an

agricultural degree. Therefore, promotion of extension careers could target agricultural industry

personnel and events, extension research and educational programs, and students within the

College of Agriculture.

Extension must utilize its current source of agents around the state for recruiting purposes.

Agents must be asked for referrals of applicants that might fit available positions, and each

should make it a part of their job to promote extension careers. Agents cooperate with various

agricultural agencies on a daily basis and need to take advantage of these networks.

Relationships and encouragement by others were two of the most influential recruitment methods

described by study participants. Personal, face-to-face contact has been proven to be a

successful recruiting strategy and should be utilized more often by agents. The organization

might also consider providing financial incentives to support programming or travel budgets for

agents who recruit applicants that are eventually hired. This may improve the desire for current

agents to engage in recruitment, improve the applicant pool with qualified agents, and provide

additional opportunities for incentives. Implementing innovative recruiting strategies will

improve the overall quality of agents, educational services, and programs offered by extension.










Given the current problems with the availability of qualified applicants for agricultural

agent positions mentioned by study participants, quality is frequently overlooked in order to fill

the vacant position. However, as Matt mentioned, "Sometimes it might be best to start over."

Filling vacancies with unqualified agents whose talents and skills do not match community needs

can be detrimental to the employee and the organization. Positions must be filled with

competent agents who are committed to long-term employment. In order to identify these

agents, the organization could utilize the person-j ob fit paradigm. If extension can use this

framework in the hiring process, it may prove beneficial to selecting more suitable applicants

that fit in extension careers.

The organization must work to meet the needs of its employees and provide the necessary

support at the appropriate career stage. As shown, the positive and negative influences on

participants at different career stages varied according to many factors. The organization must

continue to provide resources, education, incentives, and professional development for all agents.

University professional development extension specialists must be specifically assigned to

design appropriate career development opportunities, maintain relationships with agents beyond

orientation, and collaborate with agents in the field to improve career satisfaction. In addition,

two-way communication between university subj ect matter specialists and extension agents must

remain a priority. Current research needs to be disseminated from the university to extension

agents in a timely manner, and it is important for specialists to maintain regular contact with

county offices.

Extension administrators and directors should be knowledgeable about career development

models to raise awareness of what agents are experiencing at different career stages. This

information can be useful to gauge the progress of agents and serve as an educational resource on









career planning. The motivators and organizational strategies of the career stages model, as well

as findings from this study, can offer a useful starting point for creating and staffing professional

development programs. Results of this study indicate that if agents are motivated and supplied

with appropriate career development, then they will have greater j ob satisfaction and retention.

Having an understanding of the negative influences currently being experienced by

participants offers an appropriate starting point for future career development for the Florida

Cooperative Extension System. The organization must address these issues in order to improve

the current career satisfaction of agents. A brief summary of the most common negative

influences found within each career stage are detailed below.

Lack of direction and support was the most common barrier for all entry level agents. In

order to improve guidance, it is important for the organization to provide clear, stated j ob

expectations and a formal mentor to support new agents. The importance of a supportive mentor

was expressed by Jessica, "It's the best experience, I love it. I love having somebody that I can

talk to because he' s seen it all, done it all. If I have questions I can call him anytime. He' s like a

daddy." The j ob expectations must expand upon the vague guidelines in the position description

and offer recommendations for establishment of programs so agents don't "waste time"

wondering what to do. These expectations need to be supported with examples of previous

agents' work and offer suggestions for improvement. In addition, new agents should be required

to shadow an agent during the first year of their employment. This will help to build the agents'

knowledge, understand the organization, improve self-confidence, establish networks, and

provide experiential learning.

Salary compression and insignificant pay raises were the most common negative

influences on colleague level agents. It was understood that salaries must remain competitive









with other agricultural professions to attract new agents. However, in order to retain agents,

salaries must be adjusted to ensure more experienced agents are not making less than new agents.

The similarity in pay raises for all agents also serves as a disincentive. Agents must be

compensated for work excellence with merit pay increases and higher raises based on higher

evaluation scores. Currently, the difference in pay raises is insignificant and not a motivating

factor influencing agents to excel. The pay raise system must be adjusted to provide meaningful

incentives that reward agents for exceptional work performance.

Counselor/advisor level agents discussed career overload as the most negative influence on

their satisfaction. This time period was characterized by increased responsibilities, promotional

stress, salary concerns, and excessive assignments that led to high stress levels. The excessive

assignments on county and university service committees, task forces, and leadership positions

were specifically time consuming and contributed to burnout. These overwhelming

responsibilities encountered by agents with years of experience must be studied. As Matt said,

"We need to protect our good people, not overload them...if you overload good people, you bum

them out...and take away their drive to excel." The organization must work on balancing

leadership and committee assignments placed upon senior agents to reduce burnout. Maintaining

a comprehensive list of agents and responsibilities could help to alleviate overload and offer

professional growth opportunities to other qualified agents.

Reporting and accountability was a problem expressed by all participants. Difficulties

with the use of and inconsistencies with the reporting system were referenced as a negative

experience on agents' careers. The constant changes in reporting systems have been detrimental

to organization and record keeping, and the lack of reliability between the reporting system and

the tenure and promotion process were contributing factors. As Benj amin explained, "If










reporting is not made easier, more manageable, and less cumbersome, then it' s gonna drive

people away." The need to streamline reporting and make the system more "user friendly" was

recommended.

Summary

This qualitative study explored and described the career decisions of Florida agricultural

extension agents. Although many of the findings were supported by previous literature, there

were unique factors, experiences, and influences reported by participants that had a significant

effect on their careers. Findings must be acknowledged and addressed by the organization to

improve the overall career satisfaction of agents, provide direction and support for new agents,

and maintain high-quality agents that represent extension.









APPENDIX A
CODING


Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Livestock experience
Agricultural academic degree
Post-graduate research
Prior extension experience
Agricultural industry work
Grew up on a farm
Extension internship
Graduate experience

Unaware of job duties
No expectations
Didn't know much
Limited exposure
No recruitment
Limited/no 4-H experience


Administrator encouragement
Be a really good fit
Talent and skills
Personality fit
Encouraged by advisor
Talked with extension
Peer encouragement
Qualified candidate
Clientele encouragement
Previous application


Academic and work
experiences





Lack of
Extension
knowledge


Agent
background


Encouragement
by others


Knew an agent
Friends were agents
Good mentors
Local county agent interaction
Agent was friend
Agent as a role model
Served on advisory committees
Industry work relationships
Active in 4-H
Family in extension


Influential
relationships


Figure A-1. Influences on agricultural extension agents decisions to enter into the organization.


Career contacts











Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Agricultural consultant
Working with farmers/producers
Serve farmers
Visit and relate to producers
Work out in the county
Community expert
Help sustain farmers
Change things
Make a better life for farmers
Work directly with farmers


Ability to
work with
farmers


Service to agricultural
community


Exciting position
Freedom in work
On-farm contact
Flexible scheduling
Practical nature of work
Sounded interesting
Under own control
Challenging work
Interaction with cohorts
Help people
Answer questions
Provide advice
Solve problems


Job
expectations










Position
descriptors


Nature of Extension
work










Position fit


Position description
Right place and time
Job available
Competitive salary
Benefits
Location
Internet posting
Apply teaching and technical skills


Figure A.1. Continued










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Make a difference
Develop own programs
Be an educator
Previous teaching experience
Non-formal environment
Enjoyed teaching

University recognition
Respected by public
University connection
Research based
Non-biased education
More stable job


Non-formal
structure


University
supported
education


University
affiliation


Figure A-1. Continued.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Producer feedback
Director feedback
Clientele feedback
Supervisor feedback
Peer feedback


Positive
feedback


Personal satisfaction
Commitment to work
Utilize prior experiences
Enjoy work
Self-motivation
Self-confidence
Interesting work
Maturity
Right mindset
Commitment to clientele
Pride in job

Promote agriculture
Public education
Client confidence
Established expert
Positive client interactions
Meeting client needs

Established expertise
Recognized excellence
Community leader
Part of the community
Respected by community
Community support
Community appreciation
Community teamwork

Awards
Recognition
Positive encouragement
Financial rewards
Grant money
Promotions
Financial incentives


Internal satisfaction


Emotional
fulfillment










Pubhic
relations


Community leadership


Community
recognition


External
rewards


External motivators


Figure A-2. Influences on agricultural extension agents to remain in the organization.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Successful programs
Survey results
Collaboration success
Evaluation findings
Measurable results
Repeat customers
Solving problems
Built successful program

In-service
Continuous learning
Leadership opportunities
Higher education support
Professional workshops
Broaden knowledge base
Developed skills
Improving talents

Job benefits- health, vacation
Competitive salary
Opportunity for advancement
Location
Time for family

Technology availability
Availability of resources
Abundance of resources
Access to resources
University resource support
Technical specialists

Producing change
Client behavior change
Creating independent learners
Visible change
Adoption of practices
Changing society
Making progress
Connect people to resources


Measurable
performance


External motivators















Career benefits


Professional
development






Position
benefits





University
resources


Affecting
societal change


Change agents


Figure A-2. Continued.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Supportive peers
Built long-term relationships
Supervisor assistance
Specialist support
Mentor program
Established networks
Dean support
Advisory committee support
Family support
County level financial support
Office staff

Peer efforts
Team meetings
Multiple agent groups
Colleague collaboration
Collaborative programming
District teams

Freedom in decisions
Variety in job
Set own schedule
Freedom of innovation
Ability to take risks
Variety of educational activities
Variety in programs
Self controlled work
Rewarding work
Ability to schedule programs
Self-directed work
No limitations
Creative freedom

Less risk than industry
Less stress than industry
Minimal mandated scheduling
No micromanagement
Challenging work
Job independence
Office-field work
Flexible work hours


Supportive
relationships


Network of
support


Teamwork
activities








Freedom and
variety in job


Extension work
environment


Characteristics of
Extension work


Figure A-2. Continued.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Entry Level Agents


Ability to build relationships
Defining programs
Organization
Community involvement and visibility
Promotion and marketing skills
Creative and innovative thinking
Handling conflict
Patience
Listening and communication skills
People person
Survival techniques
Critical problem solving skills
Fair, unbiased attitude
Enjoy challenges
Comfort with public speaking
Self-confidence
Humble
Willingness to learn

Extension knowledge
Practical field experience
One strong area of topic knowledge
Evaluation knowledge
Program development skills
Needs assessment training
Community development knowledge
Familiar with research linkages
Understand change process
Master' s degree
Technology literate


Personal skills
and
character stick s


Positive influences
on Entry level
agents' career
deci sions


'


Knowledge
bases


Figure A-3. Influences that shape career decisions of agricultural extension agents at different
career stages.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Client feedback
Supervisor feedback
Positive reinforcement
Freedom in decisions
Flexible work
Minimal restrictions
Ability to take risks
Establish a reputation
Establish and meet goals

Affecting change
Client behavior change
Environmental change
Community participation
Advisory committee input
Teamwork efforts
Awards, grants, scholarships
Recognition
Peer encouragement

Administrative presence and interest
Administrative feedback
Supervisor input and respect
Client support
Colleague collaboration
Specialist communication
Formal and informal mentors

Access to educational resources
In-service training
Timely new agent training
Reporting system training
Program resources
Starting point for programs
Career improvement opportunities
Updated research


Internal
Motivators


External
motivators







Support system










Informational
support


Positive
influences on
Entry level
agents' career
deci sions


Figure A-3. Continued.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Excessive meetings
Reporting expectations
Accountability issues
Reporting system difficulties
Master' s degree requirement
Tenure and promotion process
Overwhelming responsibilities
Mandated programs
Timely hiring process

Travel time
Out of pocket expenses
Long work hours
Generational differences
Scheduling difficulties
Poor time management
Inadequate salary
High cost of living expenses
Centralized professional development
Access to resources

Vague work guidelines
Limited job direction
No stated expectations
No starting point
Lack of office support staff
Lack of supervisor guidance

Job frustration
Pressure to succeed
Get Master' s degree
Building program
Tenure and promotion concerns


Initial
mandated
requirements








Personal work
management
issues







Lack of
direction


Negative
influences on
Entry level agents'
career decisions


Job pressures


Figure A-3. Continued.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Colleague Level Agents


Completion of tenure and promotion
Long-term results visible
Client behavior changes
Client feedback
Supervisor feedback
Considered a community expert
Peer recognition
Developed friendships
Approachable administrators
Challenging tasks
Solved problems
Established a reputation


Internal
motivators













External
motivators










Career growth
opportunities


Awards, grants, scholarships
Evaluation results
Promotions
Financial incentives
Program successes
Established internal and external networks
Internal and external recognition
Community improvement
Community acceptance
Reputable programs
Long-term changes
Expansion of work areas
Increased salary

Professional development
Conference and meeting participation
Master' s degree completion
In-service training
Leadership development programs
Leadership positions
Mentoring program


Positive
influences on
Colleague level
agents' career
deci sions


Figure A.3. Continued.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Learn on the job
Consistent client communication
Establish personal limits
Organize time
Utilize available resources
Personal record keeping system
Engage in independent learning
Empower and utilize others
Learn from mistakes
Overcome obstacles
Promote and market the program -
Involve youth

Importance of advisory committee
Joint research with specialists
Professional association involvement
Teamwork programming
Colleagues
Community network


Changes in reporting systems
Unreliable reporting system
Dependence on system for evaluation
Promotion requirements
Lack of evaluation guidelines

Unequal salary compression
Unequal program comparisons
Unequal distribution of raises
Insignificant pay raise differences
New agents' high salaries

Lack of contact with specialists
Travel issues
Increasing amount of responsibilities
Time constraints
Community conflicts


Career
management
strategies


Positive
influences on
Colleague level
agents' career
deci sions


Collaboration
with key
people


Performance
measures





Salary
disparity




Personal work
management
issues


Negative
influences on
Colleague level
agents' career
deci sions


Figure A. 3. Continued.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Counselor/ Advisor Level Agents

Helped people
Enj oy j ob
Personal satisfaction
Expert reputation
Supervisor feedback
Peer recognition
Public recognition
Family time
Community respect
Continuous learning
Client loyalty
Cooperative office environment
Colleague interaction
Self-directed learning
Expand creativity
Challenging tasks

Awards, scholarships, grants
Outreach funding support
Solve problems
Internal and external relationships
Community impact
Client behavior change
Evaluation feedback
Client survey results
Benefits of group work
Creating independent learners
Client performance success
Outcome indicators

Mentoring others
Awards, grants, scholarships
Recognized talents
Continuous learning
Leadership positions
Leadership development
Administrative positions
Stable career
Knowledgeable in multiple areas
Supervisor support


Internal
motivators


Positive influences on
Coun sel or/Advi sor
level agents' career
deci sions


External
motivators


Career growth
opportunities


Figure A-3. Continued.










Open Codes


Axial Codes


Selective Codes


Advisory committee guidance
Self-promotion recognition
Humbleness
Limit non-mission activities
Follow-up on advice
Two-way relationships
Team programming
Peer guidance
Aggressively seek clientele
Promote the program
Improvement through repetition
Time management
Separation of work and family
Prioritize work issues
Set personal goals


Career
strategies


Positive influences on
Counselor/Advisor level
agents' career decisions


Critical time period- 8- 10 years
Questioning career impact
Consider job change
Working to achieve next promotion
Gain more responsibilities
Established professional identity
Expansion of clientele
Inadequate salary
Salary compression concerns
Excessive committee assignments

Limited client feedback
Burnout
Lack of supervisor support
Lack of structure
Overwhelming leadership positions
Overloaded assignments
Excessive committees
Lack of professional support
Limitations to reporting system
Promotion process
Quantity of service valued over quality
Lack of financial incentives
Inefficient evaluation system
Self-imposed stress
Unequal employee recognition


Career
overload












Job
dissatisfiers


/


Negative influences on
Counselor/Advisor level
agents' career decisions


Figure A-3. Continued.









APPENDIX B
GROUNDED THEORY










Agent Background
Work/academic experiences
Lack of extension knowledge


Service to ag community
Ability to work with farmers


Career contacts
Influential relationships
Positive encouragement


Career Decisions of Agricultural
Extension Agents


Community leadership
Public relations
Recognition and respect


Extension work
environment
Freedom and variety
Characteristics of work


Career benefits
Professional development
Fringe benefits
University resources


Change agents
Behavior and societal
chan e


Internal satisfaction
Positive encouragement


g"UR
Emotional fulfillment Network of support External motivators
Supportive relationships Performance indicators
Teamwork activities External rewards



Figure B-1. Grounded theory of the career decisions of Florida agricultural extension agents to enter and remain in the extension
organization









APPENDIX C
GROUNDED THEORY




Influences on Agricultural
Extension Agents at Different
Career Stages


Entry Level


Colleague Level


Counselor/Advisor Level


Figure C-1. Grounded theory on career decision influences of agricultural extension agents at
different career stages.


Positive Influences


Negative Influences


II~A~A~


m


mE~


*
*


*


*





SPONSOR: None

I am pleased to advise you that the University of Florida Institutional Review Board has
recommended approval of this protocoL. Based on its review, the UFIRB determined that this
research presents no more than minimal risk to participants. Given your protocol, it is
essential that you obtain signed documentation of informed consent from each participant.
Enclosed is the dated, IRB-approved informed consent to be used when recruiting participants
for the research.

it is essential that each of your participants sign a copy of your approved informed
consent that bears the IRB approval stamp and expiration date.


If you wish to make any changes to this protocol, including the need to increase the number
of participants authorized, you must disclose your plans before you implement them so that
the Board can assess their impact on your protocoL. In addition, you must report to the Board
any unexpected complications that affect your participants.

If you have not completed this protocol by May 7, 2008, please telephone our office (391-
0433), and we will discuss the renewal process with you. It is important that you keep your
Department Chair informed about the status of this research protocoL.
15F:dt


APPENDIX D
IRB APPROVAL


to Box 12a230
Gainesville, FL 32611-2250
3352392-0433 (Phone)
352-392-9234 (Fax)
irb2@ufi~edu


DATE:


May 9, 2007


TO: Shannon Arnold
O P B 1 10$40


FROM:


Campus
Ira S. Fischler, PhD; Chassir-
University of Florida
Institutional Review Board


SUBJECT: Approval of Protocol #2007-U-0336


TITLE:


Career Decisions of Florida Agricultural Extension Agents


An EqualOpportuinit institulion


U ntiuional Review ; Board











APPENDIX E
INFORMED CONSENT






Informed Consent

Protocol Title: Career Decisions of Florida Agricultural Extension Agents

Purpose of the research study: To explore and describe how Florida agricultural
extension agents make career decisions to enter and remain in the extension organization.

What you wml be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to participate in one
face-10-face personal interview conducted by the principal investigator. The interview
will last about 60-90 minutes, and it will explore factors and experiences that have
affected your career decisions while employed with Florida Cooperative Extension
Service. In-depth interviews will be used to achieve insight into your initial, past,
present, and future career decisions. Focus will be placed on recruitment and retention
influences that have affected your employment status. Interviews will be recorded and
transcribed at a later time.

Finally, the researcher may ask you to review the transcript of your interview to ensure
that the responses were accurately recorded. This review process is commonly tenned
the member checking process. The member checking process is performed after each
interview is fully transcribed by the researcher. The researcher will email you only your
specific interview transcript to ensure validity and reliability of information. Each
participant will view only his/her interview transcription and no other participants. The
researcher will ask you to review your interview transcription to clarify any
misinterpretations of words and thoughts for accuracy purposes. The researcher will also
allow you to eliminate any data that you feel is incorrect or harmful in anyway. This
process will ensure that you are aware of the information being used in the research
process and allow you to clarify or voluntarily remove any harmful comments.

Time required: Approximately 60-90 minutes

Risks: Although the names of potential participants were generated from administrators,
your participation will not affect your employment in any way. The administrators will E
not know exactly wvho actulallyy participates, cannot makes recruiting contacts to their E
subordinates on behalf of the researcher, and cannot discuss participation in the study I
with agents. Finally, administrators cannot urge potential participants to consent to be
interviewed, .

Benefits/Compensation: This study will add to the understanding of recruitment and OE
retention issues flicing Florida Cooperative ExtensiDB and its aglicultural agents. In
addition, the study may improve the knowledge level of Extension administrators, a o
educators, and researchers. No compensation will be given.

Confidentiality: Although participants have been recommended for interviewing by
their supervisors, those supervisors will not know who actually participated. The
participants' identities will be confidential to the extent provided by law. Participants
will be given pseudonyms when quoted in the dissertation and other reports stemming
from the research. Information will be kept confidential and the researcher will destroy









APPENDIX F
INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE

Recruitment and retention of highly qualified agents is a significant, growing problem in Florida
Cooperative Extension System. The career decisions of current and potential faculty are
determining the future of extension right now. Therefore, I would like to discuss the factors and
experiences that have influenced you to enter and remain in the organization. I am interested in
understanding the positive and negative influences that have shaped your career decisions and
career development needs. The intent of this interview is to gain insight into your perceptions
and thoughts that can help explain the most significant issues that have affected your career
decisions. This may include previous, initial, and future experiences, extension responsibilities,
professional relationships, and your personal point of view.

1. As an agricultural agent in this county, what are your work responsibilities, clientele, and
maj or programs?
2. Based on your career up to this point, do you feel that you have been successful?
How do you measure success?
What has contributed to your success as an agent?
3. Thinking back to the beginning of your extension career, what factors led you to become
an agricultural agent?
Experiences?
Influences?
People?
Background?
Expectations?
Recruitment?
4. How satisfied are you with your current position? What factors and experiences have
influenced your j ob sati sfacti on/di ssati sfacti on?
Teamwork atmosphere?
Organization culture?
Self-directed work?
Variety and flexibility?
Relationships?
Salary?
Opportunities for growth?
Colleagues?
Leadership positions?
Personal influences?
5. What types of organizational support have helped you to succeed or fail in your position?
What have you had?
What would you have liked to receive that you did not? Gaps of support?
What are your future needs?
6. Have you ever had days/other opportunities that you made you think of leaving
extension? What factors played a part in your thoughts?
Pay?
Hours?
Work responsibilities?










Requirements of advancement?
Other jobs?
Family obligations?
Personal life conflicts?
Conflict with values?
7. Throughout your entire career, what factors and experiences have motivated you to
remain in your position?
Organizational structure and culture?
Social interactions?
Work environment?
Organizational support?
Nature of the work?
Professional identity?
Innovation?
Position of influence?
8. How would you rate your ability to balance your personal and professional life? What
have you done in order to promote a healthy life balance?
Strategies?
Challenges?
Beneficial organizational support?
9. How have social relationships affected your performance and influenced your decision to
remain in extension?
Peers?
Clientele?
Stakeholders?
Advisory committees?
Community?
Mentors?
CED/DED?
Others?
10. What do you see as the primary issues that FCES faces related to future recruitment of
agricultural agents?
Advice?

11. What do you see as the primary issues that FCES faces related to future retention of
agricultural agents?
Advice?

12. What would you do differently if you could re-live your career in extension all over
again?









APPENDIX G
EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE

Invitation Email sent to participants

Dear

I am a PhD student working on a research study with Dr. Nick Place in the Department of
Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida. As an agricultural
extension agent, your employment is critical to the success of extension and the agricultural
industry. To better understand your career decisions, my research is focused on exploring why
Florida agricultural extension agents enter and stay employed in the organization. Your personal
perceptions, experiences, and attitudes, and opinions are important to the future survival of the
organization. You have been chosen as an exemplary professional by extension administrators
and are among a select group of agricultural agents important for this study. Therefore, I am
writing to solicit your involvement in this important research area. If possible, I would like to
conduct a 60-90 minute interview with you concerning factors and experiences that have
influenced your recruitment and retention decisions.

If you would be willing to participate in this study, please confirm your interest via email at
sarnold@ufl.edu by April 6th. I will then contact you with a telephone call and we can arrange a
convenient time for an interview. I truly appreciate your willingness to consider this research
proj ect.

Thank You,
Shannon Arnold


Member Checking Email sent to participants after the interview:

It was wonderful to meet you and I would like to thank you again for participating in my study.
Your input was truly valuable and insightful. I have attached the transcript of our interview for
you to review. This is a verbatim transcript and it will NOT be included with my dissertation. It
will be used for analysis and I am the only person who will have access to this information. For
my dissertation, I will only use key concepts, ideas, themes, and some direct quotes from the
transcript to support my findings. Any specific identifiers will be deleted and your name will not
be revealed. Your review of this transcript will ensure that the responses were accurately
recorded, while also improve the validity and reliability of information. Feel free to clarify any
misinterpretations of words and thoughts. You may also voluntarily eliminate any data that you
feel is incorrect or harmful in anyway. The purpose of this process is to ensure that you are fully
aware of the information being used for my analysis. Please feel free to contact me is you have
any questions via email or on my cell phone.

Below is a copy of an excerpt from the Informed consent form that you signed that explains this
process and its purpose.
The researcher will ask each participant to review the transcript of their interview to
ensure that the responses were accurately recorded. This review process is commonly









termed the member checking process. The member checking process is performed after
each interview is fully transcribed by the researcher. The researcher will email the
participants only their specific interview transcript to ensure validity and reliability of
information. Each participant will view only his/her interview transcription and no other
participants. The researcher will ask each participant to review his/her interview
transcription to clarify any misinterpretations of words and thoughts for accuracy
purposes. The researcher will also allow the participants to eliminate any data that they
feel is incorrect or harmful in anyway. This process will ensure the participant is aware
of the information being used in the research process and allows them to clarify or
voluntarily remove any harmful comments.

Sincerely,
Shannon Arnold










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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Shannon Kristin Arnold was born in Buffalo, New York. When she was four years old,

her family moved to Katy, Texas. Katy is a small, rural rice farming community west of

Houston, Texas. In May 1992, Shannon attended the University of Texas in Austin and then

transferred to Texas A&M University in College Station in January 1993 to pursue an animal

science degree.

At Texas A&M University, she was heavily involved in numerous clubs and activities

including the Horseman's Association, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, Saddle and

Sirloin, and the Dairy Cattle Judging and Show Team. In addition, she worked at the Texas

A&M Dairy Cattle Center throughout her undergraduate program. In May 1997, she received

her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from Texas A&M University.

Upon graduation, Shannon worked in the agricultural industry and teaching fields. As a

dairy market news reporter for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, she communicated

with industry contacts to formulate a weekly marketing report. She was employed by Genex,

Inc. as a regional sales coordinator and served as a livestock consultant.

In December 2003, she completed her Master of Science in Agricultural Sciences at Texas

A&M University Commerce and also received secondary agricultural education teacher

certification. She taught secondary agricultural education in Texas during completion of her

master' s program. Her interest in higher education strengthened, and she joined Navarro College

and Texas A&M University Commerce as an adjunct instructor.

In 2004, she received a graduate teaching and research fellowship in the Department of

Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida and began to work on

her Ph.D. in agricultural education. During her time in graduate school, she assisted in a variety

of traditional and distance education courses for undergraduate and graduate students, and served










as the lead instructor for three undergraduate courses. She was involved in extension and

community outreach education, and conducted research related to agricultural and extension

education. She is currently pursuing an assistant professor position within the United States.





PAGE 1

1 CAREER DECISIONS OF FLORIDA AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AGENTS By SHANNON KRISTIN ARNOLD A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

PAGE 2

2 2007 Shannon Kristin Arnold

PAGE 3

3 To my husband, David Arnold

PAGE 4

4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My journey through graduate school has been a long and bumpy road. Thank you to those people who gave their interest, time and effort to make this study and this degree possible. First, my sincere appreciation goes to my chair, Dr. Ni ck Place, for his guidance, support, and constant supervision throughout my graduate car eer. It is because of his pers istence and belief in me that I have completed this research. Dr. Place was always available for feedback, encouragement, and advice when I needed it most. His positive at titude made this a tolerable experience and has better prepared me for future endeavors. Thanks to my other committee members: Dr. Glenn Israel, Dr. Saundra Tenbroeck, and Dr. Edward Osborne. Each of these members wa s not only an outstanding mentor, but provided me with confidence to complete my studies in bo th personal and professional ways. In addition, I am extremely grateful to the faculty and staff of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication. The research, teac hing, and extension opportunities o ffered to me as a graduate assistant were invaluable and helped me to become a better person, educator, and scholar. Additional thanks must be also be extended to Dr. Mirka Koro-Ljungberg for her qualitative inspiration and Dr. Bob Williams for his c onstant personal and professional support. The completion of this research and degree has been directly influenced by my exceptional friends and family. I have made many memo ries in Rolfs Hall 310 and beyond celebrating the good and the bad days. I will remember all the lunc hes, conferences, beach days, class trips, and parties that we experienced t ogether throughout the country. Sp ecial thanks goes to Courtney and Daniel Meyers, Emily and Aaron Rhoade s, Wendy Warner, Nick Fuhrman, David and Jennifer Jones, Curt Friedel, Hannah Carter, St eve Rocca, Eric and Shevon Kaufman, and all the other graduate students that I have been privileged to know in the last three years. These individuals are not only my friends, but have truly become my extended family.

PAGE 5

5 I owe the most gratitude to my lovi ng husband, David Arnold, for his assistance throughout the entire process. He stood by me through all the ups and dow ns of graduate school life and never ceased to lend a helping hand. He continually assisted me with stress relief through horseback riding, financial support, and advice on lifes decision s. I truly feel blessed to have such a caring husband who was willing to m ove to Florida and allow me to finish my education. His continued patience, support, and faith in me while I completed this degree have been unsurpassed. Finally, thanks to my moth er, Linda Kozak, my grandparents, Viola and Milton Sinclair, and my in-laws, Carol and Gary Arnold. Their support and encouragement has always been greatly appreciated. I hope someday to repay all the special people in my life that have touched me in so many ways. Thank you!

PAGE 6

6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF TABLES................................................................................................................. ..........9 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ............13 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE......................................................................................15 Background And Setting.........................................................................................................15 Theoretical Framework.......................................................................................................... .19 Statement Of The Problem.....................................................................................................20 Statement Of The Purpose And Objectives............................................................................22 Limitations Of Design.......................................................................................................... ..23 Summary........................................................................................................................ .........23 2 LITERATURE REVIEW.......................................................................................................25 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........25 Roles Of Cooperative Extens ion System County Agents.......................................................25 Employee Recr uitment...........................................................................................................26 Employee Re tention............................................................................................................. ...29 Organizational Effects Of Turnover................................................................................29 Reasons For Leaving Extension......................................................................................30 Balancing Work And Family Life...................................................................................31 Job Satisfaction............................................................................................................... .33 Coping Strategies.............................................................................................................35 Career Development Models..................................................................................................36 Motivation..................................................................................................................... ..........44 Maslows Hierarchy Of Needs........................................................................................45 Herzbergs Two Factor Theory.......................................................................................45 Professional Development......................................................................................................46 Summary........................................................................................................................ .........49 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS..............................................................................51 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........51 Research Design................................................................................................................ .....51 Qualitative Research........................................................................................................... ....52 Measures Of Validity And Reliability....................................................................................55 Researcher Subjectivity........................................................................................................ ..56 Ontology And Epistemology..................................................................................................60 Idealism....................................................................................................................... ....60

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7 Constructionism...............................................................................................................61 Theoretical Perspective........................................................................................................ ...61 Grounded Theory................................................................................................................ ....63 Methodology.................................................................................................................... .......64 Research Objectives........................................................................................................64 Participant Selection........................................................................................................65 Data Collection Procedures.............................................................................................69 Data Analysis Procedures................................................................................................72 Coding......................................................................................................................... ....74 Summary........................................................................................................................ .........76 4 RESULTS OF AGENTS DECISIONS TO ENTER AND REMAIN IN EXTENSION......78 Description Of Participants.................................................................................................... .78 Agents Decision To Enter Into Extension.............................................................................79 Agent Background...........................................................................................................80 Career Contacts...............................................................................................................82 Service To Agricultural Community...............................................................................85 Nature Of Extension Work..............................................................................................86 Position Fit................................................................................................................... ....88 University Supported Education......................................................................................89 Agents Decision To Remain In Extension............................................................................91 Internal Satisfaction.........................................................................................................91 Community Leadership...................................................................................................94 Career Benefits................................................................................................................96 External Motivators.......................................................................................................100 Change Agents...............................................................................................................102 Network Of Support......................................................................................................103 Extension Work Environment.......................................................................................105 Grounded Theory................................................................................................................ ..107 Summary........................................................................................................................ .......108 5 RESULTS OF INFLUENCES ON AGENTS AT DIFFERENT CAREER STAGES........109 Influences On Agricultural Extension Agents At Different Career Stages..........................109 Entry Level....................................................................................................................109 Colleague Level.............................................................................................................124 Counselor/Advisor Level...............................................................................................132 Grounded Theory................................................................................................................ ..140 Summary........................................................................................................................ .......142 6 DISCUSSION..................................................................................................................... ..143 Key Findings................................................................................................................... ......144 Agents Decision To Enter Into Extension...........................................................................144 Agents Decision To Remain In Extension..........................................................................146 Influences On Agricultural Extension Agents At Different Career Stages..........................149

PAGE 8

8 Recommendations For Future Research...............................................................................153 Implications And Recommendations For Extension............................................................156 Summary........................................................................................................................ .......161 APPENDIX A CODING......................................................................................................................... ......162 B GROUNDED THEORY.......................................................................................................175 C GROUNDED THEORY.......................................................................................................177 D IRB APPROVAL..................................................................................................................179 E INFORMED CONSENT......................................................................................................180 F INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE......................................................................................181 G EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE............................................................................................183 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................185 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................191

PAGE 9

9 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2.1 Herzbergs motivators and hygienes..................................................................................46 3.1 Defining individual characteristics of extens ion agents in the career stages model..........67 4.1 Description of participants................................................................................................ .79

PAGE 10

10 LIST OF TERMS Analytic tools Devices and tec hniques used by analysts to fa cilitate the coding process. Axial coding A set of procedures whereby da ta are put back together in new ways after open coding, by making connect ions between categories. Coding The analytic processes through wh ich data are fractured, conceptualized, and integrated to form theory. Extension educators Professional employees of the state Extension serv ice of the land-grant institutions and the Extension Se rvice-USDA. Those include county faculty (agents, program assistant, EFNEP educators), district staff (agents, directors, program specialists ), and state staff (administrators, program specialists). Extension education process The composite of act ions where an extensi on educator conducts a situation analysis of individual and co mmunity needs, establishes specific learner objectives, implements a plan of work and evaluates the outcomes of the instruction to determine be havioral changes have occurred. Extension partnership The tripartite organiza tion structure of the Cooperative Extension System. Includes the federal partne r (CSREES, USDA), state partners (Extension services of the state land-g rant university), and local partners (county or parish legislative units). Extension work A collective phrase for descri bing the various methods by which extension educators accomplish the education mission of the organization and the program areas that are ce ntral to its instruction. Grounded theory Theory derived from data, syst ematically gathered and analyzed through

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11 the research process where data coll ection, analysis, and eventual theory stand in close relationship with one another and the theory emerges from the data. Memos The researchers record of anal ysis, thoughts, interpretations, questions, and directions for fu rther data collection. Methodology A way of thinking a bout and studying social reality. Methods A set of procedures and techni ques for gathering and analyzing data. Microanalysis The detailed line-by-line anal ysis necessary at the beginning of a study to generate initial categories and to suggest relationships among categories; a combination of open and axial coding. Open coding The process of breaking dow n, examining, comparing, conceptualizing, and categorizing data. New extension faculty Faculty /agents who have less than tw o years of experience within the UF/IFAS Extension System. New faculty orientation and training The pr ocess utilized to e ducate new extension faculty on the mission, objectives, and the structure of the organization. This includes program development, evaluation and accountability, teaching and learning principles, orga nizational policies, procedures, and career roles and responsibilities. Professional development A process characterized by intentional efforts to create positive changes, ongoing learning opportuniti es, and a timely, systematic procedure. Selective coding The process of selecting the core category, systematically relating it to

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12 other categories, validating those relationships, and filling in categories that need further refinement and development. Theory A set of well developed concep ts related through statements of relationship, which together constitute an integrated framework that can be used to explain or predict phenomenon. Theoretical saturation The point in categor y development at which no new properties, dimensions, or relationships emerge during analysis. Turnover The voluntary termination of participation in employment for an organization, excluding retirement or pressured voluntary withdrawal, but an individual who received monetary compensation from the organization.

