How do People Choose a Career?

Studies show that four general individual characteristics influence how people make career choices:

1) Interests: People tend to go after careers that they believe match their interests.
2) Self image: A career is a reflection of a person’s self image as well as a molder of it.
3) Personality: The factor includes a person’s personal orientation (whether one is adventurous, outgoing, passive, submissive, artistic etc) a personal need (including affiliation power and achievement needs).
4) Social backgrounds: Socio economic status, education and occupational status of a person’s parents are covered in this category.

Career Anchors:

Just as boats put down anchors to keep them from drifting too far, individuals put down anchors to stabilize their career choices. Career anchors are distinct patterns of self perceived talents, attitudes motives and values that guide and stabilize a person’s career after several years of real world experience and feedback. According to Schein, career anchors are difficult to predict ahead of time because they are evolutionary and a result of a process of discovery. You are not very sure about them until you are confronted with choice such as moving to headquarters or start your own business (e.g. Ashok Scoota, who after 20 years of life as CEO in Shriram Refrigeration joined Wipro Infotech as President and spent the next 15 years building it? He quit the job in 1999 to set up a software start up Mind Tree when Wipro chief Azim Premji asked him to move to America). It is usually at such a point that all the person’s past work experience, interests and orientation converge into a discernible picture (or career anchor) that helps show what is personally most valuable. Eight career anchors are identified:

1) Managerial competence: People having this drive seek managerial positions that offer opportunities for higher responsibility decision making power etc.
2) Technical competence: People who have a strong technical or functional career anchor seem to make career choices based on the technical or functional content of the work, such as engineering or accounting.
3) Security : If your career anchor is security then you are wiling to do what is needed to maintain jobs security (complying with rules and regulations of every kind) a decent income and a stable future in the form of a good retirement package.
4) Creativity: These people are driven by an overwhelming desire to do something that is entirely of their own making. For them starting a new venture, working in a research lab., piloting a novel venture in a desert may be exciting alternatives to their idea of a creative vocation.
5) Autonomy: These people seek a career that offers freedom of action and independence.
6) Dedication to a cause: If this is your anchor you focus on a cause that you believe is important (ending starvation deaths, bringing about word peace, cure for a disease etc).
7) Pure challenge: If this is your career anchor you seek to meet and overcome difficult barriers or obstacles (scaling a mountain, reviving sick companies etc). You basically seek novelty and variety in your work.
8) Life style: If this is your career anchor, you seek to integrate personal, career and family goals. You choose jobs that enable to fit all parts of your life together.

Career planning is the process by which one selects career goals and the path to these goals. The major focus of career planning is on assisting the employees achieve a better match between personal goals and the opportunities that are realistically available in the organizations.

Source: HRM