Follow your own star!    Dante Alighieri

Often, people select a career for all the wrong reasons and find their responses to the workplace are incompatible with their true values. This results in feelings of unrest and discontent and it is a struggle to remain engaged and productive.

Edgar Schein, one of the founders of the field of modern organisational psychology, suggests that every one of us has a particular orientation towards work and that we all approach our work with a certain set of priority and values. He calls this concept our ‘Career Anchors’.

If you are aware of your Career Anchors you can use them to make better career choices.  A career anchor is the one element in your self-concept that you will not give up, even in the face of difficult choices.

So what are Career Anchors?  A Career Anchor is a combination of perceived areas of competence, motives, and values relating to professional work choices.  A Career Anchor includes talents, motives, values and attitudes which give stability and direction to your career – it is your ‘motivator’ or ‘driver’.

Schein identified eight Career Anchor themes.  He showed that individuals have prioritised preferences for these themes and by understanding their preferences they can make more successful career choices.  He called the themes “anchors” because he found that people tend to stay anchored in a theme throughout their career.

So let’s have a look at the eight Career Anchor Themes.

Technical/functional competence -  This kind of person likes being good at something and will work to become a guru or expert.  They like to be challenged and then use their skills to meet the challenge, doing the job properly and better than almost anyone else

Managerial competence -  These people want to be managers. They like problem-solving and dealing with other people. They thrive on responsibility.

Autonomy/independence -  These people have a primary need to work under their own rules and ‘steam’. They avoid standards and prefer to work alone

Security/stability -  These people seek stability and continuity as a primary factor of their lives. They avoid risk and are generally ‘lifers’ in their job.

Entrepreneurial creativity -  These people like to invent things, be creative and most of all to run their own businesses. They differ from those who seek autonomy in that they will share the workload. They find ownership very important. They get easily bored Wealth, for them, is a sign of success

Service/dedication to a cause -  Service-orientated people are driven more by how they can help other people than by using their talents. They may work in public services or in areas such as human resources.

Pure challenge -  People driven by challenge seek constant stimulation and difficult problems that they can tackle. Such people will change jobs when the current one gets boring, and their career can be varied.

Lifestyle -  Those who are focused first on lifestyle look at their whole pattern of living. Rather than balance work and life, they are more likely to integrate the two. They may even take long periods of time off work in which to indulge in passions such as travelling.

Understanding your Career Anchors will help you plan your career in a way that is most satisfying to you.   By identifying and acknowledging your nchors you can make sure that you seek jobs that will bring you satisfaction and fulfilment.

To find out more and discover your own Career Anchors, click here to try this self-assessment from academic.wsc.edu


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