Identify you career anchors

Edgar Schein says that career planning is a continuing process of discovery – one in which a person slowly develops a clearer occupational self concept in terms of what his or her talents, abilities, motives, needs attitudes and values are. Schein also says that as you learn more about yourself, it becomes apparent that you have a dominant career anchor, a concern or value that you will not give up if a (career) choice has to be made.

Career anchors as their name implies, are the pivots around which a person’s career swings; a person becomes conscious of them as a result of learning, through experience about his or her talents and abilities motives and needs and attitudes and values. Based on his research at the Massachusetts Institute of technology, Schein believes that career anchors are difficult to predict because they re evolutionary and a product of a processes of discovery. Some people may never find out what their career anchors are until they have to make a major choice – such as whether to take the promotion to the headquarters staff or strike out on their own by starting a business. It is at this point that the entire person’s past work experiences interests aptitudes and orientation converge into a meaningful pattern that helps show what (career anchor) is the most important factor in driving the person’s career choices.

Based on his study of MIT graduates, Schein identified five career anchors.

Technical / Functional Competence: People who had a strong technical/ functional career anchor tended to avoid decisions that would drive them toward general management. Instead, they made decision that would enable them to remain ad grow in their chosen technical or functional fields.

Managerial Competence

Other people show a strong motivation to become managers and their careers experience enabled them to believe they had the skills and values required. A management position of high responsibility is their ultimate goal. When pressed to explain why they believed they had the skills necessary to gain such position, many in Schein’s research sample answered that they were qualified for these jobs because of what they saw as their competencies in a combination of there areas: (1) analytical competence (ability to identify, analyze and solve problems under conditions of incomplete information and uncertainty); (2) interpersonal competence (ability to influence supervise lead manipulate and control people at all levels), (3) emotional competence (the capacity to be stimulated by emotional and interpersonal crises rather than exhausted or debilitated by them, and the capacity to bear high levels of responsibility without becoming paralyzed).


Some of the graduates had gone on to become successful entrepreneurs. To Schein these people seemed to have a need to build or create something that was entirely their own product – a product or process that bears their name a company of their own, or a personal fortune that reflects their accomplishments. For example one graduate had become a successful purchaser restorer and renter of townhouses in a large city; another had built a successful consulting firm.

Autonomy and Independence

Some seemed driven by the need to be on their own, free of the dependence that can arise when a person elects to work in a large organization where promotions, transfers, and salary decisions make them subordinate to others. Many of these graduates also had a strong technical / functional. Instead of pursuing this orientation in an organization they had decided to become consultants working either alone or as part of a relatively small firm. Others had become professors of business, freelance writers and proprietors of a small retail business.


A few of the graduates were mostly concerned with long run career stability and job security. They seemed willing to do what has required maintaining job security a decent income, and a stable future in the form of a good retirement program and benefits. For those interested in geographic security maintaining a stable, secure career in familiar surroundings was generally more important than pursuing superior career choices, if choosing the latter meant injecting instability or insecurity into their lives by forcing them to pull up roots and move to another city. For others security meant organizational security. They might today opt for governments where tenure still tends to be a way of life. They were much more wiling to let employers decide what their careers should be.