Message to Chinese Reader from Edgar Schein

Co-Author of Career Anchors, 4th Edition, 2014.


Dear Reader:


We are happy to introduce Career Anchors to you to help you in identifying what you really care about in your career.  Even people who are in the same jobs have different inner motives, needs, and values that give them a feeling of who they are.  We are happiest in our work and in our career if those inner feelings match what the job requires.

To help you figure out what you really want out of your career you can do two things.  First, answer all the questionnaire items as honestly as you can and score your self on your Career Orientation.  Then find a friend or a career counselor to interview you to get a more accurate picture of what you want and need.  Then the two of you together can work out what your anchor is, what you are looking for in your career, and what you would not want to give up if you had to make a choice.

The following paragraphs tell you a little more about Career Anchors and why they are important.  If you are a manager it is important for you to understand that your subordinates may have different anchors and, therefore, have to be managed differently.


The Career Anchor Interview as a Developmental Exercise

After being interviewed the participants were always grateful for the chance to talk out their “inner career.”  This insight led us to convert the research interview into a self-administered career anchor exercise that could be very useful to adults at all stages of their life.

As this developmental interview became used more widely, the inevitable pressure built up to supplement the occupational history with a shorter more quantitative measure of this self-concept.  This led to the development of a 40-item self-scoring survey which we labeled “Career Orientation Questionnaire” and pointed out that it could easily be biased toward what the respondent would ideally want, whereas the interview reveals through the pattern of choices and reasons what the person actually wants.  The quantitative scores therefore should be used only as a warm-up for the interview in which talking out the steps and the reasons for them  not only provides the developmental insights but enables the listener to point out realities that the individual can ignore when doing just the survey, and, thereby, forces the person to get a more accurate picture of what the anchor really is.

We have found it equally important to do the Job/Role analysis to enable both the career occupant and the manager who is hiring people to analyze the job from a social and relationship point of view.


How useful is the anchor concept in a multicultural world?

When Career Anchors was first published, a question quickly arose as to how culturally specific were these categories?  Would they be useful in other cultures, in other languages, in other economies, in other labor markets? We do not have a definitive answer because multi-cultural globalization is currently going on all over the globe but we do know that there have been inquiries from dozens of other countries and we have done workshops in Germany, France, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Mexico and Brazil.  We have also used career anchors extensively in our teaching of mid-career students as well as in a variety of executive programs in which participants have come from perhaps 40 or 50 different countries.  The booklet describing Career Anchors and the Job/Role diagnostic exercise has been translated into eight different languages including Dutch, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese.  It seems to us that those who have learned of career anchors find them useful and relevant because they are, in the end, reflective of broad and vital themes in people’s organizational and occupational lives wherever they may live.


Implications for Personnel and Talent Management

As our own studies as well as those by others moved beyond managerial and organizationally defined careers, the anchor concept continued to be relevant and revealing.  It was tempting initially to stereotype occupations in terms of a given anchor but surprisingly when we studied other occupational and organizational groups, we kept finding the whole range of anchors, leading to the important insight that people enter occupations for different personal reasons and that most occupations afford the possibility of meeting many different kinds of personal needs.  We found that in every occupation we sampled there were opportunities for the different anchors to be played out, reminding us that given occupations might have a preponderance of one or two of the anchors but that the more important finding was how even among doctors or among policemen there are those who want to exercise their skills, those who want to manage, those who want autonomy, those who was security or to serve a cause, those who want pure challenge, build an organization, and those who find themselves in complex life situations that require various accommodations.

The full significance of the finding that every occupation has in it people with different career anchors has not been grasped yet by personnel management and the proponents of various kinds of standard performance appraisal, reward or incentive systems.  Employees with different anchors are looking for fundamentally different kinds of things yet promotion systems continue to be built on what we believe the general manager type wants—quick promotions, more responsibility and substantially more pay than his subordinate.  There is much talk of creating “cultures of engagement” that totally ignore the reality that what engages one person may be anathema to another one even in the same kinds of work.  What is missed in this standardized approach is the need to go much broader than the occasional “dual ladder” for special individual contributors and work out with each subordinate what he or she needs, wants, and is good at.  Talent management will inevitably have to face that “talent” includes motives and values as well as competencies.  Our career models and theories will have to take into account such individual differences throughout all the stages of the career.

Remember that the purpose of this exercise and interview is to help you figure out what your motives, values, and competencies really are so that you can make better career choices.

Ed Schein



-Zest Learning is the exclusive partner of career anchors related solutions provider in mainland China authorized by John Wiley & Sons Inc

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