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13 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy CAREER DECISIONS OF FLORIDA AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AGENTS By S hannon Kristin Arnold August 2007 Chair: Nick T. Place Major: Agricultural Ed ucation and Communication My qualitative study sought to explore and de scribe the career deci sions of agricultural extension agents. Interviews were used to investigate the fact ors and experiences that affect agricultural extension agents decisions to ente r and remain in extension, and discover positive and negative influences related to decisions of agents at different career stages. From the data collected, two grounded theories were developed that explain significant issues that affect agents career decisions. A purposive sample was used to select twelve extension agents who worked primarily in commercial agriculture, were identified by a panel of experts as consistent work performers, and were classified into one of the th ree stages of the career stages model. All agents participated in interviews to share their thoughts on influences that shaped their decision to enter into the organization, remain in the organization, and shaped their decisions at diffe rent career stages. Grounded theory was used as the primary data analysis method. The selective categories relevant to agents decisions to enter into the organization were agent background, career contacts, service to agricu ltural community, nature of extension work, position fit, and university supporte d education. The selective cat egories relevant to agents decisions to remain in the organization were inte rnal satisfaction, community leadership, external

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14 motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environment. The categories relevant to the positive and negativ e influences that shaped career decisions of agents at the different career stages of entry, colleague, and counselor/advi sor levels are detailed below. Positive influences on entry level agents care er decisions can be classified into three categories: personal traits, motivators, and suppo rt systems. The negative influences of entry level agents can be divided into four areas: lack of direction, personal work management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements. Positive influences on colleague level agents career decisions can be classified into four categ ories: motivators, career growth opportunities, career management strategies, and collaboration with key people. Negative influences on colleague level agents career decisions can be divided into three ca tegories: performance evaluations, salary disparity, a nd personal work management issues. Positive influences on counselor/advisor level agents career decisions can be classi fied into three categories: motivators, career growth opportunities, and career management strategies. Negative influences on counselor/advisor level agents career decisions can be divided into two categories: career overload and job dissatisfiers.

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15 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE Background and Setting The Cooperative Extension System (CES) is a nationwide educational network of federal, state, and local governments linked to land-gr ant universities (Seevers, Graham, Gamon, & Conklin, 1997). Its mission is to disseminate re search-based information to the public in the areas of agriculture, family and consumer sciences, youth development, and community development. The system provides nonformal, public education that links research-based information to adult and youth audiences, supports life skills and problem solving behaviors, and assists communities in developing a better way of life (Seevers, et. al., 1997). Extension agents transfer information generated by the univers ity through educational programs specifically designed to address community needs. Educators utilize various methods of program delivery to reach the maximum amount of people with the mi nimum amount of resources and costs. There is no other organization that offe rs these specialized educational services to the public (Seevers, et. al., 1997). The goals of extension focus on reaching out to those in-need of reliable, practical information necessary for empowerment and human growth. Extension serves to make people more productive members of society and assists th em with free educationa l services. The focus of public good is the desired outcome (Seevers, et al., 1997). Extension agents aim to provide quick and accurate answers to solve existing public problems and encourage lifelong learning. They work in conjunction with universities to tr ansfer research-based education that aims to improve society. The Florida Cooperative Extension System (FCE S) is a state outreach division comprised of national, state, and county educators, administ rators, and professionals linked to the land-grant

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16 university. Its goals reflect the national missi on to extend knowledge and assist people in solving personal and professional problems. Th e relevance of FCES programs is unmatched by any other state organization because of its needs, research-based curriculum, and combination of resources available for assistance (Seevers, et. al ., 1997). Extension plays an important role in identifying public needs and responding with ed ucational programs. Specifically, extension agents are the key to providing services that allow for continuing education of communities and aim to improve the overall quality of life. Reliance on qualified personnel to perform these functions is integral to organizational succes s and community development (Seevers, et. al., 1997). The agricultural industry plays a significant role in Floridas public and economic welfare. The economic impacts of agriculture in Florida can be seen in its services, enterprises, commodities, revenue, business taxes, and employme nt connected to the diverse industry sectors (University of Florida IFAS Extension, 2002). According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Servi ces (2006), Florida ranks ninth na tionally in the value of farm products. Over 42,500 farms produce 280 commod ities for a total pr oduction value of $6.4 million. In 2005, agricultural impact on the total economy accounted for nearly $87.6 billion and supported 756,993 jobs throughout the st ate. Florida also ranks 16th nationally in the export of agricultural products at $1.3 million (Florida Depart ment of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 2006). Local, export, and import markets represent the impact of Florida agriculture. The agriculture industries offer sign ificant contributions to Florida, the nation, and the world. Producers need to be informed of changes in agricultural t echnologies, production practices, alternative markets, and consumer demand. Edu cational programs can address these issues and transfer relevant information to raise agricultural awareness.

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17 However, the extension organization must en sure that its faculty is provided with necessary career assistance in order to perform their jobs e ffectively (Conklin, Hook, Kelbaugh, & Nieto, 2002). Competent, knowle dgeable extension agents not only reflect the integrity of FCES, but the entire organizational reputation. The organization must constantly be engaged and responsive to agents work related needs in or der to achieve this overall success (Conklin, et. al., 2002). Administrators and dire ctors must work to address prof essional career issues. With approximately 360 extension agents employed w ith FCES, employee needs are extensive and must be addressed for job satisfaction a nd continued career success (Extension County Operations, personal communication, Decembe r 5, 2006). Professional development, organizational support, and career enhancement activities are commonly employed to address areas of employee satisfaction a nd enrichment (Guskey, 2000). Extension professionals face numerous issues and challenges in the workplace. These complex problems require agents to maintain high levels of expertise to carry out extension programs (CES Professional Development Task Force, 1998). Therefore, new and current extension faculty must be activ ely involved in valuable, per tinent professional development focused on career growth. To achieve this, th e organization must be prepared to deliver professional development to all ex tension agents in order to retain its specialized faculty (A Comprehensive Approach for Professional Development for UF/IFAS Extension, 2001). Faculty recruitment and retention are two major issues currently facing FCES (L. Arrington, personal communication, November 21, 2006). Career decisions of current and potential faculty determine the future abilities skills, and competence of extension (ECOP, 2002). As programs shift and public needs chan ge, extension is facing decisions on how to continue its services and programs with suitable personnel. New and diverse people to work

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18 with changing clientele must be hired to a ddress emerging needs and concerns (L. Arrington, personal communication, November 21, 2006). However, finding highly qualified agents is becoming more difficult as career opportunities expand. Extension mu st seek to identify experts in the field needed to provide relevant servi ces and attract them to the organization. Once employed, the organization must strive to keep these agents which will help to improve the quality of services, reliability of the organization, connect ion to the public, and reduce organizational expenses (Ensle, 2005). Organizational efforts must be directed at understanding current recruitment and retention issues (ECOP, 2005). This will require administ rators to become more knowledgeable about the reasons agents enter and remain in an extensi on career. Having an unders tanding of factors that affect critical career decisions is invaluable and must be sought to advance organizational efforts. An exploration of factors that shape extens ion agents career deci sions will assist the organization in identifying the following: caree r influences on extension agents; positive and negative experiences that affect agents career decisions; personal and professional issues common to agents; and, new and cu rrent agents concerns that a ffect future career decisions. Knowing this information will be beneficial to the organization in many ways. Results can be used to help attract new agents, improve recruitment strategies, provide direction for future professional development and career assistan ce, and reduce attrition rates. The ability to retain long-term, high quality pr ofessionals is a direct reflectio n of a successful organization and must be a high priority for extension to remain a viable educational outreach system (Conklin, et. al., 2002). However, administrators must incr ease their understanding of employee needs in order to address them appropriately. The future of extension will ultimately be determined on

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19 how the organization approaches these critical areas to accomplish its goals and mission (ECOP, 2002). Theoretical Framework Career Stages Model The rapid changes occurri ng in the areas of techno logy, education, economics, demographics, politics, and cultura l diversity affect both the orga nization and the people within them. As extension positions it self to address these emerging i ssues, faculty must engage in lifelong learning in order to main tain professional expertise in relevant areas (Martin, 1991). Therefore, professional development must become a priority for future survival. The term professional development can broadly be defined as a variety of learning experiences that build professional capacities, enhance work performance, and assist in achieving long-term career goals (CES Professional Development Task Force, 1998). Continuous growth is vital for agents to be educated on the rapidly changing industry, improve work and life management skills, and perf orm effectively in their positions. New agents specifically need to be educated to successfully transition into the organization in order to remain long-term employees (Bailey, 2005). However, de termining career needs is difficult in extension which encompasses a variety of job responsibili ties, including conducting programs, developing educational materials, providing community supp ort, and serving as a subject matter resource (Conklin, Hook, Kelbaugh, & Nieto, 2002). A variety of career development models ha s assisted in unders tanding the needs of professionals. Using Rennekamp and Nalls career stage model as a framework, Kutilek, Gunderson, and Conklin (2002) adapted the model to create a systems approach to maximize individual career potential a nd organizational success. This more recent career development model consists of three stages in a persons ca reerthe entry stage, colleague stage, and the

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20 counselor/advisor stage. In addition, it outlines motivators and organizational strategies that are beneficial to career growth within each stage (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). In the career stages model, the entry level stage focuses on new agen ts understanding the organizational culture and structur e, gaining essential job skills, establishing internal linkages, developing initiative, and moving fr om dependence to independence. Agents then move into the colleague stage which centers on development of expertise, problem resolution, gaining community acceptance and membership, expanding crea tivity, and moving to interdependence. The final stage is the combined counselor and advi sor stage, in contrast to Rennekamp and Nalls model that listed each stage se parately. The more recent model combined these two stages due to the similarities found in motivators and organi zational strategies at this point within an individuals professional career. In this counselor and advi sor stage, agents acquire a foundation in expertise, attain le adership and influential positions, enga ge in organizational problem solving, become a counselor for other professionals, and facilitate self -renewal (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Utilization of this model and its career stages pr ovides a theoretical framework for this study of career decisions of agricultural extension agents. Statement of the Problem The foundation of educational organizations is in its human and intellectual capital. Recruitment and retention are two of the top internal challenges currently facing the Cooperative Extension System (ECOP, 2005). These issues must be openly addressed in order for the Cooperative Extension System to continue its public services and programs. Florida Cooperative Extension System is currently facing the grow ing problem of faculty turnover and burnout of new agents (L. Arrington, personal communicatio n, November 21, 2006). Current attrition rates of extension agents are not readily available from the FCES, but the CES Professional

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21 Development Task Force (1998) found the rate of turnover in extension positions was relatively high, with an average of 25-30 new county faculty hired annually. Much of the current research regarding reasons for turnover and attri tion rates needs to be revisited and updated (Kutilek, 2000; Clark, 1992; Rousan, 1995; Riggs & Beus, 1993; Whaples, 1983; Manton & van Es, 1985). Currently, there is a lack of accessible, statistical information concerning the turnover of agricu ltural agents in Florida (Ext ension County Operations, personal communication, December 5, 2006). However, data from the Florida Cooperative Extension System New Agent Orientation show that there is an increasing number of agents leaving the system, particularly in the last seven years. For extension to survive in this increasingly competitive world, it must prepare its faculty to grow, adapt, and thrive in a changing environment. Long-term personnel commitments are the single most important fact or inhibiting the agility and flexibility of an extension organization (ECOP, 2002). According to ECOP (2005), low salaries, staff cuts, downsizing, and aging faculty are causing agents to leave extension. Extension administrators must critically examine and employ competent staff for long-term su rvival. Competencies of agents frequently change to reflect their roles and must be re -examined regularly. Organizational accountability depends upon agents to become leaders engaged at the local level that conduct desirable outreach programs. This active engagement demonstrates the public value and commitment of extension services to community decision makers (ECO P, 2002). Developing hiring, compensation, and professional development strategies that attract and retain qualif ied employees for engagement in a global society is a key component for the future of extension. Organizational resources must be allocated to assure employees are skilled a nd engaged in professional development activities that enhance competencies for critical issues (ECOP, 2002).

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22 Recruitment and retention of agents is becoming increasingly problematic in many extension systems. High quality agents are leaving the extensi on system due to organizational factors, non-work related factors, and individual related factors (Kutil ek, et. al., 2002). The national extension organization mu st consider these factors and how to best address them. Exploring extension agents ca reer decisions and experiences can assist in understanding influences, factors, issues, and concerns of all levels of agents. The beginning years within extension can shape the agents at titudes, behaviors, and practices important for the future. Yet, it is important that agents are not forgotten onc e employed. Faced with nu merous career related issues, agents needs can be met through profe ssional development, in -service training, and targeted programs. Continual career assistance on professional needs must be available to maximize agents career potential. Knowing the n eeds of agents at various stages within their careers is essential to determining accurate proa ctive assistance, motivators, and organizational strategies (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Appropriate professional development opportunities can then be created to help reduce attrition rates and retain quality professionals. To address these problems, the reasons ag ents enter into th eir careers and their expectations must be openly e xplored. Then, the organization must understand the factors and influences that affect agents during their care ers. Proactive attention that addresses these concerns will help to recruit and retain agents in an increasingly competitive marketplace. These issues indicate a prominent need to further exam ine factors that affect extension agents career decisions. Statement of the Purpose and Objectives The purpose of this study was to explore and de scribe the career decisions of agricultural extension agents. Agricultural agents were sel ected due to the importance of agriculture in Florida and the perceived increa sing rates of agent turnover prev alent in FCES. The interview

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23 process was used to investigate the factors that affected agricultural extension agents decisions to enter and remain in extension, discover posi tive and negative experien ces related to career decisions, and identify significant influences on agents careers at different career stages. From the data collected, a grounded theory was devel oped that explains the significant issues that affect agricultural extension agents career decisions. The key obj ectives of this study included: Objective 1: To understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to enter into the organization Objective 2: To understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to rema in in the organization Objective 3: To discover th e influences that shape career decisions of agricultural extension agents at different career stages Objective 4: To develop a grounded theory that explains the most si gnificant issues that affect the career decisions of Florida agricultural extension agents Limitations of Design This study sought to explain the unique experien ces and decisions of each individual, so the findings cannot be generalized to a larger population. The part icipants were selected from the state of Florida and may not be representative of all agricultural extension agents. It was also assumed that participants provided honest and accurate answers during th e interview process. Finally, in qualitative studies, researcher bias can influence the methodology and interpretation of data. In order to eliminate th is bias, the researcher took a subj ective approach to the interview process, followed the interview guide for each pa rticipant, and provided a subjectivity statement to state predetermined assumptions and alleviate any misconceptions. Summary This chapter explained the background and supports the need for an in-depth study of extension agents career decisions. The problem s associated with extension recruitment and retention were explained and the organizational im portance of long-term faculty was established.

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24 The role of professional development in accomp lishing this goal was men tioned as an integral component to career growth. The career stag es model offered a conceptual framework to examine the influences and factors affecting exte nsion agents career decisi ons at all phases of employment. The purpose, objectives, and limitati ons of the study were outlined to provide a foundation for the study.

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25 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction This chapter reviewed the re levant literature that provi ded the background for this research. Specific areas of literature include: roles of extension agents, employee recruitment and retention, professional development, career development models, and human motivation. The section on county extension ag ents outlined work responsibi lities and duties. Employee retention and recruitment were di scussed to provide an overview of the challenges and issues facing organizations. Professional development highlighted the need for continuing education and career growth of employees. Factors of mo tivation and career theories were outlined to provide an overview of factor s that influence employees career and life decisions. The career stages model was described as it provided struct ure to the study in regards to career development for extension agents. Roles of Cooperative Extension System County Agents The U. S. Cooperative Extension System relie s upon local county agents to carry out its educational services and functions. County ag ents transfer inform ation generated by the university through extension programs specifically designed to address community needs. According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agri cultural Sciences Office of Human Resources (2006), the duties, functions and responsibilities of all county extension agents are: Provide leadership for development, im plementation, delivery and evaluation of a comprehensive extension program in coopera tion with local and c ounty/state extension colleagues. Establish and maintain an effective system for accountability and public information to all relevant individuals, groups, organizations and agencies. Ma intain an effective program advisory committee, with appropr iate community representation.

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26 Target programs to achieve program balance reflective of the county's population diversity and to address the unique educationa l needs of the county's residents. Develop and sustain partnerships with co mmodity groups, governmental and community agencies and organizations sharing common goals. Develop, sustain and monitor th e effectiveness of a volunteer system to staff the program, including recruitment, volunteer staff development and evaluation/recognition. Seek and obtain financial resources to support extension programming. Provide leadership for management of all pr ogram components including program policies, records, communications a nd educational materials. Assume other assignments and responsibilities in support of the total extension program. Proactive 4-H program involvement is essential. Follow all University and c ounty policies and procedures. Extension agents are personal connection of the organization to communities. County agents transfer practical and relevant inform ation to the public through nonformal educational programs, and provide quick and accurate answers to solve existing problems. This service is critical to empower clientele, build technical skills, and improve the well-being of communities (Seevers, et. al., 1997). Agents utilize various methods of program delivery to reach the maximum number of people with the minimum amount of resources and costs. There are few organizations that offer these specialized, public funded educational serv ices. The goals of extension focus on reaching out to those in-need of reliable, practical information necessary for empowerment and human growth (Seevers, et. al., 1997). The county agent is necessary for the organization to meet its goals and accomplish its mission. Employee Recruitment One of the most important challenges faci ng the CES today is r ecruiting high caliber individuals who are prepared to function in a rapidly changing society. The recruitment of adaptable, diverse extension employees is critic al to address the problem s faced by clientele.

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27 Extension professionals face numerous issues and challenges in the workplace. These complex problems require agents to have high levels of expertise to carry out educational programs (Seevers, et. al., 1997). The failure of CES to recruit suitable l ong-term employees can cost the organization (Clark, 1992; Ensle, 2005). A dditionally, finding highly qualified agents is becoming more difficult as career opportunities expand. Extension mu st seek to identify experts in the field and attract them to the organi zation. Finding qualified employees can become challenging, but utilizing a variety of methods can support recruitment efforts. Methods All organizations are faced with the critical challenge to recruit and retain qualified employees (Langan, 2000). Piotrowski and Armstrong (2006) conducted a survey study on recruitment and pre-employment selection methods used by 151 human resources departments in 1000 major U.S. companies. The findings indica ted that the majority of companies rely on traditional recruitment and personne l selection techniques over th e use of online communication. The most common recruitment and selection t echniques ranked in descending order were: resume, applications, reference checks, newspape r/magazine ads, company websites, online job board, skills and personality testi ng, online pre-employment tests, j ob fairs, referrals from current employees, and job service cente rs (Piotrowski & Armstrong, 2006). Psychological tests focused on prospective employees' personalities have received increased attention to recruit suitable personne l. Additionally, to e nhance the chances for successful recruitment for employers, research has endorsed the person job-fit paradigm (Anderson, et al., 2004; Chan, 2005; Hollenbeck, et al., 2002). This emerging paradigm states that there must be a match between the pe rsons knowledge, skills, and abilities, and the requirement of a specific job. Also, there must be a congruence of an individuals personality,

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28 beliefs, and values with the culture, norms, and va lues of an organization. Finally, there must be a match between an employees needs and what the organization supplies, such as pay, benefits, and work (Anderson, et al., 2004; Chan, 2005; Hollenbeck, et al., 2002). Utilizing this framework can assist in the sele ction of employees that are comp atible with the organization. With the widespread reach of technology, pot ential recruitment us ing online methods might be used to reach new populations. Kraut, et al. (2004) identified several benefits of using the Internet for recruitment including low costs, the ability to attract a large and diverse sample, and improved visibility to undergraduates and gra duate students. In esse nce, the Internet has expanded the base for recruitment procedures. Another study focused on the impact of the Internet on recruitment stated that 1.5 million po tential employees were reached over a four year span (Kraut, et. al., 2004). Clearly, the Internet provides a wider breath over a shorter period of time than traditional recruitment methods. Organizational Diversity Extension must continue to seek out specialized agents to address th e diverse audiences in todays changing population. Trad itional agricultural audiences are decreasing and opportunities to reach new clientele are growing. Recruitmen t of diverse staff can present challenges and therefore, common recruitment methods may not be applicable. Grogan and Eshelman (1998) studied the most effective recruitment strategi es for recruiting personnel for a more diverse workforce. Strategies used most often were pers onal contacts with suitable applicants; inclusion of specific universities with a pool of divers e students; active recruitment by staff and board members; and providing incentives for currently employed diverse sta ff to assist in recruiting. Ewert and Rice (1994) researched the management and implica tions of diversity within extension. Findings suggested that more culturally diverse organiza tions are better able to recruit

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29 and retain culturally diverse staff, and expand their "reach" and increase their ability to attract new clientele. It was recommended that exte nsion set specific organizational goals for the recruitment of culturally diverse staff. To attrac t diverse staff, more a ggressive recruiting and a rigorous assessment of the recruitment proced ure is needed. An assessment of position descriptions, job announcements, and the selecti on process will assist in the recruitment of diverse agents. Recruitment procedures must also be re-exami ned to ensure that cu ltural barriers are not placed on potential employees. To overcome barrier s, extension must facilitate the recruitment process with established connections to culturally diverse groups in the community. Building relationships with potential employees and educat ing diverse audiences ab out the career potential extension offers can assist in recruitment stra tegies and increase the applicant pool. Cultural minorities must specifically be empowered to fe el valued and included in the organizations vision in order to improve recruitm ent efforts (Ewert & Rice, 1994). Employee Retention Organizational Effects of Turnover The foundation of any educational system is its human capital. Reten tion of employees is necessary for the CES to continue its organiza tional services and programs. When addressing retention issues, it is imperative to assess empl oyee turnover. Turnover refers to the voluntary termination of participation in employment for an organization, excluding retirement or pressured voluntary withdrawal, but an individual who received monetary compensation from the organization (Rossano, 1985). Turnover rates ne gatively affect the ex tension organization in many different ways. According to the Flor ida CES Professional Development Task Force (1998), the rate of turnover in extension positio ns was relatively high, with an average of 25-30 new county faculty hired annually. According to UF/IFAS Extension County Operations Office,

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30 this rate continues today (Extension Count y Operations Office, personal communication, December 5, 2006). This information must be continually updated in order to monitor improvements and changes in organizational retention. Employee departures cause financial and time strains on the organiza tion (Kutelik, 2000). These pressures include the disruption of c lientele services, interruption of extension programming, additional time and money to recru it and train new agents, and extra workload on the remaining staff (Clark, 1992). Departing employ ees create stress on other staff as they serve in interim positions and can cost up to 150 perc ent of the departing employees salary in replacement costs (Clark, 1992; Ensle, 2005). An Ohio State University Extension study reported that net costs for annual staff depart ures cost $80,000 in replacement and salary expenses (Rousan, 1995). Reduction in organizati onal effectiveness, increased administrative efforts to replace agents, reduced av ailability in overall funds, and scarcity of resources to hire and train new extension agents are common issues faced when dealing with staff turnover (Rousan & Henderson, 1996). All of these reasons si gnify to the need to review why employees leave the extension system. However, understandi ng these factors will offer valuable insight for improved retention of agents as well. Reasons for Leaving Extension Discovering the reasons agents leave extensi on must first be identified before targeted assistance can be provided to retain them. The Ohio State University Extension System conducted a study to identify the reasons why c ounty extension faculty voluntarily left the organization between 1990 and 1994. Rousan and Henderson (1996) found that the majority of staff left the organization for the following reasons: Organizational factors, incl uding low pay, excessive work responsibilities, demanding requirements for advancement, and a lack of career recognition.

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31 Individual non-work-related fact ors, including other job offers family obligations, higher salaries elsewhere, personal life conflicts, and lack of time for personal relationships. Individual work-related factor s, including other life prio rities, excessive late night meetings, and conflict with values. Findings also indicated that those agents who left were more likely to be: (1) Caucasian females in their early thirties holding a masters degree who are married with no children, and (2) in a non-tenure track position as a 4-H agent in a single county. Kutelik (2000) also investigated the fact ors that affected why employees left the extension organization. Agents id entified job stress, low pay, and lack of supervisory support as the top reasons contributing to th eir departure. Balfour and Ne ff (1993) indicated that overtime hours were one of the key variables contributing to departures, while Ga vin (1990) cited low pay and decreased benefits as leadi ng contributors to pers onnel loss. Clark (1992) studied stress and turnover among extension directors and found that higher levels of burnout were associated with low feelings of personal accomplishment, and hi gher stress and strain levels mainly due to responsibility overload. Ewert a nd Rice (1994) found that culturally diverse staff left extension for reasons such as isolation, marginalization, pe rceived lack of power, hi erarchical management styles, inadequate financial compensation, and di sagreements over program priorities. The need for additional research in all areas related to employee loss will help extension retain a more qualified, diverse, and satisfied staff. Balancing Work and Family Life Other studies have linked job satisfaction and retention to an agents ability to balance work and family life (Ensle, 2005; Fetsch & Kennington, 1997; Riggs & Beus, 1993; Place & Jacob, 2001). Maintaining a correct life balance is essential in reducing stress and the potential for employee burnout. The Illinois Extension Serv ice conducted a study to review why agents left extension positions (Ensle, 2005). The three primary reasons were:

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32 Changes in the family situation (marri age, divorce, spouse changed job, etc.) Family moving (outside of travel distance to work area) Too much time away from family This study also revealed that agents in gene ral were not happy with the effectiveness and organization of the extension system. As a result, reduced employee morale affected job performance and produced higher stress levels. To reduce this stress, leader trainings were conducted and new job descriptions we re written that more closely ti ed to the work they actually performed. Supervisors also ensured that work expectations were carefu lly reviewed with new employees. However, Illinois never addressed the "too much time away from family" issue, or clearly defined their "compensator y time" program. Both of these issues greatly affect agents' ability to balance work and family (Ensle, 2005). Fetsch and Kennington (1997) examined the balancing work and family struggle for extension faculty and made the follo wing organizational recommendations: Invest significant resources into conducting research into de termining the most effective Balancing Work and Family Programs Choose empirically-based edu cational programs that are linked to known problems and solutions to balancing work and family issues Personnel recommendations from this study were: Communicate openly with supervisors about Balancing Work and Family problems and solutions to set goals and priorities for work activities and performance Incorporate time and stress management strategies into daily routines Riggs and Beus (1993) explored job satisfaction in extensi on, and findings indicated that reframing and passive appraisal were most ofte n used to cope with stressful situations. Additionally, agents with the highest satisfac tion levels reported cont entment with the six components of job satisfaction: (1) the job itself, (2) salary, (3), fringe be nefits, (4) authority to

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33 run programs, (5) supervisors, and (6) opportunity for growth. Additional focus on these factors and their solutions was important to assist em ployees in developing a healthy balance between their personal and pr ofessional lives. Place and Jacob (2001) conducted a study to identi fy factors that cause stress in extension faculty to determine professional development n eeds. Research was focused on the exploration of balancing work and personal life issues am ong Florida Extension pr ofessionals. Findings indicated that: Some faculty have stress under control while other are experiencing high levels of stress County faculty perceived slightly higher stress than state faculty Greater use of formal planni ng, planning for meetings, and st ructured to do lists lower stress levels Spending time with family served as a coping mechanism to minimize stress Stressful situations can be improved upon th rough proactive professional development Professional development focused on workday pl anning may help faculty cope with stress Overall, the study found that gr eater organizational effectiven ess can be achieved through employees that are prepared and manage stre ss and work pressures through positive workplace skills. Job Satisfaction There is less research available on why extens ion agents remain in the organization, but a commonality among studies is job satisfaction. Factors that influen ce job satisfaction are important to acknowledge and address when c onsidering employee retention. Pennsylvania Cooperative Extension made efforts to improve re tention rates and implemented an in-service training program to address person al and professional issues. The educational sessions received high evaluations and employees stated that the information was practical and useful (Ensle,

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34 2005). Kansas Cooperative Extension created a se ries of eight organizational workshops aimed at increasing pride and addressing work and life responsibilities (E nsle, 2005). The most valued characteristics related to job satisfaction were: The staff enjoyed the teamwork atmosphere of extension They liked the feeling of belongi ng to a group who cares for others They liked the opportunity to be self-directed They enjoyed the variety in their jobs They valued administrators and supervisors Extension agents identified lack of resour ces and the overall effectiveness of the organization as barriers to a healthy work environment (Ensle, 2005). Finally, Vermont Extension conducted a wellness initiative aimed at increasing morale an d performance among its staff (Ensle, 2005). After implementation of th e program, all employees received added fringe benefits, lifestyle enhancement workshops, stress management programs, seminars on balancing work and life, and relaxation training. Job satisfaction has been proven to be directly related to continued employment within an organization. Satisfied employees become lifetim e employees. Job satisfaction in extension is dependent upon many factors. Fact ors cited by agents related to career retention included that the job offers a flexible work sc hedule, personal satisfaction is de rived from educating clientele, and agents enjoy the teaching a nd learning process (Ensle, 2005). Mallilo (1990) found that job satisfaction depended upon a number of factors, but the most nega tive factor was salary. Over 81% of employees did not feel they were adequate ly compensated for their work responsibilities. According to Ensle (2005), a Western region survey was conducted with county extension agents job satisfaction levels and the factors most highly rated were: Satisfaction with jobs, colleague s, and job responsibilities

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35 Adequate salary and fringe benefits Authority to manage extensi on programs for client needs Positive relations with supervisors Opportunities for growth in the job and organization The CES organization Supportive colleagues Additional findings indicated th at as the agents number of job responsibilities increased, the overall job satisfaction decreased; agents wit hout children were more satisfied; and, agents used coping strategies to handle stressful job situations (Ensle, 2005). The question can be asked if these factors are more prevalen t with certain agents or contexts more than others. Current research addressing these concerns is needed to determine if these factors apply to all extension agents. Coping Strategies The issues of job stress, time management, a nd balancing ones person al and professional life are prevalent problems in extension today (Place & Jacob, 2001). Kirkpatrick, Lewis, Daft, Dessler, and Garcia (1996) identified three pr imary sources of job stress: the employees personal life characteristics, th e work conditions and environment, and situations occurring within the job itself. Research indicates that extension agents can reduce work-related stress and improve their lives by practicing stress and tim e management strategies (Gentry, 1978, Suinn, 1978, 1980). To achieve a better work and life bala nce, coping strategies and mediation can be employed. According to Pearlin (1989), coping is an individual action l earned from colleagues, and mediators are social supports that help alleviate stress. Additional research in coping strategies indicates that if people are empowere d and feel they have control over life outcomes, then stress levels can be signi ficantly reduced (Pearlin, 1989).

