Schein’s Career Anchors

One the key skills you need to possess as a business owner or manager is the ability to understand your employees. You will only get the best possible performance from a given employee when that individual is placed in a position to feel comfortable and succeed. We are all human, and each individual person within your organization needs and deserves to feel comfortable and valuable.

Schein’s Career Anchors

To understand people, you often need to understand their motivations. What are they working for? What do they hope to accomplish in their career? To help you get to the heart of this topic, you can use Schein’s Career Anchors for guidance. These ‘anchors’ can be used as a starting point to understand why your employees act the way they do.

The content below will briefly highlight each of the eight career anchors.

General Managerial Competence

To start, we are going to look at people who want to manage other people. Some individuals like to be actively involved in productive tasks each day, while others like to manage people performing those tasks. Someone who falls into this career anchor category wants to be on the management side of the equation. These individuals tend to have strong people skills – or, at least, they should – and they appreciate having plenty of responsibility.

Technical/Functional Competence

A person who enjoys taking on a challenging task and seeing it through to a successful conclusion will usually fit in this category. Unlike the managerial anchor, these individuals want to ‘get their hands dirty’, in a manner of speaking. This person likes to have a skill that they can use for the good of the organization, and they usually like being thought of as an expert. These kinds of employees have obvious value to an organization, as they are typically the ones who are making breakthroughs, maintaining productivity, and more.


Some people value job security above all else. They want to know that their job is going to be waiting for them tomorrow just as it was today. Rather than striving to take on new challenges and reach new heights, this person is very much satisfied with the status quo. While their risk aversion means these usually won’t be the highest achievers in your organization, they tend to be good employees who stay with the organization for an extremely long time – perhaps for their entire career.


The title of this career anchor pretty much says it all. This kind of employee wants to be left alone to work by himself or herself. It should go without saying that this kind of employee hates to be micromanaged. Although probably not a good fit for many team activities, an autonomous worker can be a great thing when put to work in the right setting. Certain job categories are a better fit for independent thinkers than others, so make sure your employees in this anchor wind up in the right parts of the organization.


To be honest, this career anchor is somewhat of a rarity. However, it does still exist, so it is worth highlighting here. For some people, their main motivation on the job is to serve others and work toward the betterment of a specific cause. Usually, these kinds of people will seek out employment in a setting such as a non-profit organization. Even if an employee in this category is working in a traditional for-profit setting, he or she may still feel satisfied by simply helping co-workers each day.

Entrepreneurial Creativity

This might be the worst kind of employee to have in a traditional business setting. This is not someone who wants to follow the company line and do as they are told. Rather, this person wants to forge their own path, come up with their own ideas, and have their own successes. These types of people are often quite intelligent, but it is difficult to make them work productively as only one piece of a larger organization. Depending on the type of business you run, it may be possible to get some productive years out of this kind of person before he or she decides to strike out on their own with a new venture.

Pure Challenge

It isn’t common for employees to thrive simply on the thrill of a challenge alone, but some people just love to get down to work and prove they have what it takes. There are pros and cons to having this kind of person on your team. On the one hand, it is great to have someone who is willing to take on the most difficult hurdles that your company needs to clear. On the other hand, this is an employee who is likely to leave for a new opportunity when he or she gets bored with their current position. Unless you can consistently deliver worthy challenges, you might not be able to hold onto this person for long.


This is the career anchor which is probably growing the fastest in recent years. More and more people are focused on finding a way for their career to blend seamlessly with their lifestyle. Rather than accepting the fact that they have to live around their jobs, these individuals will settle for nothing less than a job which is perfectly suited to the life they want to live. This kind of employee can be a bit hard to please, but they are also employees who will usually be rather content and reliable once they have the balance they desire.

Schein’s Career Anchors

You can use the career anchors as a business owner or manager in order to figure out what is driving each member of your team. You can also use them as an employee to think about what is really important to you and where you want to go with your career over the long term. Either way, this is a valuable tool and one which should not be overlooked.

These Interview Skills eBooks will help you to be successful in your chosen career. Whether you’re looking for a new job, facing an interview or trying to get your career back on track, there is something here to help. Download these free eBooks, checklists and templates for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Management Assessment eBook
This eBook explains what you can expect if you attend a management assessment center.
ISBN 978-1-62620-783-9 (32 Pages) PDF

Preparing for Management Interviews eBook
This eBook explains how to prepare for a management level interview.
ISBN 978-1-62620-784-8 (34 Pages) PDF

Management Interview Questions eBook
This eBook describes the various types of interview question that you can expect to be asked and gives you detailed guidelines for answering them.
ISBN 978-1-62620-786-6 (31 Pages) PDF

Competency Based Questions eBook
This eBook explains how to answer competency-based interview questions.
ISBN 978-1-62620-785-7 (26 Pages) PDF

Management Interview Exercises eBook
This eBook explains how to succeed in management interview exercises including: in-tray, presentations, group discussion, role play, and media interviews.
ISBN 978-1-62620-780-2 (38 Pages) PDF

Management Aptitude Tests eBook
This eBook explains how to succeed at the management aptitude tests that often form part of the job selection process.
ISBN 978-1-62620-781-1 (39 Pages) PDF

Management Personality Tests eBook
This eBook explains how to succeed in the personality tests that are used as part of the management recruitment process.
ISBN 978-1-62620-782-0 (34 Pages) PDF

Today's Top Picks for Our Readers:
Recommended by Recommended by NetLine

Free Interview Skills Resources

See the full list of Interview Skills eBooks, templates and checklists available for free download right now.

Click Here!