Career Anchors Workbook

Last December I wrote about taking Prof Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors online assessment test that also comes with a downloadable 72 page participant workbook.

career anchors

(The test is administered and published by Pfeiffer, a division of John Wiley & Sons inc. The test link is Career Anchors Online test. Here are eight comments I want to make after going through the workbook.

1- Use the Participant Workbook (a 480KByte Acrobat PDF file) in conjunction with your test report.

2 A sample career anchors test report is Sample Career Anchors Test Report.

3 The first 25 pages of the workbook describe the 8 career anchors in more detail and focus on the preferred type of work, pay and benefits, growth opportunities and recognition as suggested by the research results.

This is well worth a couple of readings as the subtleties of what anchors you to any given career or path may have escaped your attention.

Also, the case is presented for the internal nature of career anchors in contrast to the processes and stages we often perceive as the external nature of a given career. (The workbook highlights 8 generic career stages believed to be applicable to a large number of organizations and occupations.)

4 Career anchors are presented in the workbook as a mix of personal talents, motives and values, although the point is clearly made that for some people it may be difficult (but not impossible) to determine a dominant anchor because of this unique mix.

However, through time and direct work experience a person can learn to discover what it is they are most drawn to (and anchored by). Prof Schein’s career anchors approach should therefore be viewed as a tool to help make sense of what works for you and what doesn’t.

5 I took the workbook’s advice and looked carefully at my lowest scoring career anchors to see if they still hold true. And in fact, compared to 3 years ago when I first took the test, the bottom 3 are identical for me:

  • Pure Challenge
  • Security/Stability
  • General Managerial competence

Certainly, I never desired to be a general manager (at the expense of technical/functional competence and lifestyle anchors) throughout my teaching and IT careers.

6 I then looked at the top three through the personal lens of if I had to make a choice what would I absolutely NOT give up.
Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’m probably most clear on autonomy, as that career anchor has stayed with me from my initially happy years as a teacher 25 years ago.

7 The 2nd half of the workbook is designed to help identify (and make constructive use of) the dominant career anchor if you’ve been having trouble finding it.

This begins with a Career History Analysis that goes all the way from your education through each subsequent job and has space to write in your answers if you choose to print the question pages out.

Although you can do all of this by yourself, it is suggested that you have a trusted person interview you for about 1 hour, using the questions as a guide. (Make sure to write down your comments so you have a record for later review!)

The workbook further recommends that you do not select a boss, peer or subordinate to do this interview because it is most effective when you can share dreams, goals and aspirations freely. This is not always possible in a workplace environment, and especially so if you regard colleagues as competitors (and vice versa.)

(By the way, this workplace limitation is one of the plus points in using a career coach, precisely because a private, external coach’s only agenda is (or at least should be) yours.

8- The fun really starts when you take your dominant career anchor and perform a Job/Role Analysis on your current job (there is an exercise to create a Job/Role Map) and on a future job/role you are interested in.

I would recommend spending several hours (or more) over a period of days/weeks to get the most value from these exercises.

The workbook’s theme throughout is manage your career and I believe, from my own experience, it provides a tool to help you do exactly that.

And for $40 (as of July 2008) to do the online test and download the workbook, that’s a bargain for anyone interested in an enjoyable and well rewarded career path.

Don’t forget! A bit of market research here will help me decide whether to go Pfeiffer and check out their licensing costs for offering the Career Anchors assessment plus coaching.