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36 Two organizational methods for reduci ng employee stress are: (1) modifying organizational policies and practices that cause stress, and (2) implementing effective balancing work and family programs (ECOP, 2002). Both methods can lead to reduced stress and improved productivity among staff, but are not alwa ys employed due to various reasons. An Ohio State University extension study focused on employee burnout identifie d several successful coping strategies. These included goal setting, recognition of stress and burnout, asking for help, having a support system at home and work, mainta ining an active social life, good health habits, taking time off, having professional involvement and being positive (Ensle, 2005). Clark (1992) also found that extension direct ors employed coping strategies, in cluding social support from friends and family, time away from the job, and immediate confrontation of problems, to handle stress. Fetsch and Kennington (1997) concluded th at stress and time management strategies, as well as organizational policies and practices fo r improving coping skills and productivity, should be employed to cope with the pressures in the extension workplace. Reduced stress levels can lead to more committed and satisfied employees that remain in the organization for longer periods of time. Career Development Models Various career development models have been validated to assist in understanding the needs of professionals and are useful for planni ng programs that aim to improve recruitment and retention rates. Many theorists have developed career models to address differing personal and professional needs (Rennekamp & Nall, 1993; C onklin, et. al., 2002; Kohlberg, 1969; Flavell, 1971). The majority of models fall into two ge neral categories: competency based and career stages. Competency based models enhance the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors of extension employees through career developm ent and training (Cooper & Graham, 2001). Career stages models are designe d to address the needs, motivator s, and organizational strategies

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37 that relate to multiple phases of career growth (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). These models provide a basis for the development and design of car eer development programs within extension. There are several different stra tegies or methods to deliver career development. The career stages model by Kutilek, et. al. (2002) pr ovides essential background information for extension administration. The changing attitudes, knowledge, as pirations, skills, and career needs of employees must be considered when studying recruitment and retention issues. The influence of these factors and their effects on career growth must be carefully analyzed to determine appropriate learning experiences. These will ultimately influence the career decisions of current and potential extension faculty and the future competence of the extension system. Career Stages Model Dalton, Thompson, and Price (1977) created the original model for professional career stages which was later adapted by Roger Rennekamp and Martha Nall (1994). The model created by Rennekamp and Nall (1994) addressed f our stages within a pe rsons career including the entry stage, colleague stage, counselor stag e, and advisor stage. Within each stage, motivators were outlined that ca n direct professional developmen t efforts. This model is valuable because it recognizes the considerable variations in professiona l growth seen at the different phases within a persons career (Rennekamp & Nall, 1994). Using Rennekamp and Nalls career stage model as a framework, Kutilek, et. al. (2002) adapted the model to create a systems appr oach to maximize indivi dual career potential and organizational success. This model is also divide d into separate stages that coincide with an employees career growth and development. This more recent career development model consists of three, instead of four, stages in a pe rsons careerthe entry stage, colleague stage, and the counselor/advisor stage. In addition, it outlin es motivators and organiza tional strategies that

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38 are beneficial to career growth within each stage. Assumptions of the model include the differing progression of individuals through the st ages depending upon prior career experiences and the career track of the orga nization (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). The career stages model outlines appropriate motivators for employees based upon the stage and recommends organizatio nal professional development strategies to address career needs (Kutilek, Gunderson & Conklin, 2002). The mo tivators provide the dr ive for participating in and the criteria for selecting among various professiona l development opportunities. The organizational strategies focus on relevant professional development opportunities for employees within each career stage (Rennekamp & Nall, 1993). Each stage has different motivators and as a result, separate career development programs must be tailored for every level. This approach addresses both individual and organizational care er development needs specific to employees within each stage. Utilizing th e most effective career development methods can provide relevant career strategies that can fac ilitate employee growth. The fo llowing table (Table 2.3) outlines the stages, motivators and organiza tional strategies of this model.

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39 Table 2-3. Career development model fo r the stages of extension agents Career Stage Motivators Organizational Strategies Entry Stage Understanding the organization, structure, and culture Obtaining essential skills to perform job Establishing linkages with internal partners Exercising creativity and initiative Moving from dependence to independence Peer mentoring program Professional support teams Leadership coaching Orientation/job training Colleague Stage Developing an area of expertise Professional development funding Becoming an independent contributor in problem resolution Gaining membership and identity in professional community Expanding creativity and innovation Moving from independence to interdependence In-service education Specialization funds Professional association involvement Formal educational training Service on committees or special assignments Counselor and Advisor Stages Acquiring a broad-based expertise Attaining leadership positions Engaging in organizational problem solving Counseling/coaching other professionals Facilitating self renewal Achieving a position of influence and stimulating thought in others Life and career renewal retreats Mentoring and trainer agent roles Assessment center for leadership Organizational sounding boards *Note: (Kutilek, Gunderson & Conklin, 2002) The career stages model was developed to address the changing nature and attitudes common in todays workforce. Many employees have shifted their career directions from striving for leadership positions to searching fo r job enrichment and satisfaction (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). To maximize the career potential for each employee and overall organizational success, a

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40 systems approach for career growth and developm ent was needed. Using this approach, all parts of the system, including input, output, and feedb ack, must work together to achieve a desired goal (Kowalski, 1988). As a result, employees can enter and exit the mode l at the point most appropriate within their caree rs (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). The Entry Stage The initial phases of employment into the job define the entry level stage. Motivators at this stage include: understandi ng the organization, structure, and culture; obtaining essential skills to perform job; establishing linkages w ith internal partners; exercising creativity and initiative; and moving from dependence to indepe ndence. New extension agents tend to feel overwhelmed and specifically need to be educated to successfully transition into the organization and work responsibilities. The first years w ithin extension can shap e the agents attitudes, behaviors, and practices important for the future, so skills must be developed quickly for career success (Bailey, 2005). To addre ss professional development need s, a peer mentoring program, identification of professional support teams, l eadership coaching, and or ientation/job training programs are implemented (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). The peer mentoring program involves a formal assignment of a carefully selected peer to each new agent. The selection of the mentor mu st be a person that could be defined as a trustworthy advisor, friend, or teacher and is not a person who will later evaluate this new faculty member. This relationship is designed to pr ovide personal and profe ssional support that is ultimately beneficial to both persons involved. Professional support team s are assigned to each new agent and consist of a district director, one or more specialists, and the county chair. The team is responsible for employee motivation, rec ognition of success, identifying areas for change and improvement, goal setting, training needs, and performance eval uation. Leadership

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41 coaching is a retreat for faculty with one to thr ee years of experience. The retreat focuses on the development of important leadership behaviors a nd skills that agents utilize in their work responsibilities. Following the retreat, each new ag ent is paired with peer coaches who provide support and follow-up on professional developmen t plans and career grow th. Orientation/job training is provided to new faculty during the fi rst two years to assist them in developing knowledge and skills in core competency areas. Training programs provide information in several areas including organiza tional information, work roles and responsibilities, educational programming, teaching and learning, and techni cal subject matter (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). The Colleague Stage The colleague stage focuses on an agents car eer growth and development in the areas of professional knowledge, independence, and autono my. Motivators for this stage include: developing an area of expertise; professional development funding; becoming an independent contributor in problem resolutio n; gaining membership and iden tity in professional community; expanding creativity and innovati on; and moving from indepe ndence to interdependence (Rennekamp & Nall, 1993; Kutelik, et. al., 2002). The length an agent re mains in this stage varies tremendously and is highly dependent upo n assigned roles and responsibilities. Selfdirected learning and maturity are common career gr owth attributes associat ed with this stage, but there must also be structur ed learning opportunities availabl e. Organizational strategies include in-service education, professional development funding, and formal education opportunities (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). In-service education is provided to meet th e changing needs of agents in a variety of specialized areas. The training is designed to keep faculty current in their technica l expertise and is important to meet the needs of the public th at call on them for assistance. These highly

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42 specialized programs are coordina ted by professionals within the technical areas and must be relevant to current needs. Agents within this stag e are more apt to search for resources that assist in career development needs. Professional de velopment funds allow ag ents to pursue selfdirected learning in various program areas. Im portance is placed on building expertise and knowledge accompanied by improved self-efficacy and social learning for t hose that receive the funding. Formal education is an additional option to further professional development. This may include access to undergraduate or graduate pr ograms and is supported by reduced costs and flexible scheduling from the or ganization (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). The Counselor and Advisor Stage The final stage is reached when agents are ready to become counselors, contribute to organizational decision making, participate in job enrichment, and take on leadership positions. Continuing education is important at this stage, but may be in more diverse areas of expertise than previously sought. Motivators associated with this stage are: acquiring a broad-based expertise; attaining leadersh ip positions; engaging in or ganizational problem solving; counseling/coaching other profe ssionals; facilitating self re newal; achieving a position of influence; and stimulating thought in othe rs. The organization addresses employees developmental needs in this st age through life an d career renewal retreats mentoring and trainer agent roles, assessment center for leadership, and organizational sounding boards (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Life and career renewal retreats encourage employees to engage in self-exploration, discovery, and personal reflection on work and life issues. The retreats center on providing tools for employees to develop action plans for personal and professional renewal. Group discussions,

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43 individual thought, planning, and communicatio n with others provide opportunities for employees to reflect and analyze career progre ss and satisfaction (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). As a mentor and trainer, the agent takes a s upervisory role in assi sting mentoring pairs within the district. The mentor agent maintains in regular cont act with the pair and is called upon when problem situations arise. The relationship between the mentor agent and protgs is critical to guide and direct new faculty as they learn about the extension orga nization. Others in this stage may volunteer to participate in on-th e-job training and internship programs to apply their experiences (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). The assessment center for leadership was developed to analyze the managerial abilities and future training needs of extens ion county chairs. Chairs dem onstrate professional skills in various job-related dimensions and are evaluate d by trained assessors. From this assessment, they learn about their capabilities integrate results into current wo rk responsibilitie s, and create a professional development plan for the future (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Organizational sounding boards offer opportu nities for employees to become more engaged in the organization, make decisions, and provide input for future directions. These boards are comprised of senior leaders within the organization to discuss processes and procedures that affect employees and determin e communication strategies. This offers an opportunity for employees to apply their knowle dge and experience to the overall extension organization and assists in job renewal a nd satisfaction (Kutelik, et. al., 2002). There are many delivery methods and progr ams focused on career development of extension faculty. Each of these career stages ha s been developed to help faculty receive career information and training needed in the most appr opriate manner. Throughout all stages in this model, professional development is integral to career growth and job satisfaction. The

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44 organizational strategies employed are useful a nd beneficial to employees by increasing their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and as pirations within personal and prof essional areas of life. This training is essential for growth w ithin agents field of expertise a nd to gain personal satisfaction. The organization will benefit by having educated a nd skilled employees to achieve the goals and objectives of the extension system (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Motivation The concept of motivation influences all as pects of human life. Motivation helps to explain human actions and behaviors to cope within a changing environment (Heckhauser, 1991). A general definition of the term motivation is an internal state or condition that activates goal-oriented behavior and gives it direction (Kleinginna & Klei nginna, 1981). The concept of motivation is important as it drives individuals to accomplish personal and professional goals and guides the decision making process. Motivation is a common theme that attempts to predict why humans behave in certain ways and can be considered developmental in each person (Nicholls, 1984; Deci & Ryan, 2002). Both cognitive and physical factors can contribute to the different forces of motivation that influence thoughts, behaviors, and actions; therefore, it is import ant to examine its influence on ones career responsibilities (Tr easure, 2003). Research indicates that the sources of motivation can be external, including behavioral conditioni ng and social cognition, or internal, such as cognitive, affective, and biological, cona tive, or spiritual (Huitt, 2001). The theories of motivation ha ve taken many directions, bu t each offers a different perspective attempting to explain why behaviors o ccur. Motivational litera ture provides insight into areas that relate to current theories. Appr oaches that have led to the current understanding of motivation include Maslow's need-hierarchy th eory, Herzberg's twofactor theory, Vroom's expectancy theory, Adams' equity theory, and Skinner's reinforcement theory. However, the

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45 theories most closely related to career d ecisions are Maslows Hierarchy of Needs and Herzbergs Two Factor Theory. The follo wing outlines these two theories and their contributions to the evolution of the concept of motivation. Maslows Hierarchy of Needs Maslow (1954) proposed a hierarchy of needs as a means of determining what motivates people to do certain things and to behave in certain ways. This humanistic theory is based on two groups of needs: deficiency needs and growth needs (Huitt, 2001). The five categories of needs that people are motivated to satisfy in sequential order are: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Phys iological needs include air, food, water, and shelter; safety needs include security and free dom from fear; love/bel onging includes friendship, family, and sexual intimacy; esteem includes self -esteem, confidence, achievement, and respect for and by others; self-actualiza tion includes morality, creativity, problem solving, and lack of prejudice (Buford, Bedeian, & Lindner, 1995). Key points of Maslows hierarc hy are: lower deficiency need s must be met first before moving to the next higher leve l of growth needs; the satisf action of one need triggers dissatisfaction at the next higher level; and a person can go down as well as up the hierarchy (Huitt, 2001). Although there have been many varia tions and alterations by many theorists, this hierarchy of needs remains widely accepted in supporting how humans act, behave, and are motivated. An understanding of these needs an d their influence on how humans make career decisions is a critical component that affects professional growth. Herzbergs Two Factor Theory Frederick Herzberg developed a theory that links the concepts of employee motivation and job satisfaction (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderm an, 1959). Specific factors that produce job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction define the th eoretical framework. However, it was found that

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46 these job factors were not simply opposites, but instead entirely separate components. Within the theory, motivation is categorized into two fa ctors: motivators and hygienes. Factors that produce job satisfaction are labeled motivators a nd factors that prevent job dissatisfaction are labeled hygienes as shown in Ta ble 2.1 (Buford, et. al., 1995). Table 2.1: Herzbergs Mo tivators and Hygienes Motivators Hygienes Achievement Policies and Administration Recognition Supervision Work itself Relations with supervisor Responsibility Relations with peers Advancement and personal growth Working conditions Pay *Note: (Buford, et. al., 1995) Thus, motivators produce job satisfaction, wher eas hygienes prevent job dissatisfaction. Buford, et. al. (1995) summarizes th e theory as: (a) the degree to which motivators are present in a job, motivation will occur; when absent, motivat ors do not lead to dissa tisfaction, and (b) the degree to which hygienes are absent from a job, dissatisfaction will occur; when present, they prevent dissatisfaction but do not lead to sati sfaction. Herzbergs theory has often been compared to Maslows hierarchy of needs where the hygienes are equivalent to Maslows three lowest needs and the motivators are equivalent to Maslows two highest needs (Buford, et. al., 1995). Professional Development Definitions Employees are the most valuable assets of the CES. They serve as an essential link between the public and university outreach education. Competency models outline necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes that effective extension agents should possess (Coppernoll & Stone, 2005). The North Carolina Cooperative Exte nsion Competency Model offers seven core

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47 competencies: knowledge of the organi zation, technical expe rtise, programming, professionalism, communications, hu man relations, and leadership. To maintain expertise in these competency areas, adjust to societal cha nges, meet the demands a nd expectations of the workplace, and improve the organizations public value, professional development must be offered to fill the educational gaps in work performance (Martin, 1991). Multiple definitions for professional developmen t exist, but all focus on the importance of continuous learning for career grow th and development. It is e ssential that new and continuing extension faculty become act ively involved in professiona l development as CES policy guidelines state: The extension organization must foster with in staff members, at all levels of the organization, the desire to c ontinue their intellectual growth as a personal as well as an organizational responsibility and commitment. Extension staff members must recognize that lifelong learning is a pr erequisite to effective performance and continuing job satisfaction. While the organization has the responsibility of sett ing the climate for professional improvement, the ultimate respons ibility rests with the individual (USDACSREES, 1987). According to the CES Professional Developmen t Task Force (1998), the term professional development refers to a variet y of individual and organizationa l efforts that build agents professional capacities and skills, en hances their ability to respond to local needs, and assists in achieving long-term career goals. The integrat ion of individual and organizational learning should support staff and become a part of the daily routine within the workplace (A Comprehensive Approach for Professional Develo pment for UF/IFAS, 2001.). Extension faculty must actively seek professional de velopment in order to balance wo rk and life responsibilities. This self-initiated action will assist in job satisf action and long-term career success. Professional development is important for all stages of ex tension employees to support career growth and success.

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48 Guskey (2000) defines professional developmen t as a process charac terized by intentional efforts to create positive changes, ongoing le arning opportunities, and a timely, systematic procedure. According to Guskey, effective exte nsion professional developm ent consists of four fundamental principles: There is an obvious focus on learning and the learners with clear goals based upon attainment of learner outcomes for measuring success. There is an emphasis on individual and organizational change, and this includes commitment across all levels of the organi zation that fosters le arning, experimentation, cooperation and professional respect. There is a grand vision that guides all changes. With this grand vision, more positive and focused changes occur because of clear owne rship across all organizational levels. Professional development must be an ongoing activ ity that is a recogn izable component of every educators professional life. When professional development is built into the extension system, it becomes a natural expect ation thereby opening the door for further learning, continued sharing, and habitual enha ncement of academic and technical skills. Overall, these professional development principles focus on the need for continuing education integrated into work responsibilities an d the importance of change. One of the greatest challenges for all organizations and individuals t oday is the need to cope with change. The extension organization must undergo some type of change in order to maintain relevant in its educational services. To succe ssfully navigate through this process, employees must work together to consider the need for change, the de gree of change needed, and the best approach to adopt change (Burke, 2002). Professional deve lopment can offer a pr actical, experimental approach for continuous learning an d the application of change pr actices. Learning to lead and manage change are important skills for all extens ion faculty. Change is inevitable as the nature of todays society evolves and transforms on a daily basis. Professional development programs must address these principles for long-term career success of employees.

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49 Employee Needs Determining professional development need s can be especially difficult in any organization, particularly extension where the diversity of work res ponsibilities includes conducting educational programs, developing materi als, providing public support, and serving as technical subject matter resource (Conklin, H ook, Kelbaugh, & Nieto, 2002). Extension agents can feel overwhelmed with a ll the demands placed upon them by the organization, clientele, administrators, peers, and supervisors. Theref ore, it is critically important that employees develop career management skills quickly so they can perform their work efficiently and effectively (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Professional development assists new and continuing agents throughout their careers to balance work and life. With the ever-increasing demand for competent agents, growing expectations for acco untability, diversification of clientele, and changing technologies, extension must regard pr ofessional development needs as an integral component to continually develop its employees (ECOP, 2002). Barriers to staff participati on in professional developmen t opportunities must also be understood. In a study of in-servi ce attendance and employee satisf action levels in Pennsylvania Cooperative Extension program, Mincemoyer a nd Kelsey (1999) concluded the following reasons why county-based faculty did not attend in-service trainings: previous commitments, extended time away from the office, and schedul ing conflicts with loca l programming. Conklin et al., (2002) found similar barriers, noting that tim e and scheduling conflicts both contributed to declining participation in profe ssional development trainings. Summary This chapter focused on the areas of liter ature important to this study: employee recruitment and retention, professional developmen t, roles of county extension agents, models of career development, and human motivation. Empl oyee recruitment and re tention are critical

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50 areas to address as the extension organization comp etes with other employers for qualified staff. To meet future organizational challenges, highly qualified, diverse staff are needed to fill positions. Once employed, career development models, motivators, and organizational strategies must be implemented to retain ag ents. Professional de velopment was also examined as it offered insight into career growth for extension employe es. From the broad topic of human motivation, various models, theorists, and concepts were hi ghlighted to signify thei r influence on employees career decisions.

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51 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Introduction The chapter explains the research design and methodology used to accomplish the stated objectives of the study. An overview of qualitative research and its foundations are described and its influence on the research design is just ified. The researcher presents a subjectivity statement and offers evidence that provides a cont ext for the study. Data collection and analysis procedures based on grounded theory techniques are outlined. Finally, the target population, instrumentation, research objectiv es, and measures of validity a nd reliability are described. Research Design This study was designed to expl ore and describe the how agri cultural extension agents make career decisions. The complexity of thes e issues necessitated an open dialogue discussion to collect affective data and did not lend itself to quantitati ve methods (Merriam, 1998). Therefore, qualitative methodolog ies were chosen to achieve in sight into agents thoughts and perceptions about their employme nt status. The researcher ac knowledges that there is prior research concerning why employees leave extension, but there is a lack of qualitative research on why employees chose to enter into extension and th e reasons why they stay employed. It is also unknown whether the reasons why em ployees leave the organization are comparable to why they stay. This qualitative study offers exploratory and supportive information that can be used for future qualitative and quantitative research concerning career deci sions of agricultural extension agents. Through the use of in-depth interviews, the re searcher engaged in the construction of a narrative to detail the participants perspectives related to influences on career decisions (Hatch, 2002). A semi-structured interview guide was us ed to investigate factors that influenced

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52 participants decisions to enter into extensi on, career experien ces related to retention, and influences at different career st ages. Interview questi ons specifically focused on the factors that have positively and negatively affect ed participants careers. As stated by Holstein and Gubrium (2003), this type of research a pproach relies exclusively upon wo rds, behaviors, and actions, and open discourse was critical to gain a true unde rstanding of participants and their realities. Therefore, all interviews were conducted face-to -face at the participants work office in order to gain subjective, rea listic perspectives. Grounded theory by Strauss and Corbin (1998) was the primary data analysis procedure selected due to its focus of how meaning ma king advances the understanding of personal perspectives and insight. In pa rticular, grounded theory uses an inductive procedural process to generate theory about a phenomenon that is devel oped from the gathered data (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Grounded theory allows for a theoretical u nderstanding of the st udied experience and permits the researcher to explore, direct, mana ge, and streamline data collection and analysis (Charmaz, 2006). This analysis procedure was used to develop a grounded theory relative to the most significant issues that affect career deci sions of Florida agricultural extension agents. Qualitative Research Qualitative research stems from constructivist, interpretivist, and subjectivist paradigms that involve detailed, integrat ed approaches to study people and things in their natural environments (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003). The rese archer attempts to understand and interpret phenomenon or reality from the participants pers pective. Qualitative designs are valuable to gain insight into ones feeli ngs, thought processes, and emo tions concerning a phenomenon that are difficult to obtain using ot her methods (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). This approach offers different methodologies for data collection and analysis accordi ng to the research purpose and questions. Methodologies are selected according to their ability to examine and interpret

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53 phenomenon in detail using an emergent design, i nductive approach, social interaction, and small samples (Hatch, 2002). Examples of qualitati ve methodologies include ethnography, naturalistic inquiry and observation, phenomenological rese arch, grounded theory, document analysis, historical research, and acti on research. Data collecti on methods commonly used are observations, interviews, focus groups, archival data, case studies, and life histories. While the use of qualitative research has been limited in the field of extension education, it has been used in a number of related social sc ience fields to investigate issues to better understand complex social phenomena (Yin, 1989). Strengths of qualitative methodologies are in their ability to provide a holistic and in-dep th understanding of hu man social reality and phenomenon. Multiple methods can be used simu ltaneously, such as interviews, observations, and archives, to construct th e fullest understanding of a phe nomena and generate theory (DeMarrias, 1998). In particular, grounded theo ry methodologies use an inductive process to generate theory about a phenomenon that is de veloped from collected data (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Ethnography, case studies, an d naturalistic observa tion allow study in the participants natural settings to gain an in-depth understa nding of cultures and so cial reality (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002). All qualitative methodologies take a subjective approach that aims to eliminate researcher bias as focus is placed on unde rstanding and interpreting meaning from the participants point of view (Crotty, 1998). Th e key research instrument is an adaptable researcher that is able to capture data in different environments and serve as a critical part of the process when studying human experiences and situations (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Through social interaction, the skilled re searcher must be able to develop a trusting relationship with participants in order to gain insight into th eir realities and a true understanding of personal perspectives (Holstein & Gubrium, 2003).

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54 However, limitations of qualitative research can include ambiguity, researcher influence and bias, small sample size, time considerations, in appropriate field skills and abilities, and lack of generalization. Ambiguity relating to the multiple or inaccurate interpre tations of data, data analysis procedures, and differing research desi gns can cause reliability and validity concerns (DeMarrias, 1998). Bias in the co llection and analysis of qualitativ e data is a concern due to its interpretive nature (Ary, et. al., 2006). As a result, the research ers personal in terpretation may not truly represent the data from the participant s perspective. To confirm findings, the process of member checking and other credibility strategies are commonly employed. Findings of the phenomenon may not accurately reflect the actual situation due to researcher influence. Field research and obser vation methods are commonly critiqued as a result of the unknown effects of the researchers pres ence on the setting stud ied (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002). Also, the researcher may not have the necessary field skills to perform observations accurately, or the ability to c onduct interviews appropriately. Due to the intense time requirements associated with qualitative research, sample sizes are generally small, not random, and rarely repres entative of entire popul ations (Hatch, 2002). Instead, purposive samples are chosen base d on the researchers personal knowledge of participants that are believed to be informative (Guba & Lincoln, 1981). Results from qualitative studies are also not generalizable to a larger population; however, findings can be used as exploratory research to be bui lt upon, provide a basis for addi tional areas of research, and discover supportive information for existing rese arch studies. Genera tion of theories is important to the development of a field of knowledge in areas which little is known about or extend knowledge to gain novel understandings (S trauss & Corbin, 1998). In all qualitative studies, rapport and trust between the researcher and participant must be built; without this,

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55 findings may be inaccurate or unreliable. Theref ore, a sufficient amount of time must be spent between the researcher and the pa rticipant to build an open, comfortable relationship for accurate data collection. Measures of Validity and Reliability All researchers must take measures to address validity and reliability concerns. Ways to control error in quantitative rese arch include internal and exte rnal validity, construct validity, objectivity, and reliability measur es. Yet, as Lincoln and Guba (1985) cite, criteria defined from one perspective may not be appropriate for judging actions taken from another perspective (p.293). Instead, Guba (1981) proposes four criteria to control error that ar e more appropriate for qualitative research: credibility in place of internal validity, transferabilit y in place of external validity, dependability in place of reliability, and confirmability in place of objectivity (p.219). Credibility refers to the truthfulness of the findings and can be addressed by assuring that the participants are accurately represented. St rategies associated w ith credibility include triangulation (the use of multiple investigators, multiple sources of data, or multiple methods for confirmation), member checking, pe er/colleague examination, resear cher subjectivity statements, and submersion in the research, or collec ting data over a long e nough period of time for sufficient understanding (Merriam, 1995). Dependa bility, or trustworthiness, refers to the consistency that the findings can be found again. Associated stra tegies include using an audit trail, peer examination, replic ation logic, code-rec oding, inter-rater comparisons, and data or methods triangulation (Merriam 1995; Ary, et. al., 2006). Transferability refers to the extent the findings can be applied to other situations. While quantitative research focuses on the generalizabi lity of findings, the goal of qualitative research is to understand the particular in -depth, rather than finding out wh at is generally true of many (Merriam, 1995, p.57). Rich, thick descriptions of the context and situations are detailed which

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56 allows readers to easily transfer the findings to comparable situations (Merriam, 1995). Additional strategies include multi-stage designs that use several sites, cases, and situations; modal comparison which involves how typical the sample is compared to the majority; random sampling of component parts related to the study; cross-case compar isons, and reflective statements of the researchers bias es (Merriam, 1995; Ar y, et. al., 2006). Confirmability refers to the idea of neutrali ty and the importance of bias-free research. This concept specifically applies to the researchers approach to procedures and interpretation of findings. Researchers must ensure that the data collected and the conclusions drawn would be confirmed by others in the same situation. St rategies include audit trails, triangulation of methods, and peer review (Ary, et. al., 2006). Researcher Subjectivity A qualitative researcher is never separate from the study (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Therefore, a researcher must e xplain personal perspectives that may influence the study and offer a context for readers. There are multiple influences that a researcher may impose on a study due to personal background, expe riences, and education. It is esse ntial that the re searcher states predetermined subjectivities and allows the reader to understand these views. By offering personal knowledge and beliefs, the researcher is better able to m onitor perspectives that could influence the interview process a nd misrepresent the data analysis and research findings (Glesne, 1999). The subjectivity of the researcher is therefore presented to state predetermined assumptions and alleviate any misconceptions. Growing up in Texas, involvement with agri culture has filled my life with countless activities, including working on farms, horseb ack riding, and showing livestock, as well as opportunities to develop unique hum an and animal relationships. A career in agriculture has always been my professional goal. I attended Texas A&M University in College Station and

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57 received a Bachelor of Science degree in Anim al Science. In 2001, I completed my Master of Science degree at Texas A&M University Co mmerce in Agricultural Sciences and received secondary agricultural teacher certification. My thesis rese arch focused on the demand of soybean forages for Northeast Texas dairy farmers. I am currently completing my doctoral degree in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the Univer sity of Florida with emphasis on extension Education. While at the University of Florida, my research interests have included exploratory studies in experiential learning in formal and nonforma l educational programs, collaboration between agricultural and extension educators, leadership development for rural agricultural organizations, curriculum design in agricultural education, leadership of agricu ltural extension agencies, and professional development activities. This academic coursework and research has helped to develop my interests in teaching and extension education, particular ly in the area of agriculture. My professional experience consis ts of a combination of agri cultural industry and teaching positions. Upon graduation from Texas A&M Univ ersity, I worked for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service as a dairy market news repor ter and as a sales cons ultant for a livestock genetics company. Then, I taught high school agricultural education while I completed my Masters degree. My interest in higher e ducation strengthened wh en I was offered the opportunity to teach Farm and Ranch Management as an adj unct instructor at Texas A&M UniversityCommerce. Currently at University of Florida, I have b een involved in teaching numerous courses in Agricultura l and Extension Education. My technical agricultural experiences incl ude dairy, beef, and equine management. I worked on a dairy for four years as a farm assistan t and then as a breeding consultant for a cattle genetics company. As a high school agricultural education advisor, I supervised all animal

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58 projects, attended major stock s hows with animal exhibits, an d managed the school barn and facilities. Currently, my husband and I own and operate a small farm facility where we offer horse boarding services, riding instruction, and re creational riding. As the current operator of a small farm I understand the importance of reliable agricultural information. However, as I engage w ith other producers, thei r lack of agricultural knowledge is unsettling to me as an educator and a consumer. Agriculture and the environment are ever-changing, and it is critical to have contact with a reliable expert to help solve farm problems. Access to research is important fo r management and production decisions, and many owners are unaware of where to find this informa tion. Herein lies the vita l function of extension agents and the need for lifelong public educati on. Specifically, agricu ltural extension agents responsibilities include th e transmission of research-based inform ation to farm owners in order to manage and care for their livestock properly (Seevers, et. al., 1997). The role and importance of these nonformal educators cannot be overlooked in the growth and development of society. They serve as a key link from the university to agricultural owners, like myself, to solve problems. These interests and experiences led me to pur sue a professional and academic career in agricultural and extensio n education. As a graduate stude nt, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with county agents in their program and professional development efforts. For the past two years, I have assisted with the Flor ida Cooperative Extension New Faculty Orientation program to transition agents into their positions This year long progr am allows agents to understand the extension system, teaching and le arning processes, program development and evaluation, and develop necessary career skills. This particul ar experience has directly influenced my interest in the career decisions of extension agents. Not only is it imperative to

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59 attract new agents into extensi on, it is just as important to tr ain them to perform their jobs effectively. Working with new and veteran agents, I have of ten seen the need for career assistance and continuing education in both prof essional and personal areas of lif e. Dissatisfied agents are leaving their positions and finding alternative occupations, while satisfied agents become lifelong employees. The factors and influences that affect the caree r decisions of agents must be recognized if the organization wants to improve r ecruitment and retention ra tes. Attention must be given to agents during all stag es of their careers that encourag es job satisfaction and leads to long-term employment. This continuity of pers onnel is a positive reflection of extension and a constructive influence on the community. A re liable educational resource builds overall community education and growth. I believe that a focus on career growth and de velopment of extension agents must be a priority for the future of the organization. Emph asis must be placed on understanding the factors and influences affecting the car eer decisions of agents. As th e link between university research and nonformal public education, they are critical to societal im provement. Reasons why agents enter into extension can help improve recruitm ent strategies and techniques. Reasons why agents remain employed can help to improve organizational development and personnel satisfaction. Positive and negative influences on agen ts in all career stages must also be explored in order for the organization to provide neces sary personal and professional support. In summary, these experiences, personal interests, and current issues in the fi eld of extension have led me to pursue this particular research topic.

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60 Ontology and Epistemology Idealism The nature of knowledge and truth associated wi th qualitative research must be considered during the initial phases of a study. Understanding the ontologi cal and epistemological stances of qualitative research assists in determining the appropriate design (Crotty, 2004). Ontology refers to the study of being and is concerned w ith what is the nature of existence, while epistemology is concerned with "the nature of knowledge, its possibi lity, scope, and general basis" (Crotty, 2004, p. 10; Hamlyn, 1995, p. 242). Both the nature of reality (ontology) and the nature of knowledge (epistemology) heavily influence the theoretical perspective, methodologies, and data collection met hods used in a particular study. The ontology associated with qualitative res earch believes in idealism and the assumption of multiple realities. Based upon th is belief, reality is not consider ed as a single truth, but instead is relative to and contingent upon the researcher and participants (Hatch, 2002). This particular stance influences the framework of a study and the researchers engagement with participants. Using the beliefs of idealism as a basis, the resear cher attempts to gain a variety of participants perspectives about the what is the nature of reality (Crotty, 2004). This subjective approach assumes that it is necessary to gain multiple perspectives and that each has its own validity in relation to the phenomenon. Additionally, the idea th at multiple realities exist is an important assumption that offers support for data co llection through personal interviews. This methodology permits the researcher to gain an u nderstanding of the sali ent issues affecting participants behaviors and actions The researcher then analyz es and compares participants stories to construct a represen tation of a collective reality.

