Saturday, September 9, 2017

Looking at Career Options? What's Your Anchor?

There are literally thousands of resources designed to help individuals figure out their career direction and the next steps they might take. One of the most popular, easiest to use and understand, and impactful is Dr. Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors questionnaire.

The Pfeiffer Career Series revised edition of Career Anchors: Discovering Your Real Values by Dr. Schein is a book "designed to help you to identify your career anchor and to think about how your values relate to your career choices...Your career anchor is a combination of perceived areas of competence, motives, and values that you would not give up; it represents your real self."

I have used Schein's questionnaire with individuals of all ages who are looking at what they are going to do in the next stage of their career. A powerful advantage of the book is that it includes the questionnaire, with the results of your answers telling you what you have said about what you would not give up. You receive answers about what your high and low scores are on the eight career anchors. You follow that by having a career anchor interview with a partner. This could be a family partner, a long-term friend; someone who knows you well and who you trust to be candid in discussing the eighteen career interview questions in the book with you. 

These questions span your career, whether it has been long or short, starting with, "What did you concentrate on in school?" The questions then move to ones like, "As you look ahead in your career, what are the things you are especially looking forward to?" The eighteenth and final question is, "As you think over the answers you have given, what patterns or themes do you see?" The patterns and themes come from the descriptions of the eight career anchors that are: Technical/Functional... General Managerial... Autonomy/Independence... Security/Stability... Entrepreneurial Creativity... Service/Dedication to a Cause... Pure Challenge... Lifestyle.

What follows are examples of how these statements of what you would not give up shaped the career decisions of two separate people to whom I was providing career coaching.

The first individual was a front-line manager at a nonprofit agency. She had been in the role for four years and was seriously questioning whether to stay in the nonprofit field. After she took the Career Anchors questionnaire she saw that her two highest scores were in Service/Dedication to a Cause and Lifestyle. She agreed with the scores, saying that she would not give up the opportunity to pursue work that achieves something of value, such as making the world a better place to live which is the definition of Service and Dedication to a Cause. She also agreed with the fact that she would not want to give up the Lifestyle that her job affords. Lifestyle involves being in a situation that permits you to balance and integrate your personal needs, your family needs, and the requirements of your career. Based on the conversation that was had about the fact that her job was really meeting her values, she talked with her boss and was able to shift some of the responsibilities that had been making her so unhappy in a way that had her feeling much more positive about her situation.

The second example involved a very bright double PhD scientist who was a Vice-President in a pharmaceutical company. His lowest score by far was on the General Managerial competence and his two highest scores were on Autonomy/Independence and Pure Challenge. It turned out that he had gotten advanced very quickly in his career because of his brilliant mind, engaging personality, the respect that his colleagues had for his work ethic and his ability to get results.

The problem and reason that he had asked for an executive coach was that he hated to manage others and only wanted to be left alone to focus on the very complex molecules that would save many lives. Based on the conversations that we had around the results of the Career Anchors questionnaire he sat down with his boss and told her that he was willing to take a pay cut and a step back in the organization so that he could focus on the research he loved. After multiple conversations, the organization allowed him to make that move without his having to take a pay cut.

To be very clear, both of these talented individuals knew about much of what the Career Anchor results showed them, but had never put those factors together in a way that allowed them to come up with a plan for moving ahead effectively with their career at their current employer.

I mentioned in the second paragraph of this article the book that provides a full program for how to gain information from completing the questionnaire to having a structured eighteen question conversation with someone who knows you and who you trust having a confidential conversation about your career that ties into the questionnaire results. If the way I have described Schein's model interests you I encourage you to purchase that book. It is the most comprehensive way to gain information about your Career Anchors.  I obviously do not receive any remuneration from the publisher if you do that.

I use Schein's model as one of multiple self-evaluation resources in a free thirty slide program I have presented to the public called How to Make the Most of Your 2nd Fifty Years. You don't have to be over fifty to gain valuable career information from viewing that program. It is free to download off my website www.workforthecommongood.com.  You will never be approached by me or anybody else if you choose to download that program.


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