Many individuals often do not realize that their career decisions are sometimes taken unconsciously. And this trend only get confirmed during career coaching sessions.
When the subject of career decisions or choices comes to mind, one fundamental fact must be accepted – A choice is, most often, nothing more than a best guess – a hopeful step in a new direction. You can only be sure of the right path when you have enough information of both risk and benefits.
In helping individuals to make wise career decisions, I find the concept of ‘career anchors’ very instructive and directional. The concept of ‘career anchors’ is not a completely new concept. Though, many may not be aware of it. I encountered this concept sometime back and it was a ‘light bulb moment’ for me. All of a sudden, basis for career choices became clearer to me just like the dawn of a new day!
‘Career anchors’ became renowned by the original research of MIT Professor Emeritus Edgar H. Schein in the mid-1970s. Schein described ‘career anchors’ as a self-concept formed by individuals, which often affect their career preferences or choices. He found that an understanding of ‘career anchors’ would illuminate how people make career choices.
Basically, career anchors are perceived areas of competence, motives and values related to work choices or aspirations. Once you know your career anchor, it would help you get a good sense of who you are and what you are after in your career and life. It aims to represent your real self!
Career anchors only evolve as one gain occupational and life experience. However, once the self-concept has been formed, it functions as a stabilizing force, hence the metaphor of “anchor,” and can be thought of as the values and motives that the person will not give up if forced to make a choice.
Most of us are not aware of our career anchors until we are forced to make choices pertaining to self-development, family, or career. Yet it is important to become aware of our anchors so that we can choose wisely when choices have to be made.
In Schein’s original research from the mid-1970’s he identified that most people’s self-concept revolved around five anchor categories reflecting basic values, motives and needs. A follow-up study in the 1980’s identified three additional anchor categories making it eight anchor categories in all.
Find below a summarized explanation for each anchor categories for you to do a preliminary career anchors self-assessment.
Autonomy/independence – they desire work situations that provide maximum freedom to independently pursue career interests; they need and want control over work; can’t tolerate other people’s rules or procedures; independent consulting and contract work would be a good fit for these people.
Security/stability – they are concerned with long-run stability and security of employment; motivated by calmness and consistency of work; don’t like to take chances, and are not risk-takers; stable companies are best bets.
Technical-functional Competence – they are intrinsically motivated by the work itself, its technical aspects, and the desire for enhanced technical competence and credibility; in other words, it is the actual work they are concerned with not the organization or the overall mission of their work. They are the specialists.
General Managerial Competence – they view specialization as limiting; primarily want to manage or supervise people; enjoy motivating, training and directing the work of others; enjoy authority and responsibility; motivated by the opportunity to develop and use interpersonal and problem-solving skills to climb to general management levels. They are the generalists.
Entrepreneurial Creativity – they like the challenge of starting new projects or businesses, have lots of interests and energy, and often have multiple projects going at once; different from autonomy in that the emphasis is on creating new business.
Service or Dedication to a Cause – they are motivated by core values rather than the work itself; strong desire to make the world a better place; committed to the service of others. They find NGO jobs amusing.
Pure Challenge – they are motivated by the desire to overcome the odds, solve unsolved problems, and win out over competitors; conquering, problem solving; constant self-testing.
Life Style – wants to integrate personal, family and career needs; have a high need to balance work and the rest of life; enjoy work, but realizes that work is just one of many parts of life that are important.
What category do you fall under? The whole essence of this post is to awaken your awareness of this concept and for you to get better informed understanding of how it affects your career choices now and later in your career journey.
Feel free to drop your views in the comment section of this post if you need further help concerning the concept of career anchors.