career decisions / career development

How to find work that’s meaningful for you

I’m a fan of any questionnaire that develops self-awareness. Knowledge is power. The more you understand yourself and what you need to be fulfilled, the more informed your career choices will be. Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors questionnaire is one such tool.  Schein developed a series of 8 Career Anchors, which feature in a wide range of occupations.

The questionnaire requires you to respond to 40 statements. Scoring these reveals your personal career anchors. Your anchors are a combination your abilities, values and motivations. Without an understanding of your career anchors, you risk ‘drifting’ into roles that don’t suit you or feel right. Armed with an understanding of what you need to be fulfilled makes it easier to understand why you may not be happy in your job and what kind of role you are likely to find more fulfilling.

The 8 Anchors defined

1. Technical/Functional Competence.

You flourish when exercising your expertise. Your technical abilities will be admired and may lead to promotion into general management. However, general management risks leaving behind your technical expertise- the very thing you enjoy most.

2. General Managerial Competence

You thrive by making a difference to the wider organisation at a higher level. You’d enjoy bringing the skills you have to a broader role where you’re more likely to make a strategic contribution.

3. Autonomy/Independence

The ability to define your job and determine how you deliver your work is central to who you are.  Some who identify with this anchor lean toward self-employment.

4. Security/Stability

Job security and financial stability are critical to you. You’re less concerned about what you’re asked to do than knowing your job provides financial certainty.

5. Entrepreneurial Creativity

You are motivated by and willing to take risks to be successful. You won’t mind trying and failing on your way to success. You’re likely to prefer setting up your own business to working for someone else.

6. Service/Dedication to a Cause

Ultimately you’re driven by the need to make a difference through your work, whether that’s through working with people, through scientific advancement, environmental impact or other endeavour.

7. Pure Challenge

Grappling with potentially insurmountable problems is what truly  motivates you. This could be intellectually through research, politically, strategically, scientifically, interpersonally, through sport.

8. Lifestyle

Work/life integration will inform the decisions you make. It’s important for you to achieve harmony with the different aspects of your life. Decisions you make will be informed by whether you can successfully achieve this. For example, you may refuse a promotion or change of location where this impacts negatively on your lifestyle or other family members.

The Career Anchors questionnaire

The aim of the questionnaire is not to ‘match’ you to an ideal job, but to be aware of factors that will determine the degree of fulfilment you’re likely to experience depending on your personal Anchors. In this short Youtube clip, Schein suggests asking yourself about the career decisions you’ve made to date.

  • What decisions did you make and why?
  • Is there a pattern?
  • Do these point to a specific career anchor/anchors?
  • Which anchor would you be most reluctant to let go of?
  • Which matters least?

Reflecting on these questions led me to understand my own Career Anchors of Autonomy/Independence, Service/Dedication to a cause and General Managerial Competence. My first ever job, in retail, delivered to a limited extent on Service/Dedication to a cause but not on Autonomy/Independence or on General Managerial Competence. My next job, working for an Employment Agency delivered none of these- and led me to move into careers work-which delivered on Service/Dedication to a Cause and Autonomy/Independence. Eventually my move into a more senior management role delivered on all three of my Anchors.

Where I have been denied Autonomy/Independence in roles, I literally feel suffocated. When I look back at jobs I’ve left, this has been a key reason for moving on. Where I was denied Service/Dedication to a cause, my job meant that, as one friend put it, I was ‘hitting the target but missing the point.’ Again, I needed to move to rediscover both autonomy and meaning in my career.

Discover your Career Anchors

You can access a FREE version of the Career Anchor questionnaire. The book, which contains a paper version of questionnaire can be found on Amazon. Take time to reflect on your current/next role. How will your Anchors inform your career decisions? See also my post with links to other FREE questionnaires and my post on Strengths. ‘The decisions you make are a choice of values that reflect in your life in every way.’ (Alice Walters)

Anne Wilson writes on a variety of career related topics at The Career Catalyst

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s