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Career Anchors – What are they & how are they put into practice?

“Career Anchors” is a concept that helps you to be more aware when making decisions about your next step within your career of choice.  What do you need in your life to feel like your most fulfilled, passionate self?  (Feature image source.)

Back when I started my very first job, I took a test called Career Anchors that helped me to determine what I needed within my career.  At the time, I was in a fascinating workplace surrounded by very smart people, but I honestly had no idea what I was doing in crafting my role.

The truth of the matter is, whether we’re in a wonderful 9-5 job that excites us, a mundane job where we can’t wait to get home, self-employed, raising children in the home, or any number of other career options, there are certain aspects that we need in our life that will excite us every day and leave us feeling fulfilled.

What are Career Anchors?


According to the website, Career Anchors are… “a combination of your perceived competence, motives, and values.”

Essentially, through a self-assessment, you answer a series of questions that  help you to have a clear concept of your strengths, values, and aspects of your career that motivate you.  You learn what you should not give up in your career, or what aspects you should drive towards, to empower you to make career decisions that are in line with your values and how you truly look at life.

What are the various Career Anchors?

There are eight Career Anchors in total.

1. Technical/Functional Competence

If this is your top Anchor, you have a very specific skill that you need and want to apply to everyday life.  You do not feel fulfilled unless you are applying that skill and consistently developing that skill to an ever-higher level.

2. General Managerial

You want to consistently be climbing to higher levels within your organization, enough so that you can integrate others strengths across functions.  You prefer to more generally oversee others than be in the action and determine your success by the success of the organization, rather than by your own achievement.

3. Autonomy / Independence

If this is you, you prefer to entirely define your own work in your own way.  You prefer flexibility around when and how you work and prefer to construct your own career however you see fit.

4. Security / Stability

This Anchor shows that you crave stability in your career.  While you might be looking for a variety of different types of security – financial, geographic, general employment, etc – you want to have career stability to feel like you’ve “made it.”

5. Entrepreneurial Creativity

These folks crave creating a business on their own using their personal strengths.  Your goal is to show that you can create something that the world craves and ultimately measure your business’ success by its size and financial wherewithal.  You may face many failures in creating your business, but you will always try again with a new idea or change of direction.

6. Service / Dedication to a Cause

You ultimately crave pursuing a career that helps the world be a better place to live.  If this is you, you are open to turning down promotions or changing businesses to fulfill this value.

7. Pure Challenge

Have you ever seen “Good Will Hunting”?  You’re the one that loves to solve problems that seem unsolvable to the rest of the world.  You get bored by work you perceive as “easy” and constantly crave change and difficulty to make you feel productive.

8. Lifestyle

If this is your Anchor, you crave a role that allows you to balance your personal and family needs with your career.  You feel that your identity is tied up into how you live your total life, rather than one specific aspect of your life in particular.  Geographic issues are particularly important to you because you want to be somewhere where your career and family needs can be equally met.

(Source)

Career Anchors in Practice

The reason I find the Career Anchors concept to be so fascinating is because I’ve been able to see my Anchors change fairly dramatically over the years, and I’ve made adjustments accordingly.

I’ll share an example:

I have three Career Anchors that were equally close together when I started my most recent 9-to-5 in an organization –

Tied for #1: Autonomy / Independence and Lifestyle

#2 (only one point lower): Service / Dedication to a Cause

When I last took this questionnaire, I was just starting out in a role that gave me great Independence.  In fact, that was one of the aspects of the role that I absolutely LOVED and highlighted about my role in every single job review.

But where I lacked was Lifestyle.  I had to drive a little over 100 miles each day, which left me with very little time to enjoy the life I was trying to craft within Denver with my soon-to-be husband.

Surprisingly, even though I was working in Project Management for a Finance organization, I did feel a great sense of Service / Dedication to a Cause.  I strongly felt that I was helping the team to live their lives in a more simplified, productive manner and I loved that we, as a business, were helping customers purchase homes – one of the biggest purchases of in most of our lives.

But I still had the Lifestyle piece missing and that was all I needed to drive me to find something new.

Using my Career Anchors assessment, I was able to craft a career that spoke to my exact needs.  My career may stay the same forever and it may not, but intentionally using these Anchors as a guide, I feel so much more fulfilled and able to live a complete life.

What do you think are your Career Anchors and how can you work to intentionally fulfill those needs on an everyday basis?

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