Career Development Plan – Understanding Your Career Anchors

In the 1970’s some very interesting work was begun in the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by Professor Schein. Schein aimed to identify the major groups of motives that influence people in their careers. These motives were called career anchors. It is a critical part of any career development planning to understand your motivations and focus your activities on the right career search areas.

A career anchor can be thought of as a combination of self perceived talents, values and motivators that organize and give some context to our career oriented decisions. It is also very likely that career anchors provide us all with an important contribution to our own sense of identity. The early work by Schein has been enhanced by Dave Francis in his book “Managing Your Own Career”.

Career anchors do not appear to be something we sit down and choose at a particular moment in time. Rather, they appear to evolve slowly depending on our own personality, values, self image, and, of course, upon the experience that we have in life. Career anchors are particularly important in determining job satisfaction and, without a clear understanding of these, it is unlikely we will be able to maximize our enjoyment of work.

Below are the nine career anchors as developed by David Francis:

1. My recommendation is that you carefully read through them a couple of times and then award 50 points amongst the 9 anchors.
2. The better fit it seems to you the higher the points, if the anchor isn’t much like you then award it a smaller number of points.
3. You must award points to all 9 anchors but you choose how many points.
4. Add up your points and choose your top 3 career anchors. Then have a goat answering this question:
5. How does this career anchor impact on my current and future career choices?

After extensive research Francis developed the following career anchors:

1. Material Rewards (MR)

These are defined as the physical assets such as money, possessions, housing and so forth that a person may acquire over a lifetime.

People who are highly motivated by a desire to have high levels of material rewards very often make decisions about their future career based upon their ability to acquire these. For example, a person who has a very high material rewards need will very often accept a position that offers lower long term prospects or less creativity in order to satisfy this need. A good example of this is people who spend some years in middle eastern countries undertaking work that may not necessarily be very satisfying and in an environment that is very strange. However, for many of these people the compensation is the very low taxes paid in middle eastern countries and the very high income.

2. Power and Influence (PI)

Francis has defined power and influence as a strong desire by the person to be in a dominant position and to have others in subordinate roles. A person with this career anchor has a strong desire to want to make decisions about policy and to have control over resources. People who have a strong power and influence anchor often seek out jobs that enable them to exercise considerable personal control over other people and situations. They can be involved in jobs that do not necessarily pay particularly well, but have power. People with this anchor very often move into managerial or political roles. They usually have a great deal of confidence and clear ideas on how things should be done.

It is important to see that this, like other anchors, is not intrinsically positive or negative. Clearly there are many very caring and able managers as well as tyrannical managers, who are highly motivated by the power and influence anchor.

3. The Search for Meaning (ME)

Francis says that search for meaning is defined as being motivated to do things considered to be a contribution to something bigger, finer or greater than the individual, according to a religious, emotional, moral, social or intellectual criteria.

Individuals who have the search for meaning anchor are often very concerned to be doing things that are in accord with their fundamental beliefs. They are very often disinterested in money or influencing others, but are highly motivated to help other people or to work towards a spiritual goal. It is very important for these people to make what they see as a significant contribution to the world throughout their careers.

4. Expertise (EX)

People with this career anchor often want to become a specialist in a particular field. They derive great satisfaction from being able to solve mechanical, intellectual, scientific or practical problems that fool others. These are the types of people who are happy to spend much of their own leisure time reading work related material. Conflicts can arise for these individuals if they are pushed into a management position where they are expected to have control and influence over other people. This very often creates difficulties because these people are much more interested in mechanical procedures or academic knowledge than in getting on with others.

5. Creativity (CR)

People with this career anchor are very concerned to be able to create original objects, theories or experiences. They can work in many occupations, including the sciences, arts, literature and research, as well as in entertainment or in entrepreneurial activities. These people are driven to create new objects such as games or puzzles. They often have a good ability to tolerate frustration and difficulties, provided their creative energies can eventually be satisfied. Very often they are much less concerned about money or about power and influence even though they might actually have both of these things.

6. Affiliation (AF)

People who have this particular career anchor have a strong desire to seek nourishing relationships with other people. They are very often involved in social work of psychology or some other profession that makes use of their skills in this area.

When these people go looking for a job their most important criterion is whether they like the other people on the job. They are much less concerned with the money, or with their ability to get promotion, provided the people they are working with are friendly and caring.

7. Autonomy (AU)

People who have this particular career anchor very often want to take charge of their own lives. They are very uncomfortable when they are in organizations and have to work by defined job descriptions. They very often prefer to work for themselves or to be in Universities or other places that offer them considerable freedom. The most important concept to this sort of person is the freedom of choice.

8. Security (SE)

Individuals who have this as their primary career anchor want to ensure that the future is predictable and that they can avoid unnecessary risks. This type of person is prepared to take lower income, to have less freedom of choice, and to have future prospects for advancement in their career provided they are in a position where the risks are very small. These people are often quite concerned about material wealth, not from the point of earning a lot, but from the perspective of investing wisely and ensuring that they always have a secure financial base.

9. Status (ST)

People who have this as their primary career anchor very often want to undertake work that provides them with high esteem. They are concerned about symbols and formal recognition by prestigious groups. It is important to see that this is not necessarily something that is directly related to social class. For example, there is a very clear status hierarchy even in prisons, and sometimes people are highly motivated to commit crimes simply because of the prestige that it will result in.

Now that you have some understanding of career anchors, you can assess which anchors motivate you and incorporate that into you career development plan.

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