Schein's Career Anchor Theory

Your career anchor determines your work choices.

Your career anchor determines your work choices.

According to Schein's career anchor theory, how you gravitate toward one career or another depends on what anchors you or keeps you grounded in your work. The focus of Schein's theory is on eight anchors, ranging from technically driven competencies to lifestyle choices. Your career anchor depends on what you value most and what motivates you in your career decisions. It might take you a while to find your anchor, as you discover what working life is all about -- but once you do, count on it to stick with you until retirement.

Technical or Managerial

The first two anchors focus on technical or functional competence and managerial competence. If your anchor's technical, you enjoy a challenge to become an expert at something. If your anchor is managerial, you're a natural leader with a take-charge mindset who likes coordinating work and resources. According to a Penn State University study, these are two of the three most common career anchors for women in information technology jobs.

Autonomy or Challenge Driven

The next two anchors involve a disposition toward autonomy or challenges. If your anchor focuses on autonomy or independence, you need to work alone without constraints and restrictions. On the other hand, you might jump around a lot between jobs because you get bored if your anchor is challenge driven. You must stay challenged, looking for problems to solve. According to the Penn State study, women in IT with technical or managerial anchors also expressed a strong interest in facing challenges -- indicating that while one anchor remains primary, it might not necessarily be the only one you have.

Entrepreneurial or Service Driven

Another set of anchors involve being entrepreneurial or service driven. If you have an entrepreneurial anchor, you enjoy creating or inventing things, and you must be in control. You're not satisfied as a manager -- you want to be the owner, the gal in charge, the CEO. At the opposite end of the spectrum, your anchor might be service driven. A service-driven anchor means you're more motivated to help others than to express or build upon your own innate talents. Instead of aiming for a role as a CEO, you might want to investigate public services or human resources.

Lifestyle or Security Driven

Last up are the lifestyle and security-driven anchors. If your biggest motivator focuses on integrating your life outside work with your work life, you have a lifestyle-driven anchor. You don't skip vacations, even if the boss implies doing so could affect your career. If stability's more important than anything else, however, you have a security-driven anchor. You're likely to find a good job and stick with the company that gave you it, allowing your career to grow based on the needs of that particular organization. The security anchor is the third most common among women in IT, according to the Penn State study.

 

About the Author

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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