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61 Constructionism The ontological stance of idealism directly re lates to the epistemol ogy of constructionism guiding the research process. According to Cr otty (2004, p. 8-9), constructionism believes, There is no objective truth waiting for us to discover it. Truth, or meaning, comes into existence in and out of our engagement with the realities in our world. There is no meaning without a mind. Meaning is not discovered, but constructed. In this understanding of knowledge, it is clear that different people may construct meaning in different ways, even in relati on to the same phenomenon. Constructionism recognizes the cons truction of reality is subjective to each individual and that "knowledge and truth are createdby the mind" (Schwandt, 1994, p.125). It is built on the foundation that knowledge and understanding of a phenomenon exists as the result of active engagement with realities in the world. Humans become aware of truth only through exploration and communication with others. The meaning of a phenomenon is co-constructed between the researcher and participants through interactive discourse (C rotty, 2004). This meaning may differ between participants because it is influenced by many internal and ex ternal factors, yet this is an underlying assumption of constructionism. Although different perceptions emerge, the resultant meaning represents the nature and scope of knowledge unique and true to each participant (Crotty, 2004). These variations of individual realities are essential to gain a true understanding of that phenomenon and critical to build a grounded theor y. With constructionism, social interaction and engagement are necessary to examine meani ng in different ways in relation to the same phenomenon. Therefore, a study must be designed appropriately and the researcher must be skilled in order to elicit this meaning from the participant. Theoretical Perspective Constructivism

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62 A theoretical perspective is a way of looki ng at the world and making sense of it. It involves knowledge and embodies a certain understand ing of what is entailed in knowing, that is, how we know what we know" (Crotty, 2003, p.8). The theoretical perspective of constructivism supports the exploration of self -perceived meaning through the s ubjective nature of knowledge (Hatch, 2002). To understand one s perspective, meaning must be self-constructed through interactions in a soci al context (Crotty, 2004). Constructivism views understanding as the generation of meaning and is dependent upon critical reflection of experiences. Learning is the process of inte rnal construction of reality and knowledge unique to each individual. Learners attempt to make sense of and interpret experiences for complete unde rstanding (Crotty, 2004; Merria m & Cafferella, 1999). Key contributors to constructivism beliefs include Dewey, Piaget, Candy, Rogoff, Mezirow, and Vygotsky. Theorists perspectives on the im portance of experience, the construction of knowledge, cognitive development, social intera ction, transformational learning, and individual meaning making are combined to represent this theoretical orientation (Merriam & Cafferella, 1999). The use of constructivism focuses on the unique experiences of each individual and acknowledges the validity of each person's met hod of making sense of the world (Crotty, 2003). Through the use of in-depth interviews, the rese archer and the participants engage in the construction of a narrative to detail the particip ants perspectives of the phenomenon. Each participant shares distinct pers onal beliefs and individual experien ces as this approach allows them to reveal their thoughts and provides evidence of the decisi on making process in a structured format. Therefore, the use of construc tivism is a suitable theoretical approach to cause

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63 reflective thought of partic ipants experiences, factor s, and issues to assist in the self-generation of meaning (Crotty, 2004). Grounded Theory Grounded theory allows for a theoretical und erstanding of the studi ed experience and permits the researcher to explore, direct, mana ge, and streamline data collection and analysis (Charmaz, 2006). The use of grounded theory offers the following benefits to a research study, Theory derived from data is more likely to resemble "reality" than is theory derived by putting together a series of concepts based on experience or solely through speculation. Grounded theories, because they are drawn from the data, are likely to offer insight, enhance understanding, and provide a meaningful guide to action (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 12). The systematic methods of grounded theory offer pr inciples that assist in the formulation of theory and generation of critical concepts. It is important when using this analysis method that a researcher does not begin with a preconceived th eory in mind, but rather chooses an area of study and allows the theory to emerge from the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Grounded theory strategies advocate developmen t of theories from research grounded in the data rather than using hypot heses or existing theories. A ccording to Charmaz (2006), this method encourages the researcher to learn about participants in the research setting and discover their lives. Then, researchers study the particip ants statements and ac tions and try to make meaning from their perspectives. By starting with the data, the researcher can construct meaning through observations, interactions and materials gathered and follow up on key concepts. Grounded theory is based on the technique of coding. Coding attaches labels to units of data that synthesize its meaning and allows fo r comparisons among other data segments (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). In this way, grounded theori sts emphasize interpretation of the data for understanding. Open, axial, and selective coding procedures offer a systematic approach to streamline the data. The constant comparison tec hnique allows comparisons of similarities and

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64 differences throughout data to gain an analytic understanding of the data and develop relevant categories. Memos also offer additional data useful in creating the theory. Memos are preliminary analytic notes written by the res earcher about the codes, comparisons, and ideas important to the data. Coding and memoing are the structured techniques th at a researcher must employ to define and interpret the data th rough analytic categories (Charmaz, 2006). Methodology The purpose of this study was to explore and describe how agricultural extension agents make career decisions. Qualitative methodologies were selected to achieve insight into factors, experiences, and influences on agricultural extensi on agents initial, past, present, and future career decisions that have affected their employment status. Research Objectives The interview process was used to investig ate the factors that affected agricultural extension agents decisions to enter and remain in extension, discover career experiences related to recruitment and retention, and identify signifi cant influences on agents careers at different career stages. From the data collected, two grounded theories we re developed that explain the significant issues that affect agricultural extens ion agents career decisions. The key objectives of this study included: Objective 1: To understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to enter into the organization Objective 2: To understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to rema in in the organization Objective 3: To discover th e influences that shape career decisions of agricultural extension agents at different career stages Objective 4: To develop a grounded theory that explains the most si gnificant issues that affect the career decisions of Florida agricultural extension agents

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65 Participant Selection A comprehensive list of Flor ida Cooperative Extension agents generated through the Dean of Extension office was used to help identi fy the population. The lis t was subdivided by the extension program development and evaluation di rector to include only agents that have commercial agriculture as a part of their job resp onsibilities. As determ ined by the researcher, the following program areas were defined as co mmercial agriculture: agronomy, horticulture, livestock, agriculture and natura l resources, pest management, agronomic crops, citrus, dairy, vegetables, small farms, fruit crops, agricultural development, agricultural safety, farm management, and rural agribusiness development. This list of 108 agricultural extension agents served as the eligible population for the study. The researcher then requested further information from the Dean of Extension office on percenta ge appointment specifica lly in agricultural programs, county, gender, contact information, and years of employment in extension. The researcher used the information and a panel of experts to determine the sample. First, all participants must be curre ntly employed extension agents that have at least an 80% appointment in commercial agricu lture designated in their job responsibilities. A panel of experts consisting of the research er, an extension education univer sity professor, the Associate Dean of Extension, and the Associate Dean of agri cultural programs in the state of Florida used this list to narrow the sample further. These particular individuals we re chosen as experts because of their familiarity and regular interac tion with agricultural extension agents. In a scheduled group meeting, the researcher explaine d the purpose, goals, and objectives of the study to the panel and requested their assistance in sele cting successful agricultural extension agents. This status was determined through personal in teractions, positive performance evaluations, career achievements, and professi onal reputations. Thirty de pendable and respectable agents

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66 with consistent work performance as identified by consensus from the panel constituted the sample. The panel of experts then separa ted the sample of 30 agents into the three categories of the career stages modelentry, colleague, and couns elor/advisoraccording to a list of defining characteristics (Table 3.1) compiled from three ca reer stage theories and models(Kutilek, et. al., 2002; Dalton, et. al., 1977; Rennekamp & Nall, 1994).

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67 Table 3.1 Defining individual charac teristics of extension agents in the career stages model Stage when entering into a new profession or job Psychological dependencydependent upon and must be willingly to accept supervision and direction from others Developing knowledge and unders tanding of the position, the organization, and clientele Attaining skills to perform the job Entry Stage Building formal and in formal channels of communication Works with a mentor Shows initiative and innovation in problem solving and risk taking Works as an apprentice to gain experience and respect receives assignments as part of a larger pr oject director by a senior professional Gaining acceptance among supervisors and peers Building relationships, respect, and acceptance among clientele Developing an area of expertise Gaining independence without close supervision Developed a reputation and accepted as a professional in the organization Recognized in an area of specializati on and shares expertise with others Has a high level of professional skills Colleague Stage Self-confident and visible in the organization Peer relationships take on greater importance Independently contributes expertise to solving problems Some remain in this stage throughout their careers by maki ng substantial contributions to the organizati on and experience a high degree of professional satisfaction Prepared to assume formal or inform al responsibility in developing others Seek to broaden their interests, capab ilities, skills, and areas of expertise Takes on leadership roles Interested in personal growth, development, and self-renewal Confident in own abilities to produce significant results Builds confidence in others Counselor/Advisor Recognizes interdepende ncy and accomplishes work through others Stage Have established internal and external networks Influential in defining the direc tion, growth, and survival of the organization Catalyst for positive organizational change Established national reputation and credibility due to professional achievements/publications

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68 The 30 agents were then further divided by th e researcher and an extension professor to select twelve interview participants. Due to the intense time requirements associated with qualitative research, sample sizes are typi cally small, not random, and almost never representative (Hatch, 2002). Instead, purposive samples are chosen based on the researchers personal knowledge of participants that are believed to be in formative (Guba & Lincoln, 1981). This type of sampling advocates the selection of information-rich cases for study to provide thorough understanding and insight, rather than generate empiri cal generalizations common in quantitative studies (Patton, 2002). A purposive sample based on aforementioned re searcher-imposed criteria was used to select a total of twelve agricultural extension agen ts, four in each category of the career stages model, as the final participants. This table is pr esented in Chapter 4. To assist in transferability, dependability and credibility of findings, the participants repres ented different educational levels, ethnicities, commercial agricultu ral areas, ages, and years of employment. Additionally, male and female participants repres ented twelve separate counties and all five di strict regions throughout the state. This proce ss helped to ensure th e interview participants were as equally distributed as possible among to the st udy population in these particular areas. In qualitative research, the number of participants required is not straightforward due to the number of factors involved and varying conditions between studi es (Morse, 2000). Instead, the researcher must estimate based on each situatio n. Factors to consider are saturation and determinants of sample size (Morse, 2000). A si ngle reference citing the specific number of participants needed to create a grounded theo ry was unavailable, how ever theoretical/data saturation was an important con cept considered in the decisi on making process (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). To achieve saturation, the resear cher designed the interview to permit continuous

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69 expansion of the participants responses until new and relevant information was no longer provided (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Patton (2002) recommends the selection of information-rich cases that can provide thorough unde rstanding and insight rather th an empirical generalizations. The panel of experts assisted in the selection of suitable participants th at could offer relevant data. The nature of the research was also belie ved to be important issues to participants. Therefore, it was expected that the discourse wo uld be open and meaningful, while the quality of data obtained would be detailed, experiential, an d sufficient requiring fewer participants (Morse, 2000). From the population of 108 Florida agricultural extension agents, 30 were identified by the panel of experts, and then 12 were purposively selected for the final sample. The 12 agents represented approximately 11% of the population. The selection of the number of participants was also based on previous qualitative studies in agricultural education and extension research, including Warner (2006), Mutchl er, et. al. (2006), and Smith, et al. (1995). Each of these research studies used nine to twelve participants as the sample size to gather qualitative data. Data Collection Procedures The first step in the data collection process was to create an interview guide that was appropriate for the theoretical pe rspective and research objectives guiding the study. The content of the interviews focused on participants ini tial career decisions, recruitment and retention factors, career experiences and influences, and professional needs. The guide was also designed to investigate previous findings in the literature in the areas of job satisfaction, career success, recruitment, organizational support, retention, motivation, work and life balance, and social relationships. Questions specifi cally focused on influences that have positively and negatively affected the participants career decisions. Op en-ended questions encouraged participants to reflect on their thoughts and express signi ficant career factors and experiences.

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70 A panel of experts revised th e interview guide and offered suggestions for improvement. Upon approval from the panel, the IRB protocol and informed consent was submitted for approval. The informed consent document can be found in Appendix E, IRB protocol approval is in Appendix D, and th e interview question guide is located in Appendix F. The interview guide was pilot tested with two agents from the population to ensure credibility. Pilot tests ar e a form of pre-testing in which s ubjects from the sample population are given the instrument and provide feedback to dete rmine if the instruments is measuring what it is supposed to measure (Black, 1999). Cognitive inte rviews according to Presser, et. al. (2004) were conducted with the two p ilot participants. These inte rviews focused on obtaining participants thoughts to the ques tions immediately after the inte rview in order to reveal the process involved in interpreting the questions an d arriving at the answers (Presser, et. al., 2004). Following the two pilot tests, the researcher made minor revisions to the interview guide. The selected interview participants were in itially contacted via email to explain the purpose and importance of the study, the value of their particip ation, and the data collection procedure. (Appendix G). Of the twelve agents, 11 agreed to participate and one was unable to be contacted. Therefore, the ne xt agent identified in the sample at the colleague/advisor level was contacted and became the final participant. Upon agreement to participate, the researcher arranged interview times and date s on the telephone with each agent. The researcher sent a preinterview questionnaire to particip ants one week prior to the schedul ed interview date in order to gain demographic and background information befo rehand, facilitate the in terview process, and build rapport with participants. The interview questions were also in cluded in the e-mail to encourage participants to reflect prior to the interview.

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71 The researcher collected data fr om participants in twelve di fferent counties representing all five districts within the state of Florida. The researcher traveled over 2000 miles to conduct face-to-face interviews. Pr ior to each interview, the research er spent time with the agents to learn about the county, clientele, and extension programs, and ga in an understanding of their personal and professional backgrounds. Having an understanding of work interests and duties was critical for the researcher to build a re lationship and rapport with participants, and it conditioned the environment for open and hone st dialogue during the interview. A semi-structured interview format was used to organize the process which allow for more freedom and exploration during th e interview sessions. This t ype of interview supported the ability of the researcher to present ini tially prepared open-ended questions, question unanticipated responses, probe for further clar ification and thought, and improvise based on the participants responses (Wengraf 2001; Holstein & Gubrium, 2003). The researcher used the set of guiding questions during the interview, but added probing questions to expand and clarify statements made by the participan ts (Hatch, 2002). All of the interviews we re conducted at the extension agents office. With the consent of the participants, all of the interviews were audio taped for transcription at a later time. The constructivist framework influenced the re searchers approach to the data collection process. Interested in the co-construction of knowledge, the researcher asked the open-ended and probing questions which encouraged particip ants to reflect and construct a personal understanding of career decisions. Interviews were primarily participant directed as the researcher initiated questions th rough a relatively passive role that allowed participants to explore their self-perceived realities. This stru cture was critical for participants to reflect, discuss, and explore the career de cision process. It was important for the researcher to remain

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72 objective in order to eliminate any personal bias and influence on the direc tion and content of the interview. As a result, an in-d epth understanding of pa rticipants was gained through progressive expansion of interview questions. Sixty to ninety minute interviews were c onducted and audio-recorded. An informed consent form was signed by each participant prior to the interview process. During and after each interview, researcher field notes and me mos were recorded which included key points, impressions, and observations from the intervie w. The researcher also ensured that the participant understood th at future contact and discussion w ould be needed for clarification purposes and informed them of the member-check ing process. The memb er checking process is defined and detailed below in data analysis procedures. Data Analysis Procedures Grounded theory by Strauss and Corbin (1998) was the primary data analysis procedure used due to its focus of how meaning maki ng advances the unders tanding of personal perspectives and insight. Grounded theory is a detailed grounding by sy stematically analyzing the data sentence by sentence by constant compar ison as it is coded until a theory results (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 16). This method allows for the establishment of a close connection between the data collection, analysis, and resul ting theory and encourag es the researcher to create a conceptual understanding of concrete realities that we re expressed during interviews (Strauss & Corbin, 1998; Charmaz, 2003). The use of grounded theory offered the following benefits to the research study, Theory derived from data is more likely to re semble "reality" than is theory derived by putting together a series of concepts based on experience or solely through speculation. Grounded theories, because they are drawn from the data, are likely to offer insight, enhance understanding, and provide a meaningful guide to action (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 12).

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73 Grounded theory strategies including concurrent data analysis and collection, a specific data coding process, constant comparisons, refinement of emerging ideas, and integration of theory were implemented and applied to form the foun dation of the analysis (Charmaz, 2003). The result sought in grounded theory is a small set of highly relevant categor ies and their properties connected by theoretical codes into an integr ated theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 42). Each interview was transcribed verbatim and analyzed. Approximately 90% of the interviews consisted of the pa rticipants responses generated through expansive questioning and probing from the researcher. Re -reading the interviews and listening to the tapes several times provided additional steps to identify possible misinterpretations, cross-check statements, and increase credibility and trustworthiness. Fiel d notes were clarified and final comments were added to the transcription. To address credibility, trustworthiness, a nd confirmability, the researcher asked each participant to review the transcript of their inte rview to ensure that the responses were accurately recorded (Appendix G). This review process is commonly termed the member checking process (Hatch, 2002). The member checking process wa s performed after each interview was fully transcribed by the researcher. The researcher emailed the participants only their specific interview transcript to ensure validity and reli ability of information. Each participant viewed only his/her interview transcrip tion and no other participants. The researcher provided clear instructions for each participant to carefully re view the interview transcription and clarify any misinterpretations of words or thoughts for accur acy purposes. The researcher also allowed the participants to eliminate any data that they felt was incorrect or harmful in anyway. This process ensured the participants were awar e of the information being used in the research process. The

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74 researcher made minor revisions to the intervie w transcripts using the participants responses before the data was analyzed. During analysis, the researcher used an obj ectivist grounded theory approach. When the researcher assumes this approach, the goal is to uncover the external reality that is already in existence. This method required the researcher to remain objective and work as an external and detached interpreter of the part icipants and their realities (Cha rmaz, 2003). In this way, the researcher only used the collected data to di scover an external reality and did not offer any personal insight (Charmaz, 2006). Although some de gree of interpretation in data analysis is inherent, in-vivo codes using the exact words of th e participants were used as often as possible (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This obj ectivist grounded theory approach helped to ensure that the data were a collective represen tation of the participants wi th minimal manipulation from the researcher. Coding To study the data, the researcher separate d, sorted, and synthesi zed the data using qualitative coding. Coding helps us gain a new perspective on our material and to focus and leads us in unforeseen directions (Charmaz, 2003, p. 258). According to Strauss and Corbin, (1998), coding procedures: (a) build rather than test theory, (b) pr ovide researchers with analytic tools for handling masses of raw data, (c) help analysts consider alternative meanings to phenomenon, (d) are systematic and creative, and (e) identify, develop, and relate concepts that are the building blocks of theory (p. 13). Coding offers structure for the researcher to link data with information, topics, concepts and themes. This process a ssists in focusing, organizing, and conceptualizing the data to de velop categories and ideas (Morse & Richards, 2000). Analytic coding was specifically used to develop themes and facilitate interpre tation for the grounded theory. Analytic coding highlig hts emergent themes, allows e xploration and development of

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75 new categories or concepts, emphasizes comparis on techniques, and most importantly, questions the data for new ideas (Morse & Richards, 2000). Initial analysis began with open coding of all twelve interviews concurrently using meaning units as separation points. The proce ss of open coding opens up the text to expose thoughts, ideas, and meanings cont ained within and serves as a starting point to uncover and develop grounded concepts (Strauss & Corbin, 1 998. p. 102). This procedure involves breaking down the text into discrete parts and close exam ination for similarities and differences among the data. In-vivo codes, or exact words that occur in the data, were used to represent the statements of participants as closely as po ssible and reduce biased interpretation from the researcher (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Morse & Richards, 2000). Open codes that emerged after analyses of all twelve participants responses were then subcategorized into connecting axial codes between participants. Categories of similar events, acti ons, objects, and interact ions were grouped to create axial codes, or concepts with sh ared properties (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The technique of constant comparison was us ed throughout analysis process. Constant comparison involves the elements of theory generated by comparative analysis are first, conceptual categories and their conceptual pr operties; and second, hypotheses or generalized relations among the categories a nd their properties (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 35). Using comparative analysis, an action, object, behavi or, event, or happening that has the same characteristics with another was given the same code (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Once the links between axial codes established clear concepts, selective codes were created to contextualize the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). The synthesi zed selective codes were used as a basis for the grounded theory. To explain th e findings, interpretations of participants responses were supported with direct quotes and utilized to cons truct a grounded theory

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76 representative of the emergent selective codes (Glase r & Strauss, 1967). Th e axial codes, and selective codes generated from the data can be found in Appendix A. Diagrams in Appendix B and C were also created as they helped to create a conceptual understanding of the developed theories (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Credibility, transferability, dependability, a nd confirmability measures were addressed throughout the analysis and coding process. To improve the credibility of findings, triangulation of data was achieved using multiple methods of confirmation includ ing verification of transcripts through member checking, codes were examined by an extension professo r, and in-vivo codes were utilized when possible. The transferability of findings was enhanced by rich descriptions of the interview context and situation; the use of tw elve extension counties a nd all five districts in the state; the variety of characteristics used to select interview participants to represent the population as closely as possibl e; and, the use constant comp arison to compare codes across participants. Dependability measures were ac knowledged with coding-re coding strategies, use of two coders, and maintaining an audit trail of transcripts, co des, and correspondence. Finally, confirmability was addressed in the researchers approach and interpretation of the data. An objectivist grounded theory approach was during anal ysis to eliminate res earcher bias, in-vivo codes were used when possible, and findings were confirmed by an extension professor for accurate representation of pa rticipants perspectives. Summary This chapter explained the research design and methodology used to accomplish the stated objectives. An overview of qualitative research and its foundations was explained through the researcher subjectivity, ontology, ep istemology, and theoretical perspective related to the study. Research objectives, part icipant selection, instrumentation, da ta collection, and data analysis

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77 procedures were outlined in the methodology sec tion. Finally, measures of qualitative validity and reliability were addressed.

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78 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS OF AGENTS DECISIONS TO ENTER AND REMAIN IN EXTENSION This chapter discusses the results found from the research objectives (1) to understand the factors and experiences that infl uence agricultural extension agents to enter into the organization, (2) to understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to remain in the organization, and (4) to devel op a grounded theory that explains the most significant issues that affect the career deci sions of Florida agricultural extension agents. At the conclusion of the transcri ption process, 198 pages of text were utilized in the data analysis process. From the data, categories emer ged specific to factors an d experiences regarding the decisions of agents to enter and remain in the organization. The systematic process of coding was used to separate, sort, and analyze the data. The constant comparison technique was also employed to identify similarities and differen ces of patterns found in the data. The figures included in Appendix A illustrate the relationshi ps discovered between the open codes, axial codes, and selective codes. A grounded theory is also presented in Appe ndix B to conceptualize the career experiences of the tw elve participants in the study and illustrate the theory that resulted from the analysis. Description of Participants To provide an overview of the participants in the study, the number of years employed with extension, gender, and researcher defined career stage has been outlined in Table 4.1. Participants were classified in to the three career stages by the panel of experts based upon personal interactions, positive performance eval uations, career achievements, and professional reputations, not solely years of experience. Participants wo rked in the following areas of commercial agriculture: agronomy, ho rticulture, livestock, agricultur e and natural resources, pest management, fruit and vegetable production, small farms, agricultural development, agricultural

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79 and pesticide safety, and farm management. The ethnicities of participants included African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian. Additionally, four rural coun ties, three urban counties, and five mixed urban/rural counties were represented in the sample. To protect the confidentiality of participants in this sensitive subject matter, all demographic, background, or other descriptive information has been omitted. Pseudonyms have also been used and specific identifiers have been deleted throughout the analysis process. Table 4.1 Description of Participants Pseudonym Years Employed in Extens ion Gender Career Stage Jessica 4 Female Entry Eric 2 Male Entry Tammy 1 Female Entry Benjamin 2 Male Entry Sean 14 Male Colleague Brenda 7 Female Colleague Samantha 6 Female Colleague Adam 7 Male Colleague Harry 19 Male Counselor/Advisor Gabby 25 Female Counselor/Advisor Matt 11 Male Counselor/Advisor Patricia 7 Female Counselor/Advisor Agents Decision to Enter into Extension The selective categories relevant to agents de cisions to enter into the organization were agent background, career contacts, service to agricu ltural community, nature of extension work, position fit, and university supporte d education. All of these categ ories emerged as influential factors and experiences that affect ed participants decisions to pur sue a career in extension. An outline detailing the relationships between the open codes, axial codes, and selective codes is shown in Appendix A, Figure A-1. Each sp ecific category is detailed below.

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80 Agent Background The category, agent background, was comprised of two axial codes including academic and work experiences and lack of knowledge of exte nsion. The participants revealed similarities in their academic and work experiences within agriculture, however ther e were differences found in the amount of knowledge that each held about extension work prior to employment. Academic and work experiences. All of the participants had prior involvement in commercial agriculture through one or more of the following ways: industry work, research, academic programs, and growing up on a farm. Four participants specifically indicated that they were raised on a family farm, while seven had pr eviously worked in the agricultural industry. Work experiences included equine operations, beef cattle management, livestock production and processing, agricultural sales, veterinary work, vegetable an d crop producers, and nursery management. Those participants familiar with exte nsion work prior to employment indicated that their knowledge of extension was obtained through inte rnships, research assistance, industry collaboration, agent presence, or extension programs. Benjam in reflected upon his industry work with farmers and how it related to extension work, I realized that I was nothing more than an agricultural extension agent I was more involved in DEVELOPMENT, the development of management skills, the development of farmers ability to make money, more so than looking at rudimentary daily issues. Each of the participants had at least one academic degree in a technical agricultural area. The various degrees held were animal science, horticulture, agri cultural engineering, agricultural and rural development, general ag riculture, plant and ve getable science, and entomology. Of the twelve participants, only four had a degree in ex tension education prior to employment. From those with a degree in extensi on, each exuded confidence in their expected career path as an agent. Tammy stated, I always wanted to be a livestock agent so I was on that career track,

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81 while Harry discussed his attitude at the completion of his gra duate program, When I got done, I didnt think about what I should be doing. By that time, I knew that what I wanted to do was to be a county extension agent. All participants obtained a va riety of work experiences dur ing their academic programs. Graduate research was specifically cited by seven participants as a significant influence that led them to pursue extension. Research experi ences ranged from working with extension and specialists to various types of livestock, plant, crop, and vegeta ble production-based research. However, many realized that they did not want to remain in a re search type career. Gabby knew that research was not her desire d path as she stated, I knew I wanted something more practical in nature, so when the job in extension came up and I found out what is was, it sounded like something that I wanted to do. Lack of extension knowledge Although all participants held an agricultural college degree, not all had prior knowledge of a career in extension. Seve n of the twelve participants lacked extension education training before becomi ng an agent, and therefor e, did not really know what to expect. Jessica discussed her lack of exposure to extension while in college, I had no clue as to what extension was. How could you be in an Ag college and not know what extension is? But I had no idea because I wasnt involved in 4H when I was in high school. Gabby was looking for a suitable job and had no idea what extension was, while Jessica said she had no real clue. Matt had heard about extension when he was in colle ge, but just didnt really know much about it because he was not involved in 4H or FFA and didnt have a lot of exposure to extension agents other than the youth fair and livestock judgin g contests. Sean had worked in the industry, but said that he really didn t know much about extensionmy involvement in 4-H was very lim ited. Once the position became available, a

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82 friend encouraged him to apply and his response was, I was intere sted but I dont have any idea. What do they do? He further explained, I didn t know a lot about extens ion or have a personal relationship with extension. I never really us ed the extension office when I grew up. Additionally, only one participant was specifically recruited for an agent position, and just one had participated in an extension internship. Career Contacts The category, career contacts, was comprised of two axial codes including encouragement by others and influential relationships. Each of these factors played a significant role in the participants pursuit of an extension career. Ho wever, each described their personal contacts and influential networks differently. Encouragement by others. Positive encouragement from peers, clientele, administrators, friends, and advisors was influential on each of the participants decisions to pursue and enter extension. Patricia regarded encouragement by the Dean of Extension as one of the main reasons she applied: I had already applied for another position in ex tension and when the Dean interviewed me, he said you would be a really good fit for extens ion and that actually had a lot to do with me considering that position... he made comments about have you considered working with youth in 4-H, and here are some other posi tions that we have open, so that encouraged me to continue looking at extension. So wh en that position came open, I went ahead and applied for it. Samantha was not looking for another job wh en the extension position became available, but the clientele came to me and said we thin k youd be good, wed like you to apply. After consideration, she said, So I did and I called the county director and talked to him about it and he was very excited. Matt gave credit to his fo rmer farm manager and friends within the system for encouragement: I was kind of uncertain about it, but I had a good friend that I went to college with and he was an extension agent and an old fa mily friend was an agent so knowing two

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83 agents was very key because I could talk to them about it and ask whats involved, what do you do, and I think thats one of the hard th ings unless youve had personal relationships with an agent, a lot of stuff that we do are behind the scenes. Brenda had not even considered a position in extension until her gr aduate advisor, who was also an extension specialist, told her, You really want to wo rk in extension and I said, I do? And she said yeah, thats what you want to do. Brenda discussed how her confidence was built as her advisor said that she coul d see that spark in me and that I would be good at that job. Jessicas graduate advisor also encouraged her to pursue extension when she told her, With your personality, youd probably enjoy being an extension agent and sent her Internet links with available jobs. Benjamin and Adam were both encouraged by people from the University of Florida to seek out available positions. Six participants indicated that they had previously applied to extension before obtaining their current position as a result of encouragem ent by others. Samantha did not enter into extension earlier because at that time, the extension pay scale was very low, but was continually recruited by stakehol ders, clientele, and her county director. Brenda previously applied but the extension salary at that time was low and there wa s no way that I could take that job, yet received continued encouragem ent from her graduate advisor. Eric personally sought out extension as an alte rnative to working in the industry and said, It took me a long time and several tries I ha d looked at a couple of positions, but didnt quite get in there, and finally got this one. Sean de scribed his career path as a lengthy process, I filled out an application and in terviewed for the job, went to campus and interviewed with all those people, interviewed with a county committee and did not get the job later I applied for the job again, same as before, and went through all of those processes and was hired. Even though participants did not obtain a position on the first application, continuous encouragement

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84 from others had a direct influence on their deci sion to keep trying. As Eric stated, Persistence pays, I guess. Influential relationships Interaction and exposure to extension agents played an important role in partic ipants decision to enter into th e organization. The local agent was commonly described as a role model that partic ipants admired and respected. Harry explained his perception of the agent that he encounter ed on his family farm as a young boy, The local county extension agent that was there just happe ned to be one of those world renowned county agents and he was a super guy. He continued, I didnt know necessarily what this was all about, but I knew when this guy came, he was trea ted special by our family. The desire to pursue a career in extension grew as Harry went to college and worked closely with research specialists. He explained the influence that these relationshi ps had on his career decisions: That whole series of events of seeing the re spect that our local c ounty agent had and being able to live it as a student going through sc hool with very good me ntors and very good people I was fortunate enough to work with just super people and knew thats what I wanted to do. Tammy also had a role model growi ng up that influenced her, I th ink the reason that I went into extension was because of another agent I kne w I grew up around him and thought that it would be a really cool job to have. Erics prior exposure to extension was thr ough involvement with st ate specialists and participation on advisory committees that he was in contact with while working in the industry. While Samantha said that the previous agent in her position strongly encouraged her to apply, as well as her grandfather who had been an extens ion agent. Brenda was most influenced by extension colleagues in her Masters program and her graduate advisor, I had some peers that thought it was a pretty good job. But I think my advisor just thought that I would be really good at it, she saw something in me that I really di d not see. And Im glad she encouraged me.

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85 Service to Agricultural Community The category, service to agricultural communit y, was comprised of the axial code, ability to work with farmers. A common theme that occurred throughout al l the interviews was participants interest in helping agricultura l producers to solve problems. Tammy was particularly interested in working with the clie ntele, I could work with cattlemen and be in agriculture, and go to different f unctions work with the people and with what I love to do. Sean saw extension as a way to help producer s with objective adviceas an agricultural consultant, not a salesman. Jessica was interest ed in helping farmers, while Eric wanted to find answers for people with problems. Benjamin, Adam, and Harry regarded the servi ce aspect as one of the main reasons that they entered into the organization. Benjamin disp layed his feelings about working with farmers, I am definitely at my best when I believe that I have the freedom to do the things that directly benefit the people that I am working for. He c ontinued to describe his role as a link to help farmers solve problems and said you must evaluate the situation and realize, The farmer is always right until you make him righter. Adam was pleased the university is addressing the issue of helping people to increa se their knowledge and be able to better understand what they are doing. His devotion to the ag ricultural community was apparent as he described the results of one of his programs: One time the wife called me back and cried because her husband was able to get a license which means he was able to hold a job and get a pay increase. So I felt very appreciative to that and for helping this community to get something. Harry reflected on his reason for entering extension and his mission as an agent: I knew that my mission was going to be to serve farmers and beyond that, I dont know that I had a real clear pict urebut I did know that my mission was going to be to help serve farmers, help them sustain what they were doing, change things, and make a better life for them on their farms. And regardle ss of what the crops were, or what the technologies, or whatever the practices were is sort of immaterial as long as you have in

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86 your mind that my job is to help this c lientele group, and for me that was commercial farmers and that was pretty clear cut. The opportunities to work with agricultural pr oducers and provide serv ice to the community were explicit factors that influenced partic ipants decision to enter into the extension organization. Nature Of Extension Work The category, nature of extension work, was comp rised of one axial code, job expectations. Participants job expectations centered on the or ganizational mission and goa ls of extension: helping people, practical work, challenging situa tions, solving problems, and providing advice. Although participants had different expectations of what was involved in their work, each commented on their experiences and the need for more detailed information about the responsibilities of being an extension agent. Job expectations Some of the job expectations expr essed by participants were helping farmers with their problems, providing objecti ve advice, and answering questions in a nonbiased way. The ability to help people with practical problems and utilize personal skills was cited by many as an attraction to extension. Matt left the agricultural industry because he realized that he was really more talented working with people and with thinking outside the box, maybe a little more creatively w ith problem solving. He also felt that his personal and professional background was a good match for an ag ent position, I had some expertise and I had some talents that fit more with people skills a nd communication skills, but I also had a practical background that fit with the job. Tammy expressed her expectations and de sire to educate producers about best management practices and educat e youth about career choices. Brenda chose extension to be an educator and I felt like I could make a differe nce and I feel like I am making a difference.

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87 During her interview, she saw the potential grow th in the job and thought This was an exciting place and I took the job. I came and Ive not been sorry. Matt described his first day on the job and hi s mistaken assumptions about how an agent works with the public: It is hard in the beginning in a very flexible open job with no set st ructure. I mean there are certain things that are expected. Youre expected to do at least two major educational programs, youre expected to do some kind of written communication and youre expected to make contact with the people you serve. That s pretty loose. S o, I think that was the thing that I struggled with is I just wasnt sure what I was supposed to do, or what I was expected to do and I was pretty nave. I t hought the University of Florida hired me and Ive got a college degree and Iv e got this experience, people are just going to call me. Wrong. Although participants had a ge neral idea of what was involved as an agent, several described the lack of clear, stat ed job expectations as frustrating to a new agent. Patricia commented, Honestly, I didnt know what agents did when I applied for the job, while Gabby had a similar attitude as she searched for a place to start her programs, I had no clue. I didnt know what to expect because the previous agent in the position wasnt real forthcoming about things. Jessica did not have any previous exposure to extension so she had few expectations as a new agent, I didnt have a definitive idea. I ha d nothing to base it on. Brenda discussed how she believes this issue of lack of job expe ctations could be addres sed by the organization: I think the applicants need a realistic view of what extension invol ves and that it is a special kind of job. Its not a 9 to 5 job where you go home and forget about your job at the end of the day I know the application ha s vague basic things, but if there was some way to provide them with a realistic outline or flyer or booklet or something that gives some of the specifics of extens ion so they have some realisti c expectations prior to going into the job. Several participants agreed with Brendas comme nts about the need to ha ve clearly stated job expectations and its importance in gu iding new agents career efforts.

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88 Position Fit The category, personal and professional positi on fit, was comprised of the axial code, position descriptors. These desc riptors included the details of position announcement, such as salary, location, and duties. The advertised de scription was cited by two participants as a deciding factor to apply for the job. Adam stated the descrip tion of the job really, really identified with what my background was and aligne d perfectly with his career interests. Harry was happy working in another state extension sy stem when he became aware of a position in Florida. He explained his thought process and how the position announcement affected his career decision: This position description came alongand it would be a lot more contact with the on-farm demonstrations and things like that Just the ge neral description was a big factor. Prior to that, a standard position, I don t know if I would have felt like that was worth the risk of taking something that I already knew I could be happy at. So, the notion that I could have more freedom, more on farm, more guaranteed contact to develop my own programs and be under my own controlthat was certainly a factor because I left something that I was already happy and satisfied in for th e long term, my long term happiness. Others cited various reasons re lated to personal and profession al fit of the job to their needs. Examples were the job allowed free dom and variety, the job was available, the starting salary was very competitive, and it wa s the right time and the right place. Two agents specifically cited the job benefits as an important factor in their decision. Tammy commented, the benefits are what makes it wo rthwhilethat is a major additive to the position to have really good benef its, and Eric agreed, the be nefits are tremendousa lot of people dont realize how important benefits are. I mean how to translate that into their real work. Therefore, the importance of a deta iled job description made a positive impact on participants decision to apply for a position that fit their lifestyle and interests.

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89 University Supported Education The category, university supported education, wa s comprised of the axial codes non-formal structure and University affiliation. Each of these codes related to the unique partnership of the system and the non-formal work structure comm only associated with extension education. Nonformal structure The nonformal structure that appeal ed to participants included the flexible organization and environment of extension. Adam particularly enjoys the different work environments in his job, I like the combination of being at my of fice but also being able to drive away and meet different people, ta lk to different people, and see different clientele. Brenda described her expectations for the job and liked the fact that I w ould be an educator, it would be non-traditional educ ation, and I wouldnt be teaching in a classroom. Matt discussed the flexible scheduling that extension offers to agen ts, Well, theres not many jobs that I am aware of where you set your own schedule and your own calendarthere are some mandated scheduling, but its pretty minimal. Benjamin values the creative fr eedom to plan programs and exercise innovation to meet the needs of his clientele. He compared the nonformal environment of extension to the more formal industry workplace: First, you have the flexibility to be able to do things and come up with ideas to and see that idea come to life rather than the rigidity of actually working for a particular company and doing a particular thing that is imposed on you. Im not r eally comfortable in those environments. The ability to take risks and try new thi ngs in programming without acceptance from others is another benefit that participants embraced. Benjamin appreciates the risk-taking behavior permitted in his work decisions, You dont even have to have your directors or anybody agree with you at first, they can be really skeptical, but as things start happening, they start seeing the value and they go huh, that r eally wasnt such a bad idea. As shown,

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90 participants cited a variety of factors related to the nonformal structure of extension that compelled them to seek an agent position. University affiliation Participants agreed that the connection of the extension system with the University provides personnel and info rmational resources needed to support agents in their work. Sean describes his view on the adva ntages of the Extension-University relationship and its recognized reputation to the public: I wanted to be able to provide information and advice and help to those people and said Ok, I know a little something and Ive got an opportunity to share that information with other producers and its the University in formation here. I mean the Universitys respected, although theres still a whole lot of people that dont have a clue or know what extension is... very few people in this state dont understand what the University of Florida is thats got name recognition and when you talk to producers, they respect the University of Florida. Several participants specifically remarked on the benefits of having the resources of the university available to find answers to client questi ons. Eric understands that he does not have to be an expert on everything, but rather know where to find assistance, having the full resources of the University at your disposal that you dont have to know everything and do it alone, but you do have those resources to help you get your job done. When Adam compared his previous extension system to Florida, he was impressed by th e distribution and coverage of state resources, We worked with very little resources and now here you have plenty of resources to work with. He continued to explain how he uti lizes offices, information, agents, clientele, and facilities around the state, and its positive effects on his work: I think its the resources that the University has to work in extension and you feel good that you have the support to do your job with t echnology, infrastructure and communication. I think overall the resources that the University provides for th e extension system allows you to feel comfortable and see results. If you use these resources in a good way and you apply it to your program, you will see some results. The stability of a job in extension was cited by nine participants as a factor that played a role in their career decisions. Specifically, Eric had been working in the industry, but decided to

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91 enter extension because it was a little bit less risky than some of those production jobs. He discussed his experiences as a farm manager and the buyouts that were occurring as producers went out of business. Even though he made more money in the industry, he described the reason that he left, I said well I can go for this extensio n job or I can stay here and the place is probably going to sell and Ill be out on the street againI m getting to the point where its kind of hard to, especially over in the ar ea we were living, theres just no ag production jobs around anymore. The university resources, public r ecognition, research-based education, and career stability were major factors that influenced par ticipants decision to ente r into the organization. Agents Decision to Remain in Extension The selective categories relevant to agents decisions to remain in the organization were internal satisfaction, community l eadership, external motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environm ent. All of these categories emerged as influential factors and experiences that affected participants decisions to stay in an extension career. An outline detailing the relationships between the open codes, axial codes, and selective codes is shown in Appendix A, Figure A-2. Each specific category is detailed below. Internal Satisfaction The category, internal satisfaction, was comp rised of two axial codes including positive encouragement and emotional fulfillment. The en couraging feedback received about individual work performance and personal satisfaction gained from work experiences were both influential on agents attitudes to remain in the organization. Positive encouragement The feedback received from c lientele, peers, supervisors, and administrators was cited as internal motivation by all participants. Po sitive feedback from clientele was the most important factor to partic ipants internal satisfact ion. Samantha discussed her experiences working with pr oducers and the satisfaction she f eels from their feedback, The

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92 most satisfying is your clientele. When you help them with a problem or solution and then they tell you, we couldnt have done it without you and we appreciate it. Harry discussed how he gauges his own su ccess based on clear messages from the clientele that what we were doing was right. Matt also regarded feedback from producers as encouraging but stated if you live for that youre going to starve because that doesnt come that often and it certainly doesnt ri ght away, so thats somethi ng that comes overtime. He understands that youve got to bui ld a long term relati onship with people before you really start to get some positive feedback. Feedback from supervisors was also consider ed as positive encouragement. Benjamin discussed his relationship with his extension direct ors, I think I have a pretty fascinating CED and established a good rapport with the DED. He se nds little tidbits and ideas and tries to nudge people in certain directions. Those have been really meaningful. Matt commented that the majority of his feedback comes from supervisor s, Probably the most feedback you get is from your supervisorssome are better than others, bu t the supervisors give you feedback to let you know youre doing a good job. More importantly, Matt regards feedback fr om his peers as the best way to gauge professional success: I think your peers give you some feedback too and some times thats where you gauge yourself is by your peers. I get a lot of agen ts now that call me to ask my opinion. That didnt happen when I started, thats something you build over time and its the same as the clientele, youve got to build those relationships. Feedback from many different people was regarded as inspiring and encour aging to agents work performance. Emotional fulfillment Participants regarded intern al pride gained through work performance and clientele interaction as emoti onally fulfilling. Brenda found the appreciation and interaction with clientele personally satisfying, People ar e just so appreciative of you

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93 answering their questions or just giving them informationI think its the fact that people appreciate what we do for them and thats rea lly satisfying. Samantha enjoys the challenge encountered in her job on a daily basis, I just like the challenge because every day is different and you are solving problems for people. Gabby explained that she gauges her personal success on whether I have made a positive impact on the producers, made their life a little easier, helped them unde rstand the rules and the changes a little bit better. Patricia commented that there are many job-related factors, such as pay and unequal recognition, that can be frustrating, but she feels the clients that I work with have always been very rewarding and gi ve her that motivation to continue. Three of the participants, Sean, Matt, and Harr y, pointed out that job satisfaction must be internal when working in an organization th at provides advice to solve problems and does not require clients to report results. Matt discusse d his personal philosophy on job satisfaction and its connection to helping people: The number one thing thats important is your personal satisfaction and I think thats probably one of the things th at weeds people in or out of extension. If you dont enjoy what you do, then youre not going to be successful. I have seen some success working with people, the relationship s you build, things that you work on and do well, and I feel like Im helping people. Most days you feel like, I was a help to somebody today, and it may be something as little as just who to call for some service they need. But to me, thats the mission of extension, were here to help you. Sean also believes that satisfac tion is going to have to be self-satisfaction because when you provide a program or when you answer a question, people dont call you back and say Hey, that was great. Harry has relied upon intrinsic reinforcement coming from clientele to satisfy his emotional fulfillment. Personal work commitment, pleasure, and client experiences helped participants to be emotionally fulfilled in their careers.

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94 Community Leadership The category, community leadership, was comp rised of two axial codes including public relations and community recognitio n. The abilities to provide needs-based education and be respected by the community were specific factor s related to agents de cision to stay employed within extension. Public relations Similarities found among participants were in their desires to work with a variety of public audiences, meet client need s, and promote agricultu ral education. When asked to describe their primary clientele, pa rticipants incl uded government officials, public leaders, youth, adults, private and commercial busi nesses, agricultural producers and growers, small farmers, master gardeners, homeowners, and the general public. Jessica described her clientele as anybody that produces any type of thing on their place and the public as a whole. Adams dedication to meeting public needs was his primary motivation to stay in extension, Just the fact to be able to socially help somebody or a community that is in need. Reaching out to people and trying to increase th eir salaries by getting a license or by getting education and being better prepared with job skills that they n eed to have. Gabby commented on how she works with numerous public agencies to implement programs to meet client needs: I dont work alone. I cant say that any one thing that a grower does to make a big difference in their operation was just because of me. NRCS works with them and there are so many other groups and organizations that work with them. I think of it as a group effort and thats why its kind of hard to come up with impacts for the university because I dont feel like anything I do is just st rictly by me or because of my work. Promotion of agricultural awareness to the public was also a priority. Gabby tries to schedule meetings at the Rotary club or Kiwanis whenever she can to promote awareness, I will go talk about the importance of agriculture in the county and how im portant it is in the economy. Jessica also wants t he general public to have a g ood view of agriculture in the

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95 county and wants them to see it in a positive li ght. She discussed her efforts to promote agriculture and the importan ce of public pe rceptions: When I do hear somebody, like at the farm tour, seeing some of our farmers doing something like, Wow I didnt know farmers were so technologically advanced or I didnt know farmers really work as much to protec t the environment, that makes me feel good because its showing them in a good light and thats what Im he re for. I want them to have the best public perceptionI want them to be viewed in a really positive way because its a great job. I mean they do a great job for everybody. Im proud of the farmers. The promotion of agriculture to public audi ences through needs-based education constituted important experiences that influenced agents to remain in extension. Community recognition. Participants welcomed the oppor tunity to become a part of the community and be considered a community expert. Participants discussed the integration into the community and the feeling of acceptance gain ed from that recognition. As a new agent, Tammy understood the importance of being visible in the comm unity, particularly at youth functions, I was there to support the kids and to meet different clients. If you dont get out in the community on those odd hours, then you dont ge t to make those contacts. Because she made the effort to build those relationships, Tammy has received personnel and resource support from various agricultural associ ations, public agencies, and comm unity organizations. Jessica also worked hard to gain the respect of the community and as a result, she received assistance with her farm tour, attended a national agri cultural association m eeting, and won county and national awards. Acceptance and recognition were encouraging to agents as they integrated into the community. Jessica noticed the acceptance in clie nt behaviors, The comm unity, I really like the people here and they seem to respond well to me They dont treat me like an outsider. Harry was encouraged to pursue persona l interests that benefited both his family and the community during his career. While at the same time, he cr eated positive organizationa l visibility and client

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96 relationships. Matt was proud to be a member of the community a nd the dignity associated with his job: Its nice to be recognized in the commun ity as a kind of a community leader you are somewhat of a local person thats well know nits kind of nice to be recognized as someonepart of the community. Youre not just somebody whos working an 8-5 job and you go home and youre a nobody, I mean were fairly plugged in here to whats going on. Participants agreed that building and maintainin g community relations was a significant factor affecting their work progress. Career Benefits The category, career benefits, was comprised of three axial codes including professional development, position benefits, and university re sources. Each of these codes revealed the importance that agents placed on meeting personal needs, participating in professional growth opportunities, and having access to resources. Professional development Professional development opportunities were cited as contributing experiences to agents career grow th. Participants conc urred that professional development helped to broaden knowledge bases, improve skills, and refine talents. The ability to enroll in higher education courses, attend in-s ervice trainings, and par ticipate in leadership workshops offered valuable career development. Three of the twelve agents completed their Masters degree since being employed, while one is currently working on a doctoral degree. Leadership workshops, conferences, and sympos iums were also considered good learning experiences. Eric values the in-service received as he tr ansitioned from the indus try into the extension organization, I needed to be brought up to date on how things are being done and were allowed to go to these trainings and kind of see things from that aspect so that helps a lot I was computer literate somewhat, but I really had to get up to speed on using a lot of these programs.

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97 He also had the opportunity to tr avel to Brazil within the firs t years of starting in UF/IFAS Extension and found it to be a good hands-on ex perience. Tammy also appreciates the inservice training offered, in industry, you don t have professional development opportunities like you do in extension. Patricia credits her happiness to the wi de range of career development opportunities offered through the organization: I have really been happy in extension because Im someone who has a strong desire to continue to learn new things and thats defi nitely encouraged in extension. And we definitely have opportunities, sometimes more than others, but we definitely have opportunities to travel to nationa l meetings, to go to in-servi ce training, to take formal courses, so thats appealing to me. Brenda discussed several profe ssional development opportunities that sh e has participated in during her career. Her district director organized a series of trainings for county directors and program leaders focused on improving manageme nt and people skills. Although Brenda had previous experience as a manager, she found it extre mely helpful to have refresher courses. In addition, she has taken advantag e of the professiona l development grants and got to go someplace that I would not have gotten to go. She attended a national extension meeting and said, It was a great experience that I woul d never have a travel budget big enough for. Samantha was pleased with the new teams that ha ve been formed to guide in-service trainings and reflected on the first group meeting with the specialists, We got to gether, talked about problems, talked about issues, hot topics that a ll of our clientele have and then theyre going to rank those and work on in-service. However, four participants said that some professional development opportunities often interrupted their work responsibilities. Ga bby found many of the required meetings prohibit her accessibility to clientele: The way I look at things is if there is a meeting and I can get something out of it that will directly benefit my growers or help me do my job, then I will go. Otherwise I dont have the time, my growers want me here. They to ld me if a problem comes up, they expect me

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98 to be here to help them quickly...sometimes its expected that you go to so many meetings a year and I dont believe in that. Benjamin also believed that some professiona l meetings are unnecessarily forced upon agents such as, the imposition of some of the core requirements of UNIFAS where you need to do five or six district meetings... or you are required to spend thr ee days in Gainesville for the symposium. Regardless of whether they were required or not, prof essional development opportunities were seen favorably among partic ipants to receive updated information and training necessary to perform work duties. Position benefits Participants acknowledged the benefits of being an extension employee, including salary, opportunities for advan cement, flexible work hours, and job benefits, as a deciding factor in their ca reer decisions. Eric and Tammy we re particularly pleased with the medical insurance, annual, sick and vacation time as part of the fringe benefits package. Tammy said, I think compared to the industry, the extension salary is pretty goodbut the benefits are what makes it worthwhile. Samantha also f ound the extension salary to be highly competitive with agricultural education teachers, The salary th ey started me out at was a lot better then what I was making in teaching. Matt worked in the industry prior to extensi on and realized how cha llenging it is and how few management positions are available. The opportunities for advancement within extension were more tangible and realistic to him. On e of the reasons that Gabby, Samantha, and Adam chose their positions in extension was simply due to location, the job was here, I grew up in this county, and it happened to be the right time and right place. Harry was encouraged by the flexibility to balance his pe rsonal and professional lives with extension. His supervisor supported his desire to pursue his personal intere sts and have time for his family, That was a real critical thing and it allowe d me to be with the family. While participants had different

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99 personal interests, position benefits were an infl uential factor in agents decision to continue working in extension. University resources Participants categorized univers ity resources in different contexts including in-service training, ne tworking opportunities, professional development, offices, the Extension Digital Information System, research information, specialists, and money. Resource accessibility was an important factor for Jessica to perform her job and she found that whenever you need something, theres somebody to offer a res ource. It may not be my county director, it may be one of the other agents, it may be so mebody in a different county, it may be somebody within the county, or another coun ty department thatll help you out. Matt claims one factor that adds to his job satisfaction is I feel like we have resour ces that can help people do what they need to do. Tammy classified professi onal development as a useful resource because You have to go to a lot of meetings to be able to interact with these different people and to get resources to take back to your cl ientele. Adam appreciates the qua lity of resources available to support his work: I think the System, the University Extension in Florida is a very, very high quality system. Its very rewarding to work with high quality professional persons a nd be able to connect to resources that are there and you feel like you have great support havi ng the University of Florida behind your back. When conducting multi-county programs, Adam u tilizes various resour ces located at each extension office in the state, I have been ve ry successful to network with the county and the agent in that particular area so they will connect me with the clientele there, we use their facilities, we use the mailing list, so many th ings that I can use in multiple locations. All twelve participants agreed on the importance of university specialists as a valuable resource. Sean uses specialists to obtain current research information, One of the things that has helped me the most is those extension specia lists that I work with thats where I get the

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100 university information to share w ith the producers so thats b een a really big organizational help to me, all of those specialists. Patricia contacts specialists particularly when there is a client question that she cannot answer, A lot of times it is just going stra ight to the specialists and saying this is what Ive got with this grower, what do you think, what do you recommend, and going straight to them a lot of times the ques tions pertain to things that you arent even on EDIS, they havent made it that far yet. Th ere are a variety of resources offered by the university to support agents and enable them to function effectively in their positions. External Motivators The category, external motivators, was compri sed of two axial codes including measurable performance indicators and extern al rewards. Each of these factors provided encouragement that shaped the agents decision to remain in extension. Measurable performance indicators Program participation and evaluation results were the primary performance indicators used by partic ipants. Sean discussed program participation as a gauge of performance because people do come to programs, they fill out the little questionnaires that we give themand most of those survey results are positive. Harry sees client loyalty and repeat customers as reliable indicators, Most of what I base whether I have been successful or not is the relationships with the growers. I still have these growers that are repeat customer types that obviously want me to be involved with them and helping them. Adam measures his performance based on clientele comments, I really se e a lot of satisfaction coming from the clientele, a lot of good statements that they ar e telling me, and I really can measure how much Im helping them. Tammy receives encouraging fe edback through program evaluations when she gives the people a survey and theyve all been very positive. They want more education, they want me to come out and do farm visits, and they give me suggestions for new programs or new ideas. While Jessica referred to the change in clients attitudes as an

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101 observable measure, Since from when I first started to now, theyve called more. Theyve asked me more questions, when I go by to see them theyre not just ignoring me and theyre real friendly with me. She has seen their confidence in her increase as we ll, Theyre just more accepting of me and that says they have some kind of confidence in me. External rewards Participants labeled external rewards as awards, scholarships, recognition, promotions, financial incentives, and gr ants received during their careers as positive experiences. Harry discussed the rewards of ex tension work and views personal success in two ways, one is related to interaction with client ele and the other is a more outward way, a more tangible way of viewing the success from the unive rsity side would be in the area of awards and recognition. He has won awards from a state and national standpoint a nd feels hes gotten more than enough as a member of teams and r ecognition within the institution, as well as gained recognition from my colleag ues through the county agents asso ciationas peer awards. Jessica and Brenda both received grants that allowed them to do attend conferences and implement programs that they would not have been able to do with their limited budgets. Samantha attended leadership conferences, comple ted her Masters degree, and received some promotions along the way and little incentives from the university which have been good. Matt earned state and national recogniti on for his work and has been r ecognized by his peers as a top agent so that means a lot. He explained what he has learned through th e years about receiving awards and the importance of self-promotion: This is a different kind of industry. Youve got to promote yourse lf and that took me several years to get over becau se all those awards Ive won, I had to fill out the application for. So youve kind of got to toot your own horn, but thats also kind of how you gauge yourselfthats part of playing the ga me to get promoted. Jessica revealed her feelings about receiving a national award and being recognized as county employee of the year, I dont know if that c onstitutes success but I feel its been good.

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102 Change Agents The category, change agents, was comprised of th e axial code affecting social change. The majority of participants regarded themselv es as change agents and discussed several experiences concerning change in extension. Harry s internal reinforcem ent of success is based upon behavior changes seen over th e years in client practices: I see changes as a result of what weve been doing so the adoption of plastic mulch early on my career going from zero acres to probably 15,000 acres in the regi on, theres things that you can visibly see the impact that you re making. So I would say the measure of success would be for me related to whats it mean to the people Im working with for the most part. Im seeing things that were working on, Im seeing them change, Im seeing them adopt the practices and learn how to do it themselves and then not needing me other than maybe just a little bit of help al ong the way to continually guide them. Gabby talked about the importance of career longevity for agents to see the change occur, Change happens slow and unless youve been here for a while, you dont see much change. If you come in as an agent and stay three or f our years, you are not going to see much because change doesnt happen that fast and that can be frustrating for new agents. She continued to explain the difficulties in changing behavior s and her shared role in the process: Change is hard and its hard to get growers to change. Something has to happen in order to make them do it, either money or regulations or something. So once that happens and its been set, then I can step in and help them achie ve that goal to meet that change. Thats the way that I think of it more than just me going out and say look what I have done, I got this many growers to go to drip irrigation. It wasn t just me, it was part regulations, part the water management district, and all this kind of stuff. But, I feel like I have been successful in helping them. Adam supported Gabbys view on the length of time it takes for change to occur, after four or five years that youve spent here, then you s ee some results. Harry discussed the problems with instability and turnover in agen t positions when dealing with change: It takes time in an area to vision and the l onger that you are stable in the position, the better that person probably is about doi ng that. So if there is c onstant change, turnover, and constant turmoil, I think that is tough to be ab le to do those kinds of things. Its important in my mind that county ag ent positions in particular have long term continuous relationships with people.

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103 The ability to affect societal change is a prio rity for extension agents, but requires long-term commitment to clientele and work responsibilities. Network Of Support The category, network of support, was comp rised of the two axial codes including supportive relationships and t eamwork activities. Supportive relationships. Relationships with peers, specia lists, mentors, clients, advisory committees, administrators, and office staff had a direct influence on agents career decisions. Participants regarded community and clientele re lationships as the most influential in their careers. Jessica experienced a huge amount of support from the community as they responded well to me and helped her to become an established agent. Eric received pretty good feedback from clients and as a result, deci ded to stay in his current position when another job became available. He said, Ive develope d a lot of good will over here and some of the relationships Ive developed with the people in the industry is pr obably one of the big reasons I didnt pursue it. Organizational relationships also provided essential support. Tammy received support from within the office, the other agents around th e state, and the agents here in my office and gives a lot of credit to her count y director for being very, very supportive of meshe just tried to support me and help me to make the right de cisions. Jessica showed her appreciation for the Dean of Extension and the way that he intera cts with agents, Hes very interested in the agents and wants to know them and doeshes a big advocate for Extension like a Dean should be, hes a good fellow. Sean described the im portance of having a mutual relationship with specialists, The specialists that I deal with and I use those specialists and work with them regularly because they come and help me do pr ograms, and I go and help them do programs and

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104 so forth. If I didnt have a good relationship with those people or didnt get along and work with them well on a regular basis, I would not be here. Teamwork activities Benjamin credited teamwork as one of the reasons for his overall job satisfaction, I think there is quite a bit of teamwork going on in the extension office and people see each other as comrades and are suppor tive of your programs. Eric saw the benefits of teamwork when he was involved in several lo cal and statewide programs, I think the team things, the more you can do, the better. It se ems like the more ground you can cover. Matt stated that at about a year and a half, I was ready to quit, but expl ained how his peer group reversed his decision to leave when he was struggling as a new agent: I had some problems in the office I worked in. I didnt have very good supervisor, he gave very little support, so I felt like I was on my own, struggling and if it hadnt been for the other agents, I dont know that I would have st ayed. So it was definitely thethat peer group I learned from them how to do a pr ogram. By going to the programs, I got refreshed as to what the current information is and then I also had a group that I can bounce ideas off of and build some success with, so I got some success out of something they had already started, their momentum. Samantha attributed her professional success to working with a group of agents, I think its good to have some collaborative effort with other agents because if youre out here by yourself, you can sink or swim pretty quick. Ma tt also credited his peer group for helping him to become established: The thing that was probably the most signifi cant for me was the c ounty agent group that was a group of mid level agents and veteran ag ents that were all working in the same field That peer group really pushed me al ong, Ive also benefited from the Florida Association of County Ag riculture Agents and that certai nly that has been good because it opened me up to folks outside of our district and to a broader focusso that has been very helpful and it gives you an ave nue to apply for awards and ge t to go on some trips to see other states and see a more, broader, diversity of things than just whats found in your county and a neighboring counties.

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105 Extension Work Environment The category, extension work environment, was comprised of the two axial codes including freedom and variet y in job and characteristic s of extension work. Freedom and variety in job The freedom and variety in extension work was referred to by all of the participants as a de termining factor to remain in th e organization. The daily variety of environments, situations, clie ntele, and activities were valuab le assets to the job. Being a former teacher, Samantha found that she enjoyed he r career in better because of the diversity in clientele and responsibilities en countered in a typical day, Eve ryday is different Every day I get different phone calls about different problems dealing wi th people and you never know whats going to occur. Jessica explained that her primary motivation to remain in her position was the variety in the work environment, I me an this job changes, you know its no t like youre stuck doing the same thing day afte r day and its not like youre stuc k in an office looking at four walls or looking at the back of somebodys head or even in a cubical. Matt appreciates the flexibility to help people with their pr oblems and finds his work interesting: Thats what its about, its helping folks and when youre helping people with problems orthings they just want to do. Its interesting. I mean you never know what today is going to bring. Sometimes things are frustr ating until you work through them, but theres a lot of variety and you have some freedom to kind of choose what youre going to focus on and what youre doing. Participants enjoy the freedom to decide pr ogram needs for the clie ntele without needing approval from supervisors. When asked about the one factor that influenc ed job satisfaction the most, Brenda replied: We have a lot of freedom in this job, even though we are accountable we have a lot of freedom. We can assess what needs to be done in our county, we can develop our program around those needs, I would like to say that we can set our hours and our timeframe. But I think that freedom is really nice, I have had in my working career a lot of different jobs where I have been in management and I dont th ink any of them have been as satisfying as this job.

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106 Patricia supported this perspective, I think th at I have a lot of crea tive freedom and a lot of opportunities to make decisions about how I wa nt my programs to go. I like the input of advisory committees but I still fe el like most of the decision making falls to me and I like that, it appeals to me. I like the flexib ility that I have to try new th ings. Gabby had opportunities to leave extension as other agencies attempted to recruit her throughout th e years, but her main motivation to stay was the lack of having to tr avel a lot and the flexib ility in hours and things, set my own schedule, and pretty much determine what my own program is with assistance from the growers, Im pretty well left alone to develo p the program that I see the need for and thats good. Characteristics of extension work The absence of micromanagement, flexible work, job stability, independence, work environments, and ch allenging situations were characteristics that participants value in extension. Adam enjoys the freedom to st ructure his program around client needs and is proud of the success he achieved from taking a pilot program to a permanent program specifically designed by himself. Gabby appreciates the flexible nature of work, I think in industry sometimes, youre not allowed th at flexibility, you are told here is what you are gonna do and go sell this. To reach clientele, she uses every educational tool that we can think of to reach these people including newsletter s, emails, fax, meetings, site visits, research demonstrations, grower tria ls, and public tours. Matt likes the ability to make his own decisi ons in a non-restrictive office atmosphere, Theres nobody who stands over your shoulder and tells you, you re going to do this today. This allows him the freedom in his job to assist clientele in the best manner possible. He also believes that extension is unique as it offers agents the opportunity to use their own talents and improve upon them even though they may be differen t from others. In this way, he points out

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107 that you can both do the same job and do it we ll and do it differently. There is no magic formula. Grounded Theory From the data analysis, a grounded theory was developed to describe the career decisions of the twelve Florida agricultural extension agents who participated in the study. A grounded theory is a theory derived from data, systematic ally gathered and analyz ed through the research process where data collection, analysis, and eventu al theory stand in clos e relationship with one another and the theory emerges from the da ta (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 12). The grounded theory presented conceptually in Appendix B illustrates the multiple influences that made varying impacts on the participants decisions to enter and remain in the extension organization. Factors that encouraged participants decisions to enter into the extension organization are represented in Figure B-1. Agricultural academic and work experiences, as well as the lack of extension knowledge, comprised the influential agent background factors. Position fit of the extension position to participants lifestyle a nd career interests was an encouraging aspect. Participants career contacts of influential relationships and positive encouragement from peers, colleagues, administrators, and clientele played an important role. The university affiliation and nonformal work structure of extension were additional factors. Service to the agricultural community was participants desire to help agri cultural producers solve problems. Participants job expectations related to th e nature of extension work, in cluding helping people, practical work, challenging situations, and providing ad vice. All of these categories emerged as influential factors and experiences that affected participants decisions to pursue a career in extension. The factors relevant to participants decision to remain in the extension organization are represented in Figure B-1. Participants received internal satisfaction from positive feedback and

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108 emotional fulfillment from extension work. External motivators consisted of measurable performance indicators and re wards received for work accomplishments. Career benefits consisted of professional development, position benefits, and university resources that provided valuable career assistance. Network of support focused on supportiv e relationships and teamwork activities that were beneficial to part icipants work responsibi lities. The extension work environment included freedom and variety in the job and characteris tics of extension work as positive influences. Community leadership focused on the positive experiences in public relations and expert comm unity recognition. The ability to se rve as a change agent and affect societal change was also a positiv e factor. All of these categories emerged as influential factors and experiences that affected participants ca reer decisions to remain in the extension organization. Summary This chapter explained the results found from the research objectives (1) to understand the factors and experiences that infl uence agricultural extension agents to enter into the organization, (2) to understand the factors and experiences that influence agricultural extension agents to remain in the organization, and (4) to devel op a grounded theory that explains the most significant issues that affect the career deci sions of Florida agricultural extension agents. The selective categories relevant to agents de cisions to enter into the organization were agent background, career contacts, service to agricu ltural community, nature of extension work, position fit, and university supporte d education. The selective cat egories relevant to agents decisions to remain in the organization were inte rnal satisfaction, community leadership, external motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environment. A grounded theory was created to conceptualize the career experiences of th e twelve participants in the study and Appendix B illustrates the theo ry that resulted from the analysis.

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109 CHAPTER 5 RESULTS OF INFLUENCES ON AGENTS AT DIFFERENT CAREER STAGES The purpose of this study was to explore and de scribe the career decisions of agricultural extension agents. This chapte r discusses the results found from research objectives (3) to discover the influences that shape career decision s of agricultural extens ion agents at different career stages, and (4) to develop a grounded theory that explains th e most significant issues that affect the career decisions of agricultural extension agents. At the conclusion of the transcri ption process, 198 pages of text were utilized in the data analysis process. From the data, categories emer ged specific to positive and negative influences that shaped career decisions of agents at diffe rent career stages. The systematic process of coding was used to separate, sort and analyze the data. The c onstant comparison technique was also employed to identify similarities and differe nces of patterns found in the data. An outline detailing the relationships between the open codes, axial codes, a nd selective codes is shown in Appendix A, Figure A-3. A grounded theory is al so presented in Appendix C to conceptualize the career influences of the twel ve participants in the study and illu strate the theory that resulted from the analysis. Influences on Agricultural Extens ion Agents at Different Career Stages Entry Level The decisions of entry level agents were categ orized into positive and negative influences according to participants responses. Comments fr om all twelve participants have been included in this section as each reflected on the entry level career stage. Positive influences Positive influences on entry level agents career decisions were comprised of the six axial codes including personal skills and characterist ics, knowledge bases, internal motivators,

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110 external motivators, support system, and inform ational support. Participants were asked to reflect on their experiences as an entry level ag ent and discuss factors that affected career growth. Personal skills and characteristics Personal skills focused on agents ability to apply their individual talents, such as critical and creative thinki ng, problem solving, relationship building, public speaking, people sk ills, and communication and liste ning. Participants enjoyed helping farmers with their problems, provi ding objective advice, and answering questions in a non-biased way. Matt entered into extensi on because he realized that he was really more talented working with people and with thinking outside the box, maybe a little more creatively with problem solving. Being able to help producers with practical pr oblems was an appealing feature of extension work to participants. Benjamin offered his opini on on skills that new agents must posses, such as people skills and the ability to establish relationships: First and foremost, you have to be a people person because you are working with people and that can be hard for some agents to learn especially if you havent been exposed to that environment before. And you dont have to be effervescent or bubbly all the time, but you have to learn how to establish relationships a nd make connections with potential clientele. Also never dismiss anyone regardless of how ri diculous the question is because that person is highly likely to be an asset in something else or another area and may well be giving you ideas that will definitely help you. Thos e are very important to understand. He continued to say that flexibility and willingn ess to change can make the difference between program success and failure: Flexibility, make sure that you have the skills to see there is a need to make a change and making a change sometimes is not easy. Bu t if you have to do it, you really should because it can make the difference between ha ving a meaningful outreach or not. So, if something is not working properly or the progr am is not working properly, be willing to drop it or to change it. Essential personal characteristics according to participants were willingness to learn, humbleness, patience, comfort w ith people, organization, self-c onfidence, and a challenging and

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111 cooperative attitude. Jessica ex plained how dependence on others was a critical factor for her survival as a new agent, You must have a wi llingness to admit that you dont know something. Dont think youre going to know things. I m ean maybe you will, but if youre fresh out of college, youre going to know nothi ng probably. So, not being afraid to ask someone for help because youre going to have to ask somebody for help. You cannot do this alone. A cooperative attitude assisted in agents ability to network and re late to clientele. Jessica learned how to use public partnerships to her advantag e, You have to know what other departments do and not just county departments, but federal departments too, a nd how they can work into doing stuff with you or how you can help them because they have their client ele base built up already and its usually your same clientele base. Personal interests in community educa tion, program development, and production agriculture were additio nal dimensions that matched to professional responsibilities. Tammy expressed her desire to educate producers abou t best management practices and educate youth about career choices. Matt fe lt that his personal and prof essional background was a good match for an agent position, I had some expertise and I had some talents that fit more with people skills and communication skills, but I also had a practical backgr ound that fit with the job. Brenda chose extension to be an educator and I felt like I could ma ke a difference and I feel like I am making a difference. During her interview, she saw the potential growth in the job and thought, This was an exciting place and I took the job. I came and Ive not been sorry. Knowledge bases Having knowledge in the areas of extension, evaluation, program development, community development, change, and production agriculture were beneficial to understanding work responsibilities. This know ledge allowed agents to immediately address clientele problems and build relationships upon entering the system. All of the participants had

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112 prior involvement in commercial agriculture through one or more of the following ways: industry work, research, academic programs, and growing up on a farm. Each had at least one academic degree in a technical agricultural area and obtained a variety of work experiences during their academic programs and graduate research. The majority of participants indicated that their knowledge of extension was obtained through internsh ips, research assistance, industry collaboration, agent presence, or extension programs. Participants specifically discussed the impor tance of practical field experience in agriculture as a primary factor influencing their career success. Tammy believes that having practical experience is critical to comple ment the academic knowledge of new agents: Just the basic knowledge of whatever the clie nts need I have such a strong knowledge of it because of my background. I mean you can go to the classes and stuff, but if you dont have the experience, hands on experience and re ally working with it, then youre not able to give that advice, like personal adviceif you cant offer them real hands on experience thenit would be really hard for the agen t to give advice if they dont know. She said that the lack of having practical e xperience is one reason why agents leave because they dont know how to answer the questions a nd its really hard. Tammy continued to explain how experience helps to develop an understanding of client problems: You can relate to what the pe ople are going through and you can kind of feel their pain for them, so it really helps the client for them to know that you understand what theyre going through because if they think that you know what they are talking about, I think they are a lot more apt to ask you a question. Additional areas of knowledge that were bene ficial to agents in cluded reporting and accountability measures, tenure and promoti on requirements, computer programs and technologies, and diversit y in agriculture. However, participants agreed that two curre nt problems with many new agricultural agents is the lack of field experience and limited exposur e to careers in extension. Four participants believe that agricultural field e xperience should be a requirement for new agents. Tammy said,

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113 I think a lot of the pr oblems with getting new agents is that theres not people educated in the subject matter. Matt suppor ted this statement, I honestly beli eve that we should, especially in agriculture, require our new agents to have an internship somewhere working in the field were going to be working in it would sure help folks if they just had a little bit of taste of what the industry is doing. Samantha also agreed th at less kids coming out of college have an agriculture backgrounds o thats the problem, they dont have the experience or the background to jump into a position like this. The other issue mentioned by participants was the limited exposure of agriculture students to careers in extension. Only fi ve of twelve participants ha d deliberately been exposed to extension prior to employment. Tammy stated, there arent young people with that education or they just dont know those jobs are available. So I think just getting extension more visible into maybe the high schools or FFA so that thos e students that want to go into agriculture know that extension is a real ly good career to go into. Matt gave his view on the ex isting recruitment process and the need to improve strategies: I feel like weve done a very poor job of recr uitment. I mean its basically if you want a job with us, theres all these jobs in our website, but that s not how you get good people. If you want the best football player to come play for the Gators, you dont just tell them well you just apply on-line and you can come pl ay football, you go out and find them and you recruit them. Several participants referred to the adage, exte nsion is the best kept secret and identified this as one of the problems with recruitment. As Patricia stated, Thats the biggest hindrance in hiring people in extension would be people dont know about it. I think even in agricultural colleges, people dont know about it. Matt point ed out that it is importa nt to have the right person for the right joband sometimes we just settle for whatever is in the pool and we pick the best in the pool. Maybe some of those tim es we should have just started over.

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114 Support system A strong support system was men tioned by all agents as a positive influence on their career decisions. Having th e support of peers, supervisors, mentors, colleagues, specialists, clients, and administrators had a direct impact on new agents as they began. Matt was very appreciative of guidance from his supervisor when he began his position, It makes a lot of difference when you start and y ou have a boss whos willing to take the time to tell you whats expected and what are some thi ngs that you need to do right away. Jessica experienced a huge amount of support from th e community as they responded well to me and dont treat me like an outsider which helped her to establish herself as an agent. Tammy has received support from within the office, the other agents around the state, and the agents here in my office, as well as from her advisory committ ee, They give me ideas and suggestions. Most importantly, Tammy appreciates her county di rector because she keeps up with the agents and supports them with what theyre doing, I thi nk thats really beneficial. She gave an example of how her director shows in terest in each agent every week: She walks around on Monday morning and says how did your program go this weekend and she wants to know everything that happened and a lot of times, shell even come to your programs and I think thats just re ally important to have a good CED. Erics praised his district directors management style as he explained if you need something, he is more than happy to give you f eedback, but as long as youre cruising along, hes not going to mess with you. Jessica specif ically made it a point to compliment the Dean of Extension for his interest and familiarity with agents: The Dean really seems to care about you which surprised me. I mean hes the Dean of Extension. Theres a bunch of us, but he know s all of us. How does he do that? And he seems to actually carehow many managers of big companiesthey dont care. I think that if I actually had something goin g wrong with my family, hed care. Harry was strongly influenced by a colleague ag ent that he worked with and described him as a mentor that shaped his persp ective of being an extension agent:

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115 He knew how to work with people and he was a people person and starting out in extension with a guy like this was a godse nd to learn how to treat people and service people and have fun in the job and all that ki nd of stuffhe had been there a long time and just had the respect of everybody that he ever touched, a storyteller, and starting out with him as a mentor was just really phenomenal. I dont think it could ever be replaced. Matt summarized important considerations for ne w agents, The thing thats going to make it good or bad is when you step into that job in that county, what support system do you have? Are you just left on your own or is there somebody strong there thats going to kind of guide you and give you some directions, take you outI mean, get in the truck with them and go riding and meet some of the key people. Informational support Access to educational resource s, in-service training, new agent orientation, professional devel opment, specialists, and university resources were positive influences on entry level agents career growth. Eric appreciated having the full resources of the university at your disposal and the fact that you dont have to know everything and do it alone, but you do have those resources to help yo u get your job done. Resource availability was important for Jessica to perform her job as she found whenever you need something, theres somebody to offer a resource. It may not be my county director, it may be one of the other agents, it may be somebody in a different coun ty, it may be somebody within the county, or another county department thatll help you out. Matt claims one factor that added to his job satisfaction was I feel like we have resources that can help peopl e do what they need to do. All twelve participants agreed on the importance of university specialists as a valuable resource. Sean uses specialists to obtain current research information, One of the things that has helped me the most is those extension specia lists that I work with thats where I get the university information to share w ith the producers so thats b een a really big organizational help to me, all of those specialists. Patricia contacts specialists particularly when there is a client question that she cannot answer, A lot of times it is just going stra ight to the specialists

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116 and saying this is what Ive got with this grower, what do you think, what do you recommend, and going straight to them a lot of times the ques tions pertain to things that you arent even on EDIS, they havent made it that far yet. Professional development opportunities includ ing extension symposium, focus teams, short courses, in-service, conferences, and new agent orientation were also critical for new agents to build their knowledge and expertise. Tammy values the in-service training provided for entry level agents, I think things like that really help because it gives you programs you can provide for your clients and then it also helps to educate yourself at the same time with new information to keep you up to date on whats goi ng on in the industry. Sh e continued to discuss the additional benefit of social networking at th e trainings, It gets new agents oriented into whats going on, trains them, and gets them intro duced to new agents, or other agents and other programs that are going on around the state. Ad am appreciates the quality of resources available to support his work, I think the system, the University Extension in Florida is a very, very high quality system. Its very rewarding to work with high quality professional persons and be able to connect to resources that are there and you feel lik e you have great support having the University of Florida behind your back. Internal motivators. Internal motivators created positive reinforcement for entry level agents to gauge their success and provide dir ection for the future. Feedback, freedom, job variety and flexibility, goal setting, and reputati on establishment were all positive influences. Feedback received from clientele, peers, a nd supervisors guides agents as they become established in the county. Tammy relies upon pr ogram evaluations to establish a needs-based program agenda, Having the survey s is really helpful to know what they want and what I can

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117 provide for them that they will be interested i n. Benjamin agreed, Evaluate everything because that actually gives you feedback on what you are doing right and what you are not doing right. Positive feedback from clientele was considered the most important factor to participants internal satisfaction. Samantha discussed he r experiences working with producers and the satisfaction she feels from their feedback, The most satisfying is your clientele. When you help them with a problem or solution and then th ey tell you, we couldnt have done it without you and we appreciate it. Harry discussed how he gauges his own success based on clear messages from the clientele that what we were doing wa s right. Matt also re garded feedback from producers as encouraging but stated if you live for that youre going to starve because that doesnt come that often and it certainly doesnt right away, so thats something that comes overtime. He understands that youve got to bu ild a long term relationship with people before you really start to get so me positive feedback. Feedback from supervisors offered positive encouragement. Benjamin discussed his relationship with his extension dir ectors, I think I have a pretty fascinating CED and established a good rapport with the DED. He sends little tidbits and idea s and tries to nudge people in certain directions. Those have b een really meaningful. Matt commented that majority of his feedback comes from supervisors, Probabl y the most feedback you get is from your supervisorssome are better than others, but th e supervisors give you feedback to let you know youre doing a good job. The freedom and variety in extension work was referred to by all participants as a determining factor to remain in the organization. The daily variety of environments, situations, clientele, and activities were va luable assets to the job. Being a former teacher, Samantha found that she enjoyed her career in extension better because of the diversity in clientele and work

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118 responsibilities encounte red in a typical day, Everyday is different Every da y I get different phone calls about different prob lems dealing with people and you never know whats going to occur. Matt appreciates the flexibility to help people with their problems and finds his work interesting: Thats what its about, its helping folks and when youre helping people with problems orthings they just want to do. Its interesting. I mean you never know what today is going to bring. Sometimes things are frustr ating until you work through them, but theres a lot of variety and you have some freedom to kind of choose what youre going to focus on and what youre doing. Jessica explained that her primary motivation to remain in her position was the variety in the work environment, I mean this job changes, you know its not like youre stuck doing the same thing day after day and its not like youre stuc k in an office looking at four walls or looking at the back of somebodys head or even in a cubical. The freedom to decide program needs for th e clientele without needing approval from supervisors was also appreciated. When aske d about the one factor that influenced job satisfaction the most, Brenda replied: We have a lot of freedom in this job, even though we are accountable we have a lot of freedom. We can assess what needs to be done in our county, we can develop our program around those needs, I would like to say that we can set our hours and our timeframe. But I think that freedom is really nice, I have had in my working career a lot of different jobs where I have been in management and I dont th ink any of them have been as satisfying as this job. Patricia supported this perspective, I think th at I have a lot of crea tive freedom and a lot of opportunities to make decisions about how I wa nt my programs to go. I like the input of advisory committees but I still fe el like most of the decision making falls to me and I like that, it appeals to me. I like the flexibi lity that I have to try new things The one thing that Jessica really enjoys about her job is that the universit y allows a lot of freedom in deciding what your programs are. Eric appreciates the self-directed type of work characteristic to extension, I

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119 dont see a whole lot of ultimatum s passed down, you will do this or you will do that. Its kind of up to you and I think they s hould keep it that way. External motivators. External motivators referenced by entry agents included client behavior changes, program par ticipation, teamwork efforts, r ecognition, peer encouragement, awards, scholarships, and grants. Success acco mplished through teamwork was described as an important experience that helps agents establish their reputati on. As Harry reflected, Its obvious to me that teams are also what help the new agents survive those first five years. The ability to see client behavior changes was noted as principal motivating factor. Benjamin explained his primary motivation is his comfort in helping others to change: The fact that I understand what I am doing, the fa ct that I am comfortable in this zone, the fact that I believe that one of the greatest satisfiers for me is to make somebody else happy with making a decision that I have suggested, to make a change based on what I suggested, and it works out in their favor both economically and otherwise. To quite a degree, those things are more meaningful than money. He added his view on the importan ce of visible changes, I really want to see change happen and I want to be a part of that change. Ive been there before, Ive done th ings and changed things and I was and still am very very happy about some of those things that I ha ve seen. It makes me feel like I am leaving a mark, an ecological mark on this earth. Participants discussed the st ruggles of program development including where to start programming efforts, how to identify clientele, and where to obtain program funding. Jessica discussed her gratitude for professional deve lopment grants to develop new programs and expand her outreach: Those mini grants that they offeredthat is so welcomed and so appreciated because I mean we might have these grandiose ideas, bu t we dont have any money. So having a few dollars to work with can really help you get some of your ideas off the groundand maybe to people that dont know about extensio n. Some of the money, what were using it for is going towards people who dont know about extension or dont know about what your program is.

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120 Not only did grants give her fina ncial support for programs, it also helped to expand her clientele base, gain public and peer re cognition, receive awards, and mo tivate her to continue. Negative influences Negative influences on entry level agents care er decisions were comprised of the four axial codes including initial mandated requirements, personal work management issues, lack of direction, and job pressures. Initial mandated requirements. Meetings, reporting and accountability, tenure and promotion, completion of a Master s degree, programming efforts, and the hiring process were difficult to handle as an entry level agent. Par ticipants referred to the initial hiring process as time consuming, lengthy, and inefficient. Matt said, It takes forever for us to hire somebody. Patricia has seen the organization lo se highly qualified candidates as a result of the length of hiring process, They are moving onto ot her things because they dont have the time to wait so were losing out on some wonderful people. Matt discussed the combined pressures on entry level agents to succeed and obtain a Masters degree at the same time, I think that its pretty tough to try to go to school and establish yourself the first year youre frustrated, the second y ear is when you start to come up with something, and the next th ing you know, youre trying to go to school too. Jessica is working on her graduate degree a nd regrets not completi ng it earlier because it stresses me out not having it done and always be ing bothered and asked about it. Sean agreed, I think it wouldve been nice to have Maste rs before I got here, but he al so recognized the advantages of experience while being enrolled in the pr ogram and working at the same time. Several of the twelve participants comment ed on the difficulties encountered with the reporting and accountability requirements. A commonality found among all agents was the

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121 negative experiences with the reporting system. As Benjamin stated, it must be easier to work withits time consuming and cumbersome if re porting is not made easier, more manageable, and less cumbersome, then its gonna drive people away. Participants discussed the stress of having to complete an annual re port without proper training a nd supervision upon entering their positions. Personal work management issues Personal work management issues that negatively affected new agents included scheduling difficulti es, poor time management, inadequate salaries, limited access to resources, long work hours, and out of pocket expenses. Salaries and high cost of living was an issue new agents were trying to overcome. As living costs rise in the state, Tammy said, Its really hard to find a place to live with the way housing and land development is going. Even though salaries may increase, she stated, I dont know if that increase will be enough to make it over what the cost of living will be. Several agents had initial troubles with organization, time management, planning, and efficiency in their work. Eric discussed the di fficulties he faced, I was kind of haphazard with that and theres times when you spen d half a day trying to find an email, just little things like that, thats just learningwhen you go from getting f our or five emails a month to four or five an hour, its a whole different world. So just understand how much information youre dealing with and getting my plans all set out. Lack of self-confidence can also be prohibiting to new agents as Jessica stated, I dont know if I am ev er going to be the kind th at will be able to answer questions right off the bat just about some random thingI probably wish I knew more. Lack of direction. Lack of direction, unclear guid ance and expectations, inadequate leadership, and the absence of a job description were problematic during the early years. Matt commented on the vague job expectations that co nfront new agents, Thats the biggest thing

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122 Ive heard is people starting outthey dont understa nd the expectations. Brenda reflected on her first day and how she felt lost, I sat at this desk, didnt have a phone, didnt have a computer, and I thought okay what does an exte nsion agent do? Matt described similar experiences as he reflected on his challenges in the first year: Its hardextension agents are very independent. Nobody tells you when you come in, youve got these five things to do todayyou kind of feel like youre on your own. Theres nobody to tell you what you need to be doingIt is hard in th e beginning in a very flexible open job with no set structure. I mean there are certain things that are expected. Youre expected to do at l east two major educational progr ams, youre expected to do some kind of written communication and youre e xpected to make contact with the people you serve. Thats pretty loose. So I think that was the thing I str uggled with is I just wasnt sure what I was supposed to do, or what I was expected to do. Tammy explained how lack of leadership and program understanding among directors negatively affects new agents: Some of the CEDs, they dont have very good leadership skills and they try to micromanage their agents and that doesnt work at all. I mean that makes people leave extension really fastso having good leadersh ip is really criti cal...even the district directors, they may not understa nd what the ag agents deal w ith on a daily basis, they dont have agriculture experience so they dont unde rstand why we do the programs, the way we do them, or why we dont have that many pr ograms for the cattlemen because they just dont come. She added that directors inadequate s upport for agents can cause added stress: I think the county directors a nd the district directors and all the way up they have to understand whats going on in the county level a nd to be able to know what the agents are doing. And support the agen ts, not criticize them. Although participants had an idea of general responsibil ities as an agent, several described the lack of a clear, stated job de scription as frustrating to a ne w agent. Matt explained, There is no job description that tells you what to do. Youre just sup posed to relate and do problem solving and do education programs for these folk s, whatever group of fo lks you were hired to work with and nobody says, this is what you ought to do. Patricia commented, Honestly, I didnt know what agents did when I applied for the job, while Gabby had a similar attitude as

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123 she searched for a place to start her programs, I had no clue. I didnt know what to expect because the previous agent in the position wasnt real forthcoming about things. Jessica did not have any previous exposure to extension so she had few expectations as a new agent. She remarked, I didnt have a definitive idea. I had nothing to base it on. Brenda discussed how she believes this issue of lack of job expect ations could be addresse d by the organization: I think the applicants need a realistic view of what extension invol ves and that it is a special kind of job. Its not a 9 to 5 job where you go home and forget about your job at the end of the day I know the application ha s vague basic things, but if there was some way to provide them with a realistic outline or flyer or booklet or something that gives some of the specifics of extens ion so they have some realisti c expectations prior to going into the job. Job pressures Job pressures assumed by entry leve l agents can be overwhelming. These pressures include the pressure for success, tenure and promotion requirements, building programs, and obtaining a Masters degree. Matt believes that backing off the pressure would be helpful because the first year youre frustr ated, the second year is when you start to come up with something, and the next th ing you know, youre trying to go to school too. He continued to discuss the issues faced by entr y level agents and the pressure to succeed, Youve got to have some recognition, youve got to show them some excellence, and you have to have written some things. So theres a fair amount of pressu re now on new people coming in to succeed and succeed quickly when they really dont know what theyre doing. Although Tammy completed her degree before entering extension, she revealed her thoughts on this issue, If I was a new agent and I ha d that to tackle, that might be one reason for getting out of extension. I think maybe that is wh y a lot of younger agents have left just because they dont have their Masters and they have th at staring them in th e faceso I think having your Masters degree is critical to starting a career in extension. Eric di scussed the increase in number of farm visits, programs, and work resp onsibilities he experiences as a new agent, I

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124 guess now theres gotten to be more and more on my plate and thats the toughest thing to keep up doing what youre doing, so I need to figure out a way to be able to continue. Preparation for tenure and promotion was mentioned by all part icipants as a constant pressure that is enforced, but lacks clear guidelines, expectations, a nd standards. Colleague Level The decisions of colleague level agents were categorized into positive and negative influences according to responses by participan ts. Comments have b een included from eight participants, four colleague and four counselor/adv isor agents, in this section as each reflected on this career stage. Positive influences Positive influences on colleague level agents career decisions were comprised of the five axial codes including internal motivators, exte rnal motivators, career growth opportunities, career management strategies, a nd collaboration with key people. Internal motivators. Internal motivators that positively influenced agents included completion of tenure and promotion, long-term visibl e results, client behavior changes, feedback, peer and community recognition, an d an established reputation. Br endas described her internal motivation as client-focused, Im very driven an d I get a lot of personal satisfaction from what I do. Whether other people consider it successful or not, I think I have been successful I think I made a differenceto make a difference and to be able to affect change for the better. At one point, she told the Dean of Extens ion, I would almost pay you to do this job because it really is a very satisfying job and I enjoy itI think its the fact that people appreciate what we do for them and thats really satisfying. Samantha explained the professi onal satisfaction that she felt after completing the tenure and promotion process, I feel pretty good about what Ive doneI finished my five years and

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125 went up for tenure and promotionso I think thats pretty successful if y ou can stick with it for that five years and get the promotion packet completed. Adam disc ussed the importance of being able to see changes happen and how it dr ives him to continue. He recognized the importance of longevity in a posi tion and its connection to results: It would be different if I wasn t here for four or five year s I would really have to look around and see how can I answer that but for me that gap is filled. I can see my job connected with the clientele and also the cl ientele making some progress or some results, so I think thats the main thing that really keeps me going at this point. Internal motivators were helpful in building agen ts self-confidence as th ey developed internal and external networks, leadership skills, and solidifie d their reputation with peers and clients. External motivators. External motivators mentioned included awards, promotions, financial incentives, program success, recogni tion, community acceptance, increased salary, work expansion, clientele improvements, and an established reputation. Samantha has received some promotions along the way and little incen tives that the university provided which have been good. Along with incentives, she appr eciates recognition and approval from her supervisor, A pat on the back every once in a while it can be pret ty lonely with the workload. Brenda considered evaluation feedback as encour aging performance measures, I have good numbers and survey results which have shown relevance and that they have learned something. Peer recognition was also an extern al motivator as Patricia explained, Peers have been really important and encourag ing me to apply for awards and asking to share my work with them. I am getting good feedback on that. Sh e added, I have been called on by people from around the state to help with things and thats nice too, thats a nice ince ntive to keep doing the job. Career growth opportunities Participants discussed vari ous career growth opportunities that positively influenced their careers in cluding professional deve lopment, conferences,

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126 completion of Masters degree, l eadership positions, and in-service. Sean reflected on the completion of his Masters program and o ffered mixed emotions on the experience: I think it wouldve been nice to have a Masters before I got here But, as I went through that Masters program, even though it took me fore ver, there is a lot of benefit to being in the real world before you go and get a Masters I learned a lot that maybe I wouldnt had learned if I had gone straight through it was just a lot more real-life application. Samantha also completed her Masters degree while employed and appreciated the financial support the organization offered, They waive your tuition and everythin gso thats a pretty good deal. Patricia has served in several leadership positions including program leader, committee chair, district director, and on a national board wh ich have all been positive. Samantha was an officer in local and state associations and found that working together with those groups has probably help me develop in lead ership and also helped me with just working together with people so youve got somebody you can call. She was also selected by he r county director to participate in a leadership conference which was a good learning experience. Brenda was especially appreciative of the a pproachability of administrators: Im pretty happy with the way things have gone. I have gotten a lot of support along the way, I think that extension administration is very approachable and it was very refreshing to find people in administration so approachable and Im not intimidated. So I felt like if I needed information and I wasnt getting it, I can just go to the top Definitely, you feel like you can voice your concerns and that to me is very important and Im very appreciative and glad about that. Professional development and in-service were regarded as beneficial career improvement activities. Brenda specifically appreciates the in-service training and grants available to agents, I received maybe eleven hours of training over th is past year and that was extremely helpful because I have had a lot of it be fore, but it doesnt hurt to have it again because refresher courses are goodAlso, the administration offers professi onal development grants and I applied for one and I got it and got to go someplace th at I would have not gotten to go.

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127 Career management strategies Participants reflected on career management strategies that influenced job satisfaction including experiential learning, client communication, establishing limits, organization, time manageme nt, resource utilization, empowering others, independent learning, overcoming obstacles, a nd program promotion. Establishing personal limits and time management were particular strate gies that agents learned as they became more experienced. Samantha commented on the importance of scheduling, Dont get too overwhelmed with everything you can do. Because we cant do everythingIve learned to say no some because at the beginning, I was doing everything and you cant do that, you cant. Youve got to learn to say no and learn to sche dule your time. She gave an example of her approach, Ive learned to try to schedule and spend more time with my kids and my family Ive also tried to schedule my evening meetings so that I dont have them back to back or three in one week which when I started, it was like that.youve got to learn to schedule programming time and work that accordingly. Sean improved his time management skills and said, I think you learn it. Y ou learn how to manage your time more efficiently if youre working on something on how to get it done efficientl y that is still turning out a quality product. Brenda makes it a priority at the beginning of the year to put days offeven if you may not take it at that point, at leas t youve got it already sequestered and you have the possibility of having time off. It took me several years to lear n that in order to get free time, you had to make it first. Samantha recommended to keep a separate reco rd of information and dont rely on the database develop your own system. Sean spen t the majority of his early years building a reputation and as he reflected on this experience, he saw how this time was well spent: You work and hopefully through that wo rk you develop a good programYou are building a reputation early in th at career and that pays off fo r you later. But at the same

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128 time, it cant be tell me what you did for me its tell me what you did for me LATELY. Its all got to be current. You cant just rely on a reputation. Brenda credits her success to th e time available at this point in her life, I not sure that I wouldve been as successful in extension if I had come to it younger when I still had children at home. I think I have the ability to give more time now because I have it. Participants emphasized the importance of experiential, independent, and continuous learning. Not having a formal background in edu cation, Brenda learned as much as possible on teaching methods, You have to learn about adult education and the techni ques. And I think if you dont get that pretty soon after y ou come into this job, then it ma kes it pretty hard. Patricia agreed and devotes time to observe other agents programs to improve her teaching skills, So I really spent a lot of time, well still now, but even those first years, I spent a lot of time intensively looking and seeking out other people who were doi ng a good job, attending all their classes, stealing their ideas, trying to get into other trainingsmost of everything that I do has been taken from somebody else. Adam would like to increase skills in one particular area of knowledgeget more specific oppor tunities to increase educa tion and methodology skillsand really become a highly specialized person. Collaboration with key people Collaboration with advisory committees, colleagues, specialists, communities, and professional associations provided positive experiences for colleague level agents. Samantha collaborates with her advisory committee not only to plan her program agenda, but the group serves as her supp ort system, You need to work very closely with an advisory committee because they back you up in programmi ng if you ever have a problem, theyre there to back you up. Ive got ten or twelve people on my advisory committee that are my best friends, I can call them up for anything, and theyre also large producers in my county, so I think its good to have that client ele advisory committee relationship. She also

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129 relied on association involvement as that give s you opportunities to wi n awards which looks good and specialists because its hard for young ag ents to get a journal article, but if you can, pair up with a specialist. Matt gave credit to a multi-county agent group for his early successes, while Samantha also relies upon her colleagues for support, Working with that group of agents, I think its good to have some collaborative effort with other agents because if youre out here by yourself, you can sink or swim pretty quick. Samanthas dedicated involveme nt in the agricultural agents association has been a commitment that has prov ided numerous career contacts, Our Ag agents association, FACAA, Ive found that through the years its good to get involved because that gives you some people all over the state if you need to call or n eed help. Brenda also understands the importance of colla boration as she serves as program leader and manager in her office. She has divided up sub-management, empowered the master gardeners, has a supportive office, and works with colleagues in teams to accomplish goals. The regional teams that she worked with offered a wealth of experiencea good informational sharing organization and good for learning and getting su pport for what you were doing or to know that you were on the right track. Negative influences Negative influences on colleague level agents career decisions were comprised of three axial codes including performance evaluations, sala ry disparity, and personal work management issues. Performance measures Inconsistencies in the reporting system, performance evaluations, promotion requirements, and evaluati on guidelines negatively affected agents job satisfaction. Difficulties with the reporting syst em were referenced by all participants as a

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130 negative experience in th eir careers. Sean described hi s ongoing experiences with reporting, They ought to do whatever it is in their power to streamline annual reporting and it might help with retention of future employees. I see that as an annual obstacle that usually is a maze of stuff and you know the thing is, the repo rt that they want you to do is different every year. Samantha believes the university needs to work out the kinks in the reporting system so that its easier and user friendly because that ri ght there can drive an agent away. The constant changes in the re porting systems have been de trimental to organization and record keeping. Samantha explained how she faced these changes and their effect on her tenure and promotion process: Get organized, get your own system because th ey told us that when you get ready to do your tenure and promotion packet, we can comb ine all these four different databases or four different systems that Ive been on, or we can pull it all together and it will be right there in the format. No its not. Wrong, it doesnt happen. Sean reiterated this lack of reliability and compatibility of the reporting system, We would get this system and they would say if you fill th ese out, then its gonna generate your promotion packet and it wouldnt. Actuall y, the promotion packet is a whol e different thing. Adam faced particular difficulties with the tenure and promotion process and said, I was very disappointedand it was frustratingyou expect to have a very fair evaluationyou have to have very clear rules because if you dont then the guidance for people will not really be good and people will get disappoint ed with the system. Salary disparity Disparity in salary compression, program comparisons, and pay raises were cited as negative influences on career sa tisfaction. Salary compression was the primary concern among agents at this level. Samantha expressed her perceptions of the problem with salaries and agent experience: Salary compression is a problem because now people with Masters degrees are starting out at $40K which I did not start out at six years ago and so th ey get closer and closer to

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131 what Im making now. Its worse for people th at have been in the system for 15 or 20 years, so I think thats an issuetheres agen ts making not much less than me that started just a year ago and dont have the experience that I have. Patricia agreed that pay was an issue when p eople starting out are gonna get as much as you are with no experience because they adjusted the salaries Adam felt that salaries need to be more competitive, considerate of the different living costs throughout the state, and compensate for expanding areas of work. The correlation between evaluation scores and pa y raises was also an unsettling issue. Sean offered his view on the ineffectiveness of the current pay raise system, Theyve got a system where they read and eval uate your reports and they give you a score and that score is from one to sevenmy point is there is no spread in that raise whether y ou get a three or a four or if you get a sevenIt doesnt convert to anything real. Personal work management issues Personal work management issues that negatively affect agents careers included lack of contact with specialists, travel issues, increasing responsibilities, time constraint s, and community conflict. Bre nda compared the differences in the type of stress between industry and extension work, The stress that I have here in extension is the kind of stress that I create for myself. D eadlines, pressures to succeed, or to do too much in one week and thats a little bit easier to manage than stress that is put on you by other people. Gabby reflected on the increasing demands fr om clientele and the university that contributed to her burnout at this point in her career: I think it was when I first h it that first burnout period whic h I think everybody hits after about 10 years, 8-10 years. You finally have gotten one promotion and now youre looking at a second and third promotion and they want national and in ternational type of experience and they really st art wanting more and more. By then, people know you and they start calling you more and your time gets spread thinner and thinner and I do think people tend to burnout at about 8 years or so. So, that was a time when I looked really seriously at some of the other positions because the salary wasnt that great.

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132 She added, You start getting put on more commi ttees, getting more asked of you from the university, and from even within th e counties, and it just seems to be all of a sudden almost more than you can handle. According to Patricia the increasing responsibilities make you feel there is not enough hours and that you are just not gonna get finished and there are too many things happening. All colleague level agents recognized the valu e of specialists to complete their work responsibilities, however th ere were specific problems related to contact with specialists. Brenda described her frustration with the sharing of information be tween specialists and agents: Probably one of the most frustrating things, occasionally there will be a problem that a researcher at the university is working on, but th ey havent shared that information with us. This happened to me twice and there has been an article in the pape r about it and we didnt know about it. I hate people calling me and as king me for information on something that I have no idea about and thats embarrassing to us If they are working on something that is that important and it gets into the paper, th en we need to know about it two or three weeks at least before the paper is working on it. She described another experience stemming from the lack of co mmunication with specialists, Sometimes extension specialists come into the county invited by groups other than extension and we dont even know about it. Wed like to know, we might come or we might use them while they are here. So, I think that is a communication thing. So communications could probably be better between specialists and agents. Counselor/Advisor Level The decisions of counselor/advisor level agents were categorized into positive and negative influences according to responses by participan ts. Comments from the four counselor/advisor level agents have been included in this s ection as each reflected on this career stage. Positive influences

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133 Positive influences on counselor/advisor level agents career decisions were comprised of the four axial codes including internal motiv ators, external motivat ors, career growth opportunities, and career management strategies. Internal motivators Internal motivators for agents included personal enjoyment, helping people, having an expert reputation, positive fe edback, recognition, community respect, client loyalty, colleague interactions, a nd challenging work. Harry has remained in extension because I feel like this is what I wa s born to do. Patricia described the personal satisfaction that she receives from working in extensi on, I really enjoy what I do and that has been the driving factor in keeping me in extension, I do enjoy what I do, I feel like I am making a difference and thats important. Matt had a similar opinion on what drives agents to stay in extension: Everybody talks about money, but its not a bout moneythe reason you do all that extra stuff is because you have pride in your job a nd you want to do your best and you have that drive to do your best, but you also genuinely want to help people. I dont know that the administration can give you th at, drive and satisfaction. Matt regards feedback from his peers as the best way to gauge his professional success: I think your peers give you some feedback too and some times thats where you gauge yourself is by your peers. I get a lot of agen ts now that call me to ask my opinion. That didnt happen when I started, thats something you build over time and its the same as the clientele, youve got to build those relationships. Gabby finds the challenge of extension work motivating, Everyday I say well, I learned something new today. Its a challenge keepi ng up with these growers because theyre so intelligent. I have learned a lot more about ag riculture. Harrys internal satisfaction was apparent as he reflected on hi s career choices, I would say th e likelihood that I couldve done any better, fit any better, enjoyed it any bette r, I dont think that wouldve been likely. External motivators External motivators at this car eer stage included awards, outreach funding, creating independent learners, community impact, client behavior change, feedback, teamwork results, outcome indicators, and client success. Matt was proud to be recognized as a

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134 member of the community and the dignity associated with his job, Its nice to be recognized in the community as a kind of a community lead eryoure not just somebody whos working an eight to five job and you go home and youre a nobody. Changes in client behaviors we re a primary motivator for agen ts. Harrys measurement of success is based upon changes seen over the years in client practices: I see changes as a result of what weve been doing so the adoption of plastic mulch early on my career going from zero acres to probably 15,000 acres in the regi on, theres things that you can visibly see the impact that you re making. So I would say the measure of success would be for me related to whats it mean to the people Im working with for the most part. Im seeing things that were working on, Im seeing them change, Im seeing them adopt them practices and learn how to do it themselves and then not needing me other than maybe just a little bit of help along the way to continually guide them. Gabby gave her opinion about change and her supportive role in the process: Change is hard and its hard to get growers to change. Something has to happen in order to make them do it, either money or regulations or something. So once that happens and its been set, then I can step in and help them achie ve that goal to meet that change. Thats the way that I think of it more th an just me going out and say lo ok what Ive doneBut, I feel like I have been successf ul in helping them. Harry discussed the rewards of extension wo rk and views personal success in two ways, one is related to interaction with clientel e and the other is a more outward way, a more tangible way of viewing the success from the unive rsity side would be in the area of awards and recognition. He has won awards from a state and national standpoint a nd feels hes gotten more than enough as a member of teams and rec ognition within the institution. He has also gained recognition from my coll eagues through the county agents a ssociationas peer awards. Patricia appreciates the incentives, whether it be awards, scholarships, or whatever that are offered by the organization and for allowing educa tion and formal coursework to continue. Matt has earned state and national recognition for his work and has been recognized by his peers as a top agent so that means a lot.

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135 Career growth opportunities Advantageous career gr owth opportunities were mentoring, continuous learning, improved talents, l eadership positions, and career stability. The mentoring program was motivating for agents to influence others and grow professionally. Patricia did not have a formal mentor when sh e first started her positi on, but feels it is an important part of her job, I know there is a me ntoring program now and I think that is really important. I am mentoring somebod y else in the system now and I can see that as being a really positive thing and should be taken advantage of mo re often. Gabby has served as a mentor to several new agents and discussed the mutual bene fits of the relationshi p, Well, getting to know them, but in helping them learn more about thei r job, it actually gives me a different perspective on what Im doing and some new ideas and some in teractions where we can work together and collaborate to do bigger and better things. Matt believes mentoring should involve all colleagues, I think its important that the other agents, not just the director, but other agents in the office, mentor the new folks and a lot of times that job gets dumped on somebody two and three counties away and you just don t have that contact with them. Leadership positions have offered valuable car eer growth to all counselor/advisor level agents. Matt has been involved in numerous l eadership trainings as he prepares for a more administrative role and learned that you get ou t of everything what you want to, what you put into it, how much you take it home and think abou t it and try to apply it. Harry has assumed several leadership roles thr oughout his career, and has recently been appointed to a new management challenge. Gabby makes it a priority to become involved in local and statewide leadership that directly benefits the growers. Career management strategies Strategies for career management include selfpromotion, clientele guidance, humbleness, limiti ng non-productive activities, aggressively seek

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136 clientele, prioritization, separation of work and family, and setting personal goals. Matt explained what he has learned through the years about receivi ng awards and the importance of self-promotion: This is a different kind of industry. Youve got to promote yourse lf and that took me several years to get over becau se all those awards Ive won, I had to fill out the application for. So youve kind of got to toot your own horn, but thats also kind of how you gauge yourselfthats part of playing th e game to get promoted. Harry credits the involvement and support of his family for his ab ility to manage his career: The understanding from my family certainly play ed a big factor and having their support has been immense in what I have been able to achieve and theres no question in that So I think there was a conscientious strategy on our part of how can we pay the bills and get through raising the familybut weve not always had the luxury of financially doing what we want to do. Matt has also learned to prioritize family and work, I dont need to kill myself and sacrifice my time with my family a nd all that to be there, so I thi nk thats part of trying to learn what really is important and what we make important. Placing personal limits on time was extremely beneficial to balancing responsibilitie s, I have consciously tried to go home at 6:00but the longer youre in exte nsion, the more you get involved in and the more you work on, you cant get it all done and you just finally ha ve to draw a line and say, Im going home, itll be here tomorrow and itll get done when it gets done. Factors and e xperiences that have helped Patricia to be successful included goal setting, creative freedom, advisory committee input, flexibility to try new things, and ha ving a supportive office work environment. I think overall in the whole course of my tenure of being in extension, th e fact that I set my goals for the year and my performance then is measured on those goals that I set for my self. I think that I have a lot of creative freedom and a lot of opportunities to make decisions about how I want my programs to go. I like the input of advisory committees but I still feel like most of the decision making fa lls to me and I like that, it appeals to me. I like the flexibility that I have to try new thi ngs, my happiness here in this office has to do with the work environment in this offi ceHaving supportive s upport staff and having extension agents work well together as a te am, having a supervisor that is supportive, anything but a micromanager.

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137 Negative influences Negative influences on counselor/advisor level agents career decisions were comprised of two axial codes including career overload and job dissatisfiers. Career overload Participants discussed career overl oad as a time period of increased responsibilities, stress of promotion requirement s, salary concerns, a nd excessive assignments that led to questioning career impacts and consider ation of other jobs. Each of the four agents expressed the overwhelming res ponsibilities that they have encountered with years of experience. Disappointment with the promoti on process was expressed by Gabby, Incentives are nice, but if youre one of the ones who doesn t get it, its a real disincentiveit makes a difference in how you see the university. Harr ys devotion to his work can sometimes create undesirable stress, I love what I am doing, but the frustration at times is to figure out how to do all the things I want to do. So the stress for me is self-imposed to a large degree. Matt discussed the increasing number of leadership trainings that he is involved in, I feel like Ive been hit over the head with a sk illet because theyve started severa l and they wanted me to be in all of them. In addition, he remarked on his excessive committee assignments and its relation to employee burnout: The other thing that does get a little frustrat ing is the longer youre around, the more they know you, the more you get stuck on task forces and committees and they need all that stuff, I understand it, but it does wear you down If you overload good people, you burn them out and you take away their drive to excel if theyre overl oaded It helps the organization, but it really doesn t help with their mission and their job. Youve just added frustration to their job and so I think thats something the administration needs to keep an eye on. We need to protect our good pe ople, not overload our good people. Harry has seen the biggest st rain in the last couple year s as he has taken on two different jobsand having a little more of a gray area in terms of supe rvisory stuff which has been challenging. In addition, it has been difficult to handle mixed messages from administrationso having a clear message from all different points of admi nistration is really

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138 critical. The main problem he has seen is the ability of the organization to support his needs, Their ability to liste n to what I felt through the experi ence was learned and soI needed support for what I was being asked to do. Job dissatisfiers Participants described factors that produced job dissatisfaction at this career stage as burnout, l ack of professional support, overwhe lming responsibilities, increased leadership positions, time limitations, excessive committees, reporting limitations, promotion process, disregard for service quality, lack of financial incentives, self-induced stress, and unequal recognition. Gabby explained how required m eetings interfere with her ability to serve clientele effectively and limit her time, I just want to do my job to the best of my ability and I will do whatever I have to do to do that or learn more to do that, but Im not just gonna go to a meeting, a three day meeting, to get a couple of hour s of information, I just dont have the time. Focus on quantity and not quality of service fo r reporting and accountability purposes was also upsetting to Gabby. She discussed how the em phasis on numbers can mask the significant impacts of extension work on her small clientele group: The university is more interested in the numbe rs that we generate more than the actual quality because my clientele as a group is sm all as compared to an urban agent where you may have the whole population in the county as your clientele group. So mine is small when compared so I am not going to generate those huge numbers so I think its more of a quality issue. Insufficient pay raises was a negative issue expressed by all four agents. Gabby explains why she is more concerned with the happiness of her clients rather than her performance evaluation results, I pay more attention to what they say than the number on my evaluation each year because it doesnt really make much differe nce if you get a 1% or a 2% raise. Raises havent been enough to worry about to be honest. Matt expressed his discontent with the raise system, We pay the samebasically the same rais e to the sorriest people as we do the best peopleonly two or three years did we actually get a raise based on our evaluation, a merit pay

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139 increase. He believes that th e organization should use finan ces to reward excellenceit is a little frustrating when I got the top score and a 3.25% pay increase and the guy who got the lowest score got a 2.8% increaseit didnt make a lot of difference, so why kill yourself? Reporting and accountability issues were addi tional job dissatisfiers. Gabby reflected on the constant changes in the reporting system, I t seems like it changed every yearIt would be nice if for once we got a consis tent reporting system so that we could go through the year reporting on this system and know that it is st ill gonna be there next year. She further explained, We hear people talking about quit ting when it is around report time. It gets frustrating. Harry continues to have difficulties with the compatibility of the system to report his accomplishments, If youre doing good things, then sometimes you say, I WANT to report this and where can I fit this into the report a nd UNIFAS to a certain degree doesnt give that ability theres only a limited li ttle space in that area for succe ss stories and so that area is WAY too limiting. However, the salary itself did not seem to have an influence on the four agents in a positive or a negative way. Gabby explained her view on salaries, The salary is not a huge factor, it couldve been less, it couldve been more, but it didnt make much difference because I like what I was doing. I couldve made twice as much with industry, but I dont want to have to travel. Harry explained that it has not b een a detriment, but Im certainly not in it for the money. He described the financial strains that hi s family confronted in his career: We recognized that that was a sacrifice that we were wiling to take. But, that was something we accepted. So to me, money was not an attraction or a detraction, its been adequate and its getting bette r. I would say this though if somebody is getting into this career to make money, thats a BAD mistake, a BAD mistake. Matt adds, Its got to be personally satisfying. Were not going to be paid enough to do this job even if we hate it.

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140 Grounded Theory From the data analysis, a grounded theory was developed to describe the career decisions of the twelve Florida agricultural extension agents who participated in the study. A grounded theory is a theory derived from data, systematic ally gathered and analyz ed through the research process where data collection, analysis, and eventu al theory stand in clos e relationship with one another and the theory emerges from the da ta (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 12). The grounded theory presented conceptually in Appendix C in Figure C-1 illustrates the positive and negative influences that shaped career deci sions of participants at the diffe rent career stages: entry level, colleague level, and counselor/advisor level. Positive influences on entry level agents care er decisions can be classified into three categories: personal traits, motivators, and suppo rt systems. Within personal traits, individual characteristics and skills focused on the agents ab ility to apply their tale nts and personality to extension work, as well as having foundational k nowledge in agriculture, extension, and program development. Motivators can be classified as in ternal or external depe nding upon their effect. Internal motivators focused on internal satisfac tion and positive reinforcement as a gauge of success. External motivators included client engagement and awards to measure work performance. Finally, support systems can be categorized into people and information. Dependence on others is important for survival as a new agent a nd having a network of people at all levels assists in career unde rstanding and establishment. In formational support was valuable to build knowledge, answer client questions and develop a commun ity reputation. These influences were beneficial for agents to unders tand work responsibilities, immediately address clientele problems, and build relationships upon entering the system. The negative influences of entry level agents can be divided into f our areas: lack of direction, personal work management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements.

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141 Lack of direction was the prim ary negative influence cited by ag ents. Unclear guidance from supervisors and absence of clear, st ated job expectations caused agen ts to be uncertain of duties, responsibilities, and programming efforts. Initial mandated requirements and job pressures encompassed the overwhelming responsibilities placed on a new agent and the pressure for success from the university. Personal work manage ment issues referred to the agents inability to organize and manage time in accordance with work responsibilities common at the beginning of an extension career. Positive influences on colleague level agents car eer decisions can be classified into four categories: motivators, caree r growth opportunities, career management strategies, and collaboration with key people. Motivators can be classified as internal or external depending upon their effect. Internal motivators included ob servable results, client behavior changes, feedback, and expert recognition important for reputation establishment. External motivators were awards for work performance, promotions, a nd financial incentives that motivated agents to excel. Advantageous career growth opport unities focused on professional development, leadership positions, and career achievements that offered continual learning. Career management strategies improved agents ability to manage time, establish personal limits, and balance personal and professional responsibilitie s. Collaboration with key community leaders, professionals, and colleagues provided posit ive experiences to solidify relationships. Negative influences on colleague level agents career decisions can be divided into three categories: performance measures, salary disp arity, and personal work management issues. Inconsistencies in the reporti ng system, evaluations, promotion were specific experiences causing dissatisfaction with the organizational stru cture. Disparity in salary referred to

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142 disproportionate salary adjustme nts among all levels of agents. Personal work management issues referred to agents str uggles in balancing increased wo rk demands and available time. Positive influences on counselor/advisor level agents career decisions can be classified into three categories: motivators, career growth opportunities, and career management strategies. Motivators can be classified as internal or extern al depending upon their effect. Internal motivators focused on personal satisfaction measured through positive feedback and community respect. External motivators centered on commun ity impact and client success resulting from work performance. Career growth opportunities were motivating for agents to influence others and grow professionally through mentoring and leadership prog rams. Career management strategies improved agents ability to prio ritization time and achieve career goals. Negative influences on counselor/advisor level ag ents career decisions can be divided into two categories: career overlo ad and job dissatisfiers. Ca reer overload was a time period characterized by increased res ponsibilities, promoti onal stress, and excessive assignments associated with having an established professional identity. Job dissatis fiers that led to burnout included self-induced stress, lack of support, unequal recognition, insufficient pay raises, reporting difficulties, excessive committees and disregard for service quality. Summary This chapter discussed the results found from research objectives (3) to discover the influences that shape career decisions of agricult ural extension agents at different career stages, and (4) to develop a grounded theory that explai ns the most significant issues that affect the career decisions of Florida agricultural extensi on agents. A grounded theory of the positive and negative influences that shaped the career decision s of agents was created from the analysis.

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143 CHAPTER 6 DISCUSSION This qualitative study sought to explore and desc ribe the career decisi ons of agricultural extension agents. The interview process was used to investigate the factors and experiences that affect agricultural extension ag ents decisions to enter and re main in extension, and discover positive and negative influences related to decisions of agents at different career stages. From the data collected, two grounded theories were de veloped that explain si gnificant issues that affect agents career decisions. To carry out this research study, a purposive sa mple was used to sel ect twelve extension agents who worked primarily in commercial agri culture. They were identified by a panel of experts as having a dependable a nd respectable work reputation, a nd then they were classified into one of the three stages of the career stages m odel. Each of the agents participated in an indepth interview to share their t houghts on influences that shaped th eir decision to enter into the organization, remain in the organization, and shaped their decisions at diffe rent career stages. Grounded theory was used as the primary data analysis method. Results from the analysis were presented in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5. From the 198 pages of transcribed data, 47 axial codes were grouped in to 20 selective codes. These selective codes comprised the categories relative to each of the four research object ives and were used to create the grounded theories. The open and axial codes pr ovide additional support and evidence for the selective codes. The selective categories relevant to agents de cisions to enter into the organization were agent background, career contacts, service to agricu ltural community, nature of extension work, position fit, and university supporte d education. The selective cat egories relevant to agents decisions to remain in the organization were inte rnal satisfaction, community leadership, external

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144 motivators, career benefits, change agents, network of support, and extension work environment. The categories relevant to the positive and negativ e influences that shaped career decisions of agents at different career stages are detailed in the previous chapter. This chapter will present key findings from the research, offer recomm endations for future research, and discuss implications for the extension organization. Key Findings Agents Decision to Enter into Extension Primary influences related to the agents background on their decision to enter into extension were prior industry experience, gr aduate research in extension, and having an agricultural degree. These findi ngs support the importance of a ma tch between a persons skills, knowledge, and abilities to the job requirements endorsed by the person-fit paradigm (Anderson, et. al., 2004; Chan, 2005; Hollenbeck, et. al., 20 02). Industry experience was considered beneficial for Samantha to have the experien ce and the background to jump into a position like this. Tammy found her knowledge base provided h ands-on experience to be able to provide advice when working with clientele. Graduate re search experiences provided participants with a better understanding of the opportunities and ca reers in extension. Although all participants held an agricultural college degree, significant differen ces were found in the amount of knowledge that each held about extension. Seven part icipants stated that they lacked exposure to extension as a youth and in college, as many agreed with Jessicas statement, I had no clue as to what extension was. Career contacts were a major influence on all participants decisions to enter into the organization. These findings support the significan ce of personal contact w ith applicants as an effective recruitment strategy studied by Grogan and Eshelman (1998). The most influential relationships were those with extension agents, a dvisors, and specialists. Each was considered a

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145 role model that participants admired and resp ected. Positive encouragement from peers, clientele, administrators, friends and advisors to apply for jobs in extension was motivating. This gave participants confiden ce in their abilities to seek ou t and learn more about available careers. Additionally, half of the participants had previously applied to extension before obtaining their current position as a result of encouragement by others. Providing service to the agricultural community and the ability to work with farmers were two primary reasons for entering extension. Part icipants found that exte nsion allowed them to help agricultural producers solve problems with research-based educational advice. Harrys comment illustrates the personal commitment to service shared by all participants, My mission was going to be to help serve farmers, help them sustain what they were doing, change things, and make a better life for them on their farms. The nature of extension work was centered on th e job expectations held by participants. The ability to apply individual talents, educat e clientele, and utili ze personal professional knowledge were attractive features of extension work. However, participants commented on the need for more detailed information about the res ponsibilities of being an agent. The lack of clear, stated job expectations was frustrating to entry level agents. Participants shared Patricias opinion on this issue, Honestly, I didnt know what ag ents did when I applied for the job. Brenda discussed the need to solve this pr oblem, I think the appl icants need a realistic view of what extension involves a nd that it is a special kind of job. Its not a nine to five job they need some realisti c expectations prior to going into the job. The fit of the position to participants lifestyle and background was ultimately determined by the advertised position descrip tion. The importance of the pos ition description relates to the person-job fit paradigm and the need for th e job to support the applicants personal and

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146 professional needs (Anderson, et al., 2004; Chan, 2005; Hollenb eck, et. al., 2002). The detailed position announcement and its alignment with career interests made a positive impact on participants decisions to apply for the job. Harry stated, Just the genera l description was a big factor the notion that I could have more freedom, more on farm more guaranteed contact to develop my own programs and be under my own controlthat was certainly a factor. The description of the work expectati ons and fringe benefits were cite d as the most important details. The affiliation of extension with the univers ity and its nonformal work environment were beneficial aspects. These findings relate to the valued characteristics of job satisfaction reported by Ensle (2005). The flexibility and variety of wo rk, creative freedom, ability to take risks, and challenging environment compelled participants to seek agent positions. In addition, participants specifically remarked on the benefits of having the personnel and informa tional resources of the university available to support their work. As Eric expressed, he does not have to be an expert on everything, but rather know where to find a ssistance, having the full resources of the university at your disposaltha t you dont have to know everything and do it alone, but you do have those resources to help you ge t your job done. Finally, the stability of a job in extension was cited by nine participants as a factor that played a role in their career decisions. Agents Decision to Remain in Extension Encouraging feedback received about work pe rformance and personal satisfaction gained from work experiences motivated participants to remain in the organization and is supported by the belongingness and esteem needs in Maslows Hierarchy of Needs (Huitt, 2001). Positive feedback from clientele, peers, and supervisor s were the most important factors of internal satisfaction. Samantha expressed, The most sati sfying is your clientele. When you help them with a problem or solution and then they te ll you, we couldnt have done it without you and we appreciate it. Participants also regarded internal pride gained through work performance

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147 and clientele interaction as emotionally fulfilling. Brenda commented on her personal satisfaction, Its the fact that people appreciate what we do for them and thats really satisfying. However, participan ts realize that clientele feedb ack can be limited without followup on results. The desire to work with a variety of public audiences, promote agricultural awareness, and meet clientele needs through education influenced participants decisions to remain in the organization. Each agreed that building and maintaining community relations was a significant factor affecting their work progr ess. They welcomed the integr ation into the community and the feeling of acceptance gained from that recogn ition. Matt was proud to be a member of the community and the dignity associat ed with his job, Its nice to be recognized in the community as a kind of a community leader part of th e community. Youre not just somebody whos working an eight to five job and you go home and youre a nobody. The career benefits that influenced part icipants decisions included professional development, position benefits, and university re sources. These findings are supported by the six factors of job satisfaction outlined by Riggs a nd Beus (1993). Higher education coursework, inservice trainings, and leadership workshops were all contributing experi ences to agents career growth. However, four particip ants said that some professional developm ent opportunities often interrupted their work responsibilities. Particip ants acknowledged the fringe benefits of being an extension employee, including sala ry, opportunities for advancement, flexible work hours, and vacation time. Finally, accessibility to university specialists and resources enables all agents to function effectively in their positions. External motivation from performance indicators and rewards had a positive effect on participants career decisions. Program participation, client loyalty, and positive evaluation

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148 results were considered reliable indicators of work performance. Tammy receives encouraging feedback through program evaluations when she g ives the people a survey and theyve all been very positive. They want more education, they wa nt me to come out and do farm visits, and they give me suggestions for new pr ograms or new ideas. Particip ants also value the financial incentives, promotions, and awards received as a measure of professional success, however peer nominations and recognition were the most significant awards. The ability to affect societal change was a pr iority for participants but requires long-term commitment to clientele and work responsibilitie s. Internal reinforcement of success was based upon the creation of independent learners and ch anges seen in client behaviors. Harrys perception of change offers an ove rview of participants comments, I see changes as a result of what weve been doingtheres th ings that you can visibly see the impact that youre making. So I would say the measure of success would be fo r me related to whats it mean to the people Im working with for the most part. Im seei ng things that were working on, Im seeing them change, Im seeing them adopt practices and lear n how to do it themselves and then not needing me other than maybe just a li ttle bit of help along the way to continually guide them. Having a network of support direc tly related to partic ipants level of job satisfaction. This factor directly relates to the organizational strate gies defined in the career stages model (Kutilek, et. al., 2002). Support at all levels was n eeded, but emphasis was placed on clientele and organizational relationships, specifically administ rators, specialists, and office staff. Teamwork activities with colleagues were regarded by all partic ipants as a primary factor of success. Teams provided a source of support for programming, coope rative projects, expe riential learning, and establishment as an agent. Samantha attribut ed her professional succes s to working with a

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149 group of agents, I think its good to have some colla borative effort with other agents because if youre out here by yourself, you can sink or swim pretty quick. The freedom and variety in extension work was referred to by all of the participants as a determining factor to remain in the organiza tion. These findings were supported by the job satisfaction factors found by Ensle (2005). The daily variety of environments, situations, clientele, and activities were valuable features to the job. Participants described extension as unique because it offers the opportu nity to use their own talent s and improve upon them even though they may be different from others. Ma tt explained, You can both do the same job and do it well and do it differently. There is no magic formula. The flexible nature of scheduling and making decisions gives participants the free dom to structure programs around client needs. The absence of micromanagement and job indepe ndence were additional characteristics valued by participants as Matt stated, Theres nobody who stands over your shoulder and tells you, youre going to do this today. Influences on Agricultural Extens ion Agents at Different Career Stages The positive and negative influences of en try, colleague, and counselor/advisor level agents are outlined in Chapter 5. When reviewing these influences, it is important to identify how these findings approve or disapp rove findings from previous lite rature. It is also important to notice the most influential f actors and experiences of each career stage. Primary influences on each career stage will be highlight ed and then compared to past studies, theories, and models. Entry Level Positive influences defined by participants can be divided into three main categories: personal traits, motivators, and support systems. These finding s directly support the career stages model motivators, organizational strategies and individual character istics of entry agents (Kutilek, et. al., 2002; Dalton, et al. 1977; Rennekamp & Nall, 1994) Personal characteristics,

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150 skills, and knowledge bases ar e essential to perform the j ob and encourage creativity and initiative as described in the model. Personal and informational support systems assist agents in understanding the organization, struct ure, and culture, as well as es tablish linkages as defined in the model. Support systems displayed the importa nce of dependence on others for survival, and supported the models progress of agents from dependence to independence. Finally, the importance of mentors, teams, new agent orientat ion, and in-service trai ning was helpful to all participants and directly aligns with the organizational strategies of the model. The influences cited by participants, but not specifically mentio ned in the model were motivators and affecting societal change. However, partic ipants regarded internal and external motivators and the process of change as positive reinforcement necessary to gauge their success and provide direction. These findings offer examples of positive influences and experiences necessary to motivate entry level agents and add to the specificity of the model motivators. The negative influences of entry level agents can be divided into f our areas: lack of direction, personal work management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements. These findings support the previous literature on reasons for leavi ng extension. Personal work management issues, job pressures, and mandated work requirements fit into the organizational, individual work and non-work related factor s of Rousan and Henderson (1996). Lack of direction and supervisory support confirms findings from Kutilek (2000) and isolation mentioned by Ewert and Rice (1994). The nega tive influences not referenced in the literature, but found in this study were the difficulties in reporting and accountability system. This was a common negative experience that created additional stress, confusion, and job pressures on participants.

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151 Colleague level Positive influences defined by participants can be divided into four main categories: collaboration with key people, career growth opportunities, career management strategies, and motivators. These findings were directly suppo rted by the career stages model motivators, organizational strategies, and indi vidual characteristics of collea gue agents and relate to the literature on job satisfaction (K utilek, et. al., 2002; Dalton, et al. 1977; Rennekamp & Nall, 1994). Riggs and Beus (1993) reported six factors of job satisfaction incl uding the authority to run programs, the job, supervisors, salary, frin ge benefits, and opportunity for growth which were all positive influences on pa rticipants in this study. Job sa tisfaction factors noted by Ensle (2005) such as flexible work schedule, pers onal satisfaction from educ ating clientele, and personal enjoyment, and Herzbergs Theory mo tivators were also mentioned by participants (Buford, et. al., 1995). Participants discussed career management stra tegies that identified with the literature on coping strategies but offered more specific exam ples that could be useful for direct application (Place & Jacob, 2001; Fets ch & Kennington, 1997). The influence that was not mentioned in the literature, but found to be important was the importance of observing changes in clientele behaviors and communities as a result of their assistance. Negative influences defined by participants can be classified into three main categories: personal work management issues, salary di sparity, and performance evaluations. These findings support previous literature on factors of job dissatisfaction, incl uding high stress levels, overload, and burnout (Rousan & Henderson, 1996; Ewert & Rice, 1994; Riggs & Beus, 1993; Place & Jacob, 1991; Buford, et. al., 1995). Sala ry disparity was supported by the literature, however participants concerns were specifica lly on salary compression and insignificant pay raises. The negative influence of performance eval uations could be considered a hygiene factor

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152 by Herzbergs Theory, but revealed more specific problems (Buford, et. al., 1995). Inconsistencies in performance evaluations, the promotion proce ss, and unreliable reporting systems were negative experien ces expressed by participants. Counselor/Advisor Level Positive influences defined by the four counselor/advisor agents can be divided into three major categories: career growth opportunities, career management strategies, and motivators. These findings were also directly suppor ted by the career stages model motivators, organizational strategies, and indi vidual characteristics of counsel or/advisor agents and relate to the literature on job satisfacti on (Kutilek, et. al., 2002; Dalton, et al. 1977; Rennekamp & Nall, 1994; Buford, et. al., 1995). The motivators defi ned in Herzbergs Theory of achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, and advancement for personal growth were common themes found in the analysis. The motivators in the career stages model, including expertise, leadership, and influence, directly connected to the findings. Particip ants engaged in career growth opportunities and considered mentoring as a mutually beneficial experience. Client loyalty, community impact, and change were also positive influences not specifically highlighted in the literature, but critical to personal satisfaction of the st udy participants. Negative influences defined by participants can be classified into two main categories: career overload and job dissatisfiers These findings support previous literature on factors of job dissatisfaction and reasons for leaving extension. Participants discusse d career overload as a time period of increased responsibil ities, stress of promotion requirements, salary concerns, and excessive assignments that led to questioning car eer impacts and consideration of other jobs. These factors mirror the organiza tional factors related to reason s for leaving extension found by Rousan and Henderson (1996) and stress and tu rnover among extension directors reported by

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153 Clark (1992). Factors that pr oduced job dissatisfaction includi ng burnout, lack of professional support, increased leadership pos itions, stress, unequal career recognition, time limitations, and excessive committees, were similar to findings from Ewert and Rice (1994), Rousan and Henderson (1996), Kutilek, (2000), and Buford, et al.,(1995). The job dissatisfiers not specifically stated in the liter ature but emphasized by particip ants were reporting limitations, inefficient evaluation system, and disregard for serv ice quality. Each of th ese factors also had a negative influence on counselor/a dvisor level agents careers. Recommendations for Future Research Previous qualitative research in the area of career decisions of extension agents is limited. This study uncovered specific variables bene ficial to understanding Florida ag ricultural extension agents career deci sions. Additionally, previous studies on job satisfaction and dissatisfaction tend to concentrate on people who ha ve left extension rather than those who are currently employed. Future research must be conducted to discover the influences on current agents, so the organization can ta ke a proactive approach to meet their career needs and retain highly qualified agents. A mixture of quantitativ e and qualitative research can offer mutually supportive information, so each must be utilized to verify and expand findings. While this study provided worthwhile info rmation about reasons for entering and remaining in the organization from the twelve pa rticipants in the study, th is research must be expanded to include all agricultura l extension agents. It is im portant to explore the career decisions of the entire population of agricultura l extension agents in Florida and throughout the United States to discover simila rities and differences. It woul d also be beneficial to conduct research with international extension agents, partic ularly those with simila r agricultural clientele and work responsibilities. This particular st udy could be replicated as a comparative analysis between the perceptions of agen ts versus administrators and directors on agents needs and

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154 influences at different career stages. Finally, this study could be expande d to include agents from other program areas, such as community development, 4-H, and family and consumer sciences, to discover the factors and experiences that have influe nced their career decisions. Findings from this study identified various key competencies and skills needed by participants to succeed in extens ion and requires more in-depth rese arch. This directly correlates to the Agricultural Education in Domestic and International Settings: Extension and Outreach research priority area two in the National Rese arch Agenda in Agricultural Education and Communication 2007-2010. Continual investigation of th e needs and competencies of extension agents, including required knowledge bases, sk ills, and professional competencies, must be conducted. This research might al so utilize the person-job fit para digm and test its applicability to the extension hiring and selection process. Career influences that shape decisions of agents at different stages must also be expanded. Research that focuses on agents in each specific stage must be conducted to verify the positive and negative influences. This information can then to be used to create career development plans for agents within each stage. This could include a guide of job expectations, first year activities, and the key experiences identified in this study for new agents. It can then be extended to include necessary individual and organiza tional support important for colleague and counselor/advisor level agents with a yearly ch ecklist of accomplishments. This plan could be created and tested on its usefulness in assisting agents career grow th and satisfaction, as well as add to the general understanding their career needs. Longitudinal studies focused on the career de cisions of extension agents should be designed. These studies can be beneficial to discover changes in agents attitudes and needs over the course of their careers. It is important th at researchers continually develop this area of

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155 research and discover how changes in society, clientele, technology, and agriculture affect agents career needs. A longitu dinal study of the participants in this study should also be conducted as follow-up research. Research on the retention, tu rnover, and organizational cost s must be conducted on the Florida Cooperative Extension System and natio nally by the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. Although recruitment and rete ntion of agents is commonly identified as a problem by Florida Cooperative Exte nsion administrators, there is currently a lack of verifiable, statistical information available. Having these data will not only clearly identify the issues, but can provide evidence to s upport additional funding re quests for career and professional development of extension agents. The lack of knowledge of extension displaye d by participants did not discourage them from applying for extension positions, however mo re research is needed to discover how to promote extension as a viable car eer opportunity. This research could assist in the promotion and marketing of extension programs and services as well as provide information that could supplement recruitment efforts. It is importa nt to understand how people discover extension, why they choose to attend extension programs, what they know about extension, how they use extension services, and what they know about extension careers. Findings could then be applied to develop organizational promotion campaigns that lead to improved recruitment. Finally, the importance of social relationships emerged as the primary factor that affected participants decisions to enter and remain in ex tension at all career stages. Connections with extension agents and specialists, peers, mentors, clientele, administrato rs, and advisors were critical to career satisfaction a nd longevity. Personal contact w ith these individua ls encouraged participants to pursue a career in extension, while positive encouragement and feedback served

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156 as the driving factor for internal satisfaction during careers. Collabora tive teams also offered significant personal and professional assistance to accomplish work responsibilities. These networks played an important role in motiv ating agents and provided necessary physical, emotional, and mental support that assisted in career success. This area of research should become a priority to identify personal connec tions that agents have made before entering extension and those that have remained influe ntial during employment. Emphasis should be placed on discovering the types of personal connecti ons that are most signi ficant and why to aid in understanding the roles of relationships on ca reer satisfaction. Add itionally, opportunities for agents to build and maintain working relations hips were important for participants career growth. Research on the effects of teamwo rk, agent groups, collaborative programming, and social networks should be investigated to discover their career impacts. Having an understanding of the effects of social relationships can ultimat ely assist in organizational recruitment, retention strategies and career development programs. Implications and Recommendations for Extension Participants explained that ex tension continues to be the best kept secret and lacks recognition among students and potential applicants. In order to increase awareness, clearly detailed position announcements must be publici zed beyond the extension website at places such as career resource centers and professional agricu ltural websites to reach larger audiences. Agents and extension educators must seek out op portunities to promote careers to youth, college students, and the agricultural industry. Members of 4-H and FFA must be made aware of potential careers in extension as they plan their academic programs with advisors and counselors. Agent presence at career fairs, agricultural ev ents, and industry functi ons can also increase organizational visibility.

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157 Though having a degree in extension educati on had a positive imp act on confidence in participants career choices, an extension educa tion degree was not required to be successful. Therefore, the organization must not only em phasize recruitment of extension education graduates, but also seek out college students with technical agricultu re degrees, graduate students, and those in agricultura l careers. Agents should also make it a priority to promote careers within college classrooms and offer j ob shadowing opportunities. The majority of participants entered into extensi on with industry experience, prior relations with extension, or an agricultural degree. Therefore, promotion of extension careers c ould target agricultural industry personnel and events, extension research and e ducational programs, a nd students within the College of Agriculture. Extension must utilize its current source of ag ents around the state for recruiting purposes. Agents must be asked for referrals of applican ts that might fit available positions, and each should make it a part of their job to promote ex tension careers. Agents cooperate with various agricultural agencies on a daily basis and need to take advantage of these networks. Relationships and encouragement by others were tw o of the most influential recruitment methods described by study participants. Personal, face-to-face contact has been proven to be a successful recruiting strategy and should be utili zed more often by agents. The organization might also consider providing financial incentiv es to support programming or travel budgets for agents who recruit applicants that are eventually hired. This ma y improve the desire for current agents to engage in recruitmen t, improve the appli cant pool with qualified agents, and provide additional opportunities for incentives. Impl ementing innovative recr uiting strategies will improve the overall quality of agents, educationa l services, and programs offered by extension.

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158 Given the current problems with the availabil ity of qualified applican ts for agricultural agent positions mentioned by study pa rticipants, quality is frequently overlooked in order to fill the vacant position. However, as Matt mentioned, Sometimes it might be best to start over. Filling vacancies with unqualified agents whose talents and skills do not match community needs can be detrimental to the employee and the organization. Positions must be filled with competent agents who are committed to long-term employment. In order to identify these agents, the organization could utilize the person -job fit paradigm. If extension can use this framework in the hiring process, it may prove bene ficial to selecting more suitable applicants that fit in extension careers. The organization must work to meet the needs of its employees and provide the necessary support at the appropriate career stage. As shown, the positive and negative influences on participants at different career stages varied according to many factors. The organization must continue to provide resources, ed ucation, incentives, and professiona l development for all agents. University professional development extension sp ecialists must be specifically assigned to design appropriate career devel opment opportunities, maintain re lationships with agents beyond orientation, and collaborate with agents in the field to improve career satisfaction. In addition, two-way communication between univ ersity subject matter specialists and extension agents must remain a priority. Current research needs to be disseminated from the university to extension agents in a timely manner, and it is important for specialists to maintain regular contact with county offices. Extension administrators and directors should be knowledgeable about career development models to raise awareness of wh at agents are experiencing at different career stages. This information can be useful to gauge the progress of agents and serve as an educational resource on

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159 career planning. The motivators and organizational st rategies of the career stages model, as well as findings from this study, can offer a useful starting point for creating and staffing professional development programs. Results of this study indi cate that if agents ar e motivated and supplied with appropriate career development, then they will have greater job satisfaction and retention. Having an understanding of the negative in fluences currently being experienced by participants offers an appropriate starting point for future career development for the Florida Cooperative Extension System. Th e organization must address thes e issues in order to improve the current career satisfaction of agents. A brief summary of the most common negative influences found within each car eer stage are detailed below. Lack of direction and support wa s the most common barrier for all entry level agents. In order to improve guidance, it is important for the organization to provide clear, stated job expectations and a formal mentor to support new agents. The importance of a supportive mentor was expressed by Jessica, Its the best experience, I love it. I love having somebody that I can talk to because hes seen it all, done it all. If I have questions I can call him anytime. Hes like a daddy. The job expectations must expand upon th e vague guidelines in th e position description and offer recommendations for establishment of programs so agents dont waste time wondering what to do. These expe ctations need to be supported with examples of previous agents work and offer suggestions for improvement. In addition, new agents should be required to shadow an agent during the first year of their employment. This will help to build the agents knowledge, understand the organization, improve self-confidence, establish networks, and provide experiential learning. Salary compression and insignificant pay raises were the most common negative influences on colleague level agents. It was understood that salaries must remain competitive

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160 with other agricultural professions to attract new agents. However, in order to retain agents, salaries must be adjusted to ensure more experi enced agents are not making less than new agents. The similarity in pay raises for all agents also serves as a disincentive. Agents must be compensated for work excellence with merit pa y increases and higher raises based on higher evaluation scores. Currently, the difference in pay raises is insignifi cant and not a motivating factor influencing agents to exce l. The pay raise system must be adjusted to provide meaningful incentives that reward agents for exceptional work performance. Counselor/advisor level agents discussed career overload as the most negative influence on their satisfaction. This time pe riod was characterized by increase d responsibilities, promotional stress, salary concerns, and excessive assignments that led to high stress levels. The excessive assignments on county and university service comm ittees, task forces, and leadership positions were specifically time consuming and cont ributed to burnout. These overwhelming responsibilities enc ountered by agents with year s of experience must be studied. As Matt said, We need to protect our good people, not ove rload themif you overl oad good people, you burn them outand take away their drive to excel. The organization must work on balancing leadership and committee assignments placed upon senior agents to reduc e burnout. Maintaining a comprehensive list of agents and responsibilit ies could help to alleviate overload and offer professional growth opportunities to other qualified agents. Reporting and accountability was a problem e xpressed by all participants. Difficulties with the use of and inconsistencies with the reporting system were referenced as a negative experience on agents careers. The constant chan ges in reporting systems have been detrimental to organization and record keeping, and the lack of reliability between the reporting system and the tenure and promotion process were contribu ting factors. As Benj amin explained, If

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161 reporting is not made easier, more manageab le, and less cumbersome, then its gonna drive people away. The need to st reamline reporting and make the sy stem more user friendly was recommended. Summary This qualitative study explored and described the career deci sions of Florida agricultural extension agents. Although many of the findings were supported by previous literature, there were unique factors, experiences, and influences reported by participants that had a significant effect on their careers. Findings must be acknowledged and addressed by the organization to improve the overall career sati sfaction of agents, provide dire ction and support for new agents, and maintain high-quality agents that represent extension.

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162 APPENDIX A CODING Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Livestock experience Agricultural academic degree Post-graduate research Prior extension experience Agricultural industry work Grew up on a farm Extension internship Graduate experience Unaware of job duties No expectations Didnt know much Limited exposure No recruitment Limited/no 4-H experience Administrator encouragement Be a really good fit Talent and skills Personality fit Encouraged by advisor Talked with extension Peer encouragement Qualified candidate Clientele encouragement Previous application Knew an agent Friends were agents Good mentors Local county agent interaction Agent was friend Agent as a role model Served on advisory committees Industry work relationships Active in 4-H Family in extension Figure A-1. Influences on agricultu ral extension agents decisions to enter into the organization. Academic and work experiences Agent background Encouragement by others Influential relationships Career contacts Lack of Extension knowledge

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163 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Agricultural consultant Working with farmers/producers Serve farmers Visit and relate to producers Work out in the county Community expert Help sustain farmers Change things Make a better life for farmers Work directly with farmers Exciting position Freedom in work On-farm contact Flexible scheduling Practical nature of work Sounded interesting Under own control Challenging work Interaction with cohorts Help people Answer questions Provide advice Solve problems Position description Right place and time Job available Competitive salary Benefits Location Internet posting Apply teaching and technical skills Figure A.1. Continued Ability to work with farmers Service to agricultural community Job expectations Nature of Extension work Position descriptors Position fit

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164 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Make a difference Develop own programs Be an educator Previous teaching experience Non-formal environment Enjoyed teaching University recognition Respected by public University connection Research based Non-biased education More stable job Figure A-1. Continued. Non-formal structure University affiliation University supported education

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165 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Producer feedback Director feedback Clientele feedback Supervisor feedback Peer feedback Personal satisfaction Commitment to work Utilize prior experiences Enjoy work Self-motivation Self-confidence Interesting work Maturity Right mindset Commitment to clientele Pride in job Promote agriculture Public education Client confidence Established expert Positive client interactions Meeting client needs Established expertise Recognized excellence Community leader Part of the community Respected by community Community support Community appreciation Community teamwork Awards Recognition Positive encouragement Financial rewards Grant money Promotions Financial incentives Figure A-2. Influences on agri cultural extension agents to remain in the organization. Positive feedback Emotional fulfillment Internal satisfaction Public relations Community recognition Community leadership External rewards External motivators

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166 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Successful programs Survey results Collaboration success Evaluation findings Measurable results Repeat customers Solving problems Built successful program In-service Continuous learning Leadership opportunities Higher education support Professional workshops Broaden knowledge base Developed skills Improving talents Job benefitshealth, vacation Competitive salary Opportunity for advancement Location Time for family Technology availability Availability of resources Abundance of resources Access to resources University resource support Technical specialists Producing change Client behavior change Creating independent learners Visible change Adoption of practices Changing society Making progress Connect people to resources Figure A-2. Continued. Professional development Position benefits University resources Career benefits Affecting societal change Change agents Measurable performance External motivators

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167 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Supportive peers Built long-term relationships Supervisor assistance Specialist support Mentor program Established networks Dean support Advisory committee support Family support County level financial support Office staff Peer efforts Team meetings Multiple agent groups Colleague collaboration Collaborative programming District teams Freedom in decisions Variety in job Set own schedule Freedom of innovation Ability to take risks Variety of educational activities Variety in programs Self controlled work Rewarding work Ability to schedule programs Self-directed work No limitations Creative freedom Less risk than industry Less stress than industry Minimal mandated scheduling No micromanagement Challenging work Job independence Office-field work Flexible work hours Figure A-2. Continued. Supportive relationships Teamwork activities Network of support Freedom and variety in job Characteristics of Extension work Extension work environment

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168 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Entry Level Agents Ability to build relationships Defining programs Organization Community involvement and visibility Promotion and marketing skills Creative and innovative thinking Handling conflict Patience Listening and communi cation skills People person Survival techniques Critical problem solving skills Fair, unbiased attitude Enjoy challenges Comfort with public speaking Self-confidence Humble Willingness to learn Extension knowledge Practical field experience One strong area of topic knowledge Evaluation knowledge Program development skills Needs assessment training Community development knowledge Familiar with research linkages Understand change process Masters degree Technology literate Figure A-3. Influences that shape career decisions of agricultural extension agents at different career stages. Personal skills and characteristics Knowledge bases Positive influences on Entry level agents career decisions

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169 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Client feedback Supervisor feedback Positive reinforcement Freedom in decisions Flexible work Minimal restrictions Ability to take risks Establish a reputation Establish and meet goals Affecting change Client behavior change Environmental change Community participation Advisory committee input Teamwork efforts Awards, grants, scholarships Recognition Peer encouragement Administrative pres ence and interest Administrative feedback Supervisor input and respect Client support Colleague collaboration Specialist communication Formal and informal mentors Access to educational resources In-service training Timely new agent training Reporting system training Program resources Starting point for programs Career improvement opportunities Updated research Figure A-3. Continued. Internal Motivators Support system Positive influences on Entry level agents career decisions Informational support External motivators

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170 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Excessive meetings Reporting expectations Accountability issues Reporting system difficulties Masters degree requirement Tenure and promotion process Overwhelming responsibilities Mandated programs Timely hiring process Travel time Out of pocket expenses Long work hours Generational differences Scheduling difficulties Poor time management Inadequate salary High cost of living expenses Centralized professional development Access to resources Vague work guidelines Limited job direction No stated expectations No starting point Lack of office support staff Lack of supervisor guidance Job frustration Pressure to succeed Get Masters degree Building program Tenure and promotion concerns Figure A-3. Continued. Negative influences on Entry level agents career decisions Initial mandated requirements Personal work management issues Lack of direction Job pressures

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171 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Colleague Level Agents Completion of tenure and promotion Long-term results visible Client behavior changes Client feedback Supervisor feedback Considered a community expert Peer recognition Developed friendships Approachable administrators Challenging tasks Solved problems Established a reputation Awards, grants, scholarships Evaluation results Promotions Financial incentives Program successes Established internal a nd external networks Internal and external recognition Community improvement Community acceptance Reputable programs Long-term changes Expansion of work areas Increased salary Professional development Conference and meeting participation Masters degree completion In-service training Leadership development programs Leadership positions Mentoring program Figure A.3. Continued. Internal motivators External motivators Career growth opportunities Positive influences on Colleague level agents career decisions

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172 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Learn on the job Consistent client communication Establish personal limits Organize time Utilize available resources Personal record keeping system Engage in independent learning Empower and utilize others Learn from mistakes Overcome obstacles Promote and market the program Involve youth Importance of advisory committee Joint research with specialists Professional association involvement Teamwork programming Colleagues Community network Changes in reporting systems Unreliable reporting system Dependence on system for evaluation Promotion requirements Lack of evaluation guidelines Unequal salary compression Unequal program comparisons Unequal distribution of raises Insignificant pay raise differences New agents high salaries Lack of contact with specialists Travel issues Increasing amount of responsibilities Time constraints Community conflicts Figure A. 3. Continued. Career management strategies Collaboration with key people Positive influences on Colleague level agents career decisions Performance measures Salary disparity Personal work management issues Negative influences on Colleague level agents career decisions

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173 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Counselor/ Advisor Level Agents Helped people Enjoy job Personal satisfaction Expert reputation Supervisor feedback Peer recognition Public recognition Family time Community respect Continuous learning Client loyalty Cooperative office environment Colleague interaction Self-directed learning Expand creativity Challenging tasks Awards, scholarships, grants Outreach funding support Solve problems Internal and external relationships Community impact Client behavior change Evaluation feedback Client survey results Benefits of group work Creating independent learners Client performance success Outcome indicators Mentoring others Awards, grants, scholarships Recognized talents Continuous learning Leadership positions Leadership development Administrative positions Stable career Knowledgeable in multiple areas Supervisor support Figure A-3. Continued. Internal motivators External motivators Career growth opportunities Positive influences on Counselor/Advisor level agents career decisions

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174 Open Codes Axial Codes Selective Codes Advisory committee guidance Self-promotion recognition Humbleness Limit non-mission activities Follow-up on advice Two-way relationships Team programming Peer guidance Aggressively seek clientele Promote the program Improvement through repetition Time management Separation of work and family Prioritize work issues Set personal goals Critical time period810 years Questioning career impact Consider job change Working to achieve next promotion Gain more responsibilities Established professional identity Expansion of clientele Inadequate salary Salary compression concerns Excessive committee assignments Limited client feedback Burnout Lack of supervisor support Lack of structure Overwhelming leadership positions Overloaded assignments Excessive committees Lack of professional support Limitations to reporting system Promotion process Quantity of service valued over quality Lack of financial incentives Inefficient evaluation system Self-imposed stress Unequal employee recognition Figure A-3. Continued. Career strategies Positive influences on Counselor/Advisor level agents career decisions Career overload Job dissatisfiers Negative influences on Counselor/Advisor level agents career decisions

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175 APPENDIX B GROUNDED THEORY

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176 Figure B-1. Grounded theory of the career d ecisions of Florida agricultura l extension agents to ente r and remain in the extens ion organization Career Decisions of Agricultural Extension Agents Decisions to Enter the Organization Service to ag community Ability to work with farmers Position fit Position descriptors Personal and p rofessional interests Agent Background Work/academic experiences Lack of extension knowled g e Internal satisfaction Positive encouragement Emotional fulfillment Community leadership Public relations Recognition and respect Career benefits Professional development Fringe benefits University resources University supported education Nonformal structure Universit y affiliation Career contacts Influential relationships Positive encouragement Nature of extension work Job expectations Change agents Behavior and societal chan g e Network of support Supportive relationships Teamwork activities Extension work environment Freedom and variety Characteristics of wor k Decisions to Remain in the Organization External motivators Performance indicators External rewards

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177 APPENDIX C GROUNDED THEORY

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178 Entry Level Colleague Level Counselor/Advisor Level Figure C-1. Grounded theory on care er decision influences of agri cultural extensi on agents at different career stages. Motivators: Internal External Lack of direction Personal Traits, Skills, and Knowledge Support systems: People Information Job pressures Personal work management issues Mandated work requirements Positive Influences Influences on Agricultural Extension Agents at Different Career Stages Negative Influences Collaborate with key people Motivators: Internal External Salary disparity Personal work management issues Performance measures Motivators: Internal External Career growth opportunities Career overload Job dissatisfiers Career management strategies Career growth opportunities Career management strategies

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179 APPENDIX D IRB APPROVAL

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180 APPENDIX E INFORMED CONSENT

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181 APPENDIX F INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE Recruitment and retention of highl y qualified agents is a significan t, growing problem in Florida Cooperative Extension System. The career deci sions of current and potential faculty are determining the future of extension right now. Therefore, I would like to discuss the factors and experiences that have influenced you to enter and remain in the organization. I am interested in understanding the positive and negative influences that have shaped your career decisions and career development needs. The inte nt of this interview is to ga in insight into your perceptions and thoughts that can help explain the most signi ficant issues that have affected your career decisions. This may include previous, initial, an d future experiences, extension responsibilities, professional relationships, and your personal point of view. 1. As an agricultural agent in this county, what are your work responsibil ities, clientele, and major programs? 2. Based on your career up to this point, do you feel that you have been successful? How do you measure success? What has contributed to your success as an agent? 3. Thinking back to the beginning of your extens ion career, what factors led you to become an agricultural agent? Experiences? Influences? People? Background? Expectations? Recruitment? 4. How satisfied are you with your current positio n? What factors and experiences have influenced your job satis faction/dissatisfaction? Teamwork atmosphere? Organization culture? Self-directed work? Variety and flexibility? Relationships? Salary? Opportunities for growth? Colleagues? Leadership positions? Personal influences? 5. What types of organizational support have helped you to succeed or fail in your position? What have you had? What would you have liked to receive that you did not? Gaps of support? What are your future needs? 6. Have you ever had days/other opportuniti es that you made you think of leaving extension? What factors pl ayed a part in your thoughts? Pay? Hours? Work responsibilities?

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182 Requirements of advancement? Other jobs? Family obligations? Personal life conflicts? Conflict with values? 7. Throughout your entire career, what factors and experiences have motivated you to remain in your position? Organizational st ructure and culture? Social interactions? Work environment? Organizational support? Nature of the work? Professional identity? Innovation? Position of influence? 8. How would you rate your ability to balance your personal and professional life? What have you done in order to promote a healthy life balance? Strategies? Challenges? Beneficial organizational support? 9. How have social relationship s affected your performance and influenced your decision to remain in extension? Peers? Clientele? Stakeholders? Advisory committees? Community? Mentors? CED/DED? Others? 10. What do you see as the primary issues that FC ES faces related to future recruitment of agricultural agents? Advice? 11. What do you see as the primary issues that FC ES faces related to future retention of agricultural agents? Advice? 12. What would you do differently if you could re-live your career in extension all over again?

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183 APPENDIX G EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE Invitation Email sent to participants Dear I am a PhD student working on a research study with Dr. Nick Place in the Department of Agricultural Education and Commun ication at the University of Florida. As an agricultural extension agent, your employment is critical to the success of extension and the agricultural industry. To better understand your career decisi ons, my research is focused on exploring why Florida agricultural extension agents en ter and stay employed in the organization. Your personal perceptions, experiences, and attit udes, and opinions are important to the future survival of the organization. You have been chosen as an ex emplary professional by extension administrators and are among a select group of ag ricultural agents important for this study. Therefore, I am writing to solicit your involve ment in this important research ar ea. If possible, I would like to conduct a 60-90 minute interview with you conc erning factors and expe riences that have influenced your recruitment and retention decisions. If you would be willing to partic ipate in this study, please confirm your interest via email at sarnold@ufl.edu by April 6th. I will then contact you with a telephone call and we can arrange a convenient time for an interview. I truly appr eciate your willingness to c onsider this research project. Thank You, Shannon Arnold Member Checking Email sent to participants after the interview: It was wonderful to meet you and I would like to thank you again for participating in my study. Your input was truly valuable and insightful. I have attached the transcript of our interview for you to review. This is a verbatim transcript and it will NOT be included w ith my dissertation. It will be used for analysis and I am the only pers on who will have access to this information. For my dissertation, I will only use key concepts, ideas, themes, and some direct quotes from the transcript to support my findings. Any specific id entifiers will be deleted and your name will not be revealed. Your review of this transcript will ensure that the responses were accurately recorded, while also improve the validity and reliab ility of information. F eel free to clarify any misinterpretations of words and thoughts. You may also voluntarily eliminate any data that you feel is incorrect or harmful in a nyway. The purpose of this process is to ensure that you are fully aware of the information being used for my analys is. Please feel free to contact me is you have any questions via email or on my cell phone. Below is a copy of an excerpt from the Informed consent form that you signed that explains this process and its purpose. The researcher will ask each participant to re view the transcript of their interview to ensure that the responses were accurately r ecorded. This review process is commonly

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184 termed the member checking process. The member checking proce ss is performed after each interview is fully transcribed by the researcher. The researcher will email the participants only their specific interview transc ript to ensure validity and reliability of information. Each participant will view only his/her interview tran scription and no other participants. The researcher will ask each participant to review his/her interview transcription to clarify any misinterpret ations of words and thoughts for accuracy purposes. The researcher will also allow the participants to eliminate any data that they feel is incorrect or harmful in anyway. This process will ensure the participant is aware of the information being used in the resear ch process and allows them to clarify or voluntarily remove any harmful comments. Sincerely, Shannon Arnold

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185 LIST OF REFERENCES A Comprehensive Approach for Professi onal Development for UF/IFAS Extension (2001). Gainesville, FL, Florida Cooperative Extension System. Anderson, N., Lievens, F., van Dam, K., & Ryan, A. M. (2004). Future perspectives on employee selection: Key directions for future research and practice. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 53, 487-501 Ary, D., Jacobs, L., Razavieh, A., & Sorensen, C. (2006). Introduction to research in education (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson. Bailey, J. A. (2005). Perceptions and impacts of the Univer sity of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension mentoring program Unpublished maters thesis. University of Florida, Gainesville. Balfour, D. L. & Neff, D. M. (1993). Pred icting and managing turnover in human service agencies: A case study of an organization in crisis. Public Personnel Management 22(3), 473-485. Buford, J., Bedeian, A., & Lindner, J. (1995). Management in extension (3rd ed.). Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Extension. Burke, W. (2002). Organizational change Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. CES Professional Development Task Force. (1998). Recommendations for a professional development program for the Florid a Cooperative Extension Service Gainesville, FL, Florida Cooperative Extension System. Chan, D. (2005). Current directions in personnel selection research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(4), 220-223. Charmaz, K. (2003). Grounded theory: Objectivis t and constructivist me thods. In Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S., Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded th eory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage. Clark, R. (1992). Stress and tur nover among extension directors. Journal of Extension, 30(2). Conklin, N. L., Hook, L. L., Kelbaugh, B. J., & Nieto, R. D. (2002). Examining a professional development system: A comprehensive needs assessment approach. Journal of Extension, 40(5). Cooper, A. & Graham, D. (2001). Competenci es need to be successful county agents and county supervisors. Journal of Extension 39(1).

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186 Coppernoll, S. & Stone, B. (2005). The Texas A&M University System Competency Model. College Station, TX. Texas Cooperative Extension Service. Crotty, M., (2004). The foundations of social research Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Dalton, G., Thompson, P., & Price, R. (1977). Th e four stages of prof essional careersA new look at performance by professionals. Organizational Dynamics, 6(1), 19-42. Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (2002). The para dox of achievement: The harder you push, the worse it gets. In J. Aronson (Ed.) Improving academic achievement: Contributions to social psychology (pp. 59-85). New York: Academic Press. DeMarrais, K. (1998). Inside stories: Qualitative research reflections Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. DeWalt, K. & DeWalt, B. (2002). Participant observation Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. Ensle, K. M. (2005). Burnout: How doe s extension balance job and family? Journal of Extension 43(3). Ewert, D. & Rice, J. (1994). Managi ng diversity within c ooperative extension Journal of Extension, 32(2). Extension Committee on Organization and Policy. (2002). The extension system: A vision for the 21st century, A resource document. Retrieved March 20, 2006, from http://www.nasulgc.org/publications/A griculture/ECOP2002 _Vison_Resources.pdf. Extension Committee on Organization and Policy Leadership Council. (2005). 2005 report Retrieved March 7, 2007, from http:// www.nasulgc.org/CFERR/board_on_agric/ Fetsch, R. & Kennington, R. (1997). Balancing work and family in cooperative extension: History, effective programs, and future directions. Journal of Extension 35(1). Flavell, J. H. (1971). Stage-related propertie s of cognitive development. Cognitive Psychology. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consum er Services. (2006). Florida Agricultural Statistics. [Brochure]. Retrieved on May 12, 2007 from http://www.floridaagriculture.com/pubs/pubform/pdf/Florida _Agriculture_Statistics_Brochure.pdf Gatewood, R. D., & Field, H. S. (1998). Human resource selection (4th ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace. Gavin, F. (1990). Employee turnover: Silent cancer. The Bureaucrat, 19(1), 53-55. Gentry, W. D. (1978). Behavior modification of the coronarypr one behavior pattern. In T. Dembroski et al., (Eds.), Coronary -prone behavior (pp. 225-229). New York: SpringerVerlag.

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187 Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine. Grogan, S. & Eshelman, B. (1998). Staffing stra tegies for a more diverse workforce: Case examples in Cornell cooperative extension. Journal of Extension, 36(1). Guba, E. G. (1981). Criteria for assessing the tr ustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educational Communication and Technology Journal, 29, 75. Guskey, T. (2000). Evaluating professional development Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc. Hamlyn, D. W. (1995). History of ep istemology. In T. Honderich (Ed.), The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (pp. 242). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hatch, A. (2002). Doing qualitative research in education settings Albany: State University of New York Press. Heckhauser, H. (1991). Motivation and action New York: Springer-Verlag. Henerson, M., Morris, L., & Fitz-Gibbon, C. (1987). How to measure attitudes Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. (1959). The motivation to work New York: Wiley. Hollenbeck, J. R. et. al. (2002) Structural contingency theo ry and individual differences: Examination of external and internal person-fit team. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 599-606. Holstein, J., & Gubrium, J. (Eds.). (2003). Inside interviewing: New lences, new concerns Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Huitt, W. (2001). Motivation to learn: An overview. Educational Psychology Interactive Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State Univer sity. Retrieved June 4, 2007 from http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/motivation/motivate.html. James, W. B. & Blank, W. E. (1993). Revi ew and critique of av ailable learning style instruments for adults. In D.D. Flannery, Applying Cognitive Learning Theory to Adult Learning New Directions for Adult and Con tinuing Education, 59. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Kirkpatrick, T. O., Lewis, C. T., Daft, R. L., Dessler, G., & Garcia, J. E. (1996). Management and supervision: Overview and or ganizational behavior applications. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace and Co. Kleinginna, P. & Kleinginna, A. (1981). A categorized list of motivation definitions, with suggestions for a consensual definition Motivation and Emotion, 5 263-291.

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188 Kohlberg, L. (1969). Stage and sequence: The cognitive-developmental approach to socialization. In D. Croslin (Ed.), Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research ( New York: Rand McNally. Kowalski, T. (1988). The organization and planning of adult education. Albany: State University of New York Press. Kraut, R., Olson, J., Banaji, M., Bruckman, A., Cohen, J., & Couper, M. (2004). Psychological research online: Report of board of scient ific affairs advisory group on the conduct of research on the internet. American Psychologist, 59(2), 105-117. Kutilek, L. (2000). Learning from those who leave. Journal of Extension, 38(3). Kutilek, L. M. Gunderson, G. J. & Conklin, N. L. (2002). A systems approach: Maximizing individual career potential and organizational success. Journal of Extension, 40(2). Langan, S. (2000). Finding the needle in the hayst ack: The challenge of re cruiting and retaining sharp employees. Public Personnel Management, 29, 461-464. Lincoln, Y. S. & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Lindley, L. (2005). Perceived ba rriers to career development in the context of social cognitive career theory. Journal of Career Assessment, 13(3), 271-287. Lurkiewics, C. (2000). Generati on X and the public employee. Public Personnel Management, (29)1. Malillo, A. (1990). Exte nsion staff satisfaction. Journal of Extension, 28(2). Manton. L., van Es, J. C. (1985). Why do extension agents resign? Journal of Extension, 23(3). Martin, D. (1991). Professional growth: A personal journey Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service. Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: HarperCollins. Merriam, S. B. (1995). What can you tell from an N of 1?: Issues of vali dity and reliability in qualitative research. Journal of Lifelong Learning 4, 51-60. Merriam, S. B. (1988). Case study research in education: A qualitative approach San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Merriam, S. & Cafferella, R. (1999). Learning in adulthood : A comprehensive guide (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Mincemoyer, C., & Kelsey, T. (1999). Assessing in -service education: Identifying barriers to success. Journal of Extension, 37(2).

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189 Morse. J. & Richards, L. (2002). Readme first for a users gu ide to qualitative methods (p.111-128). Thousand Oaks: Sage. Mutchler, M., Anderson, S., Grillo, M., Mangle, H ., & Grimshaw, M. (2006). Opening doors: A qualitative evaluation of the Wate rbury youth leadership project. Journal of Extension, 44(6). Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Conceptions of ability and achievement motivation. In R. Ames & C. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in e ducation: Student motivation (Vol. 1, pp. 3973). New York: Academic Press. Pearlin, L. I. (1989). The sociological study of stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 241-256. Piotrowski, C., & Armstrong, T. (2006). Current r ecruitment and selection practices: A national survey of fortune 100 firms. North American Journal of Psychology 8(3), 489-496. Place, N. & Jacob, S. (2001). Stress: Professi onal development needs of extension faculty. Journal of Agricultural Education, 42(1). Rennekamp, R. & Nall, M. (1993). Professional growth: A guide for professional development (Rep. No. publication IP-34.). Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Rennekamp, R. & Nall, M. (1994). Growing th rough the stages: A new look at professional growth. Journal of Extension, 32(1). Riggs, K. & Beus, K. (1993). J ob satisfaction in extension. Journal of Extension, 31(2). Ritchie, J. & Lewis, J. (2003). Qualitative research practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Rossano, E. (1985). Factors associated with the turnover intentions of Ohio Cooperative Extension county agents. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. The Ohio State University, Columbus. Rousan, L. (1995). Agent turnover in Ohio State University Extens ion. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University, Columbus. Rousan, L. & Henderson, J. (1996). Agent tu rnover in Ohio state university extension. Journal of Agricultural Education 37(2). Ryan, A. M. & Sackett, P. R. (1987). A surv ey of individual assess ment practices by I/O psychologists. Personnel Psychology, 40, 455-488. Schwandt, T. A. (1994). Constructivist, interpre tivist approaches to human inquiry. In N.K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 118-137). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

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190 Seevers, B., Graham, D., Gamon, J., & Conkli n, N. (1997). Educa tion through cooperative extension. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Suinn, R. (1978). The coronary-prone behavior patte rn: A behavioral approach to intervention. In T. Dembroski et al. (Eds.), Coronary-prone behavior (pp. 231-236). New York: Springer Verlag. Suinn, R. (1980). Pattern A behavi ors and heart disease: Interven tion approaches. In J. Ferguson & C. B. Taylor (Eds.), The comprehensiv e handbook of behavioral medicine: Systems intervention Vol. I (pp. 5-28). New York: Spectrum. Treasure, D. C. (2003). Towards optimal motivation in sport: Fostering athletes competence and sense of control. Applied Sports Psychology: Pers onal Growth to Peak Performance (Vol. 4). Mountain View California: Mayfield. United States Department of Agriculture Coope rative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. (1987). National Extension Policy Guidelines Retrieved February 2, 2007 from http://www.csrees.usda.gov/ University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. (2002). Economic impact of agriculture in Florida [Brochure]. Gainesville, FL: Author. University of Florida Institute of Food and Ag ricultural Sciences Office of Human Resources (2006). Job summary and qualifications Retrieved June 4, 2007 from http://personnel.ifas.ufl.edu/jobs_summary.html. Wengraf, T. (2001). Qualitative research interviewing: Biographic narrative and semistructured methods Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Whaples, G. (1983). Flextime: Can it reduce turnover and improve morale? Journal of Extension, 21(4). Yin, R. K. (1989). Case study research: Design and methods Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

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191 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Shannon Kristin Arnold was born in Buffalo, Ne w York. When she was four years old, her family moved to Katy, Texas. Katy is a small, rural rice farming community west of Houston, Texas. In May 1992, Shannon attended th e University of Texas in Austin and then transferred to Texas A&M University in College Station in January 1993 to pursue an animal science degree. At Texas A&M University, she was heavily i nvolved in numerous clubs and activities including the Horsemans Associ ation, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, Saddle and Sirloin, and the Dairy Cattle J udging and Show Team. In add ition, she worked at the Texas A&M Dairy Cattle Center throughout her undergraduate program. In May 1997, she received her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from Texas A&M University. Upon graduation, Shannon worked in the agricu ltural industry and teaching fields. As a dairy market news reporter for the USDA Agricu ltural Marketing Service, she communicated with industry contacts to form ulate a weekly marketing report. She was employed by Genex, Inc. as a regional sales co ordinator and served as a livestock consultant. In December 2003, she completed her Master of Science in Agricultural Sciences at Texas A&M University Commerce and also received secondary agricultura l education teacher certification. She taught seconda ry agricultural education in Texas during completion of her masters program. Her interest in higher educat ion strengthened, and she joined Navarro College and Texas A&M University Commerce as an adjunct instructor. In 2004, she received a graduate teaching and re search fellowship in the Department of Agricultural Education and Comm unication at the University of Florida and began to work on her Ph.D. in agricultural education. During her time in graduate school, she assisted in a variety of traditional and distance edu cation courses for undergraduate and graduate students, and served

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192 as the lead instructor for three undergraduate courses. She was involved in extension and community outreach education, and conducted resear ch related to agricultural and extension education. She is currently pursuing an assist ant professor position within the United States.


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