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    SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

    Print version ISSN 2071-0763

    SA j. ind. Psychol. vol.35 no.1 Cape Town  2009

     

    ORIGINAL RESEARCH

     

    Psychological career resources as predictors of working adults' career anchors: an exploratory study

     

     

    Melinde Coetzee; Dries Schreuder

    Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, South Africa

    Correspondence to

     

     


    ABSTRACT

    This study explored the relationship between the psychological career resources and career anchors of a sample of 2 997 working adults at predominantly managerial and supervisory levels in the service industry. The Psychological Career Resources Inventory and the Career Orientations Inventory were applied. Stepwise regression analyses indicated dimensions of psychological career resources as significant predictors of participants' career anchors. The findings add valuable new knowledge that can be used to inform organisational career development support practices as well as career counselling and guidance services concerned with promoting individuals' employability and experiences of intrinsic career success.

    Keywords: career anchors; career drivers; career preferences; career values; psychological career resources


     

     

    INTRODUCTION

    The increasing complexity in the global competitive business environment and the increasing demand for employability in the knowledge economy have resulted in significant changes in the workplace and the nature of career development (Arnold & Cohen, 2008; Baruch, 2004; Herr, Cramer & Niles, 2004). These changes are reflected in the changing definitions of work, careers and job structure, all of which mirror widespread downsizing, subsequent losses in job security, highly divergent and diverse career paths and shifts in organisational loyalties (Baruch, 2004; Marshall & Bonner, 2003; Suutari & Taka, 2004). Moreover, the growing concern about employability necessitates that employees take greater agency in their career decisions and development. Employability is regarded as a psycho-social construct that embodies individual characteristics that foster pro-active adaptive cognition, behaviour and affect, and enhance the individual-work interface (Fugate, Kinicki & Ashforth, 2004). In this regard, pro-active career behaviour includes the ability to employ a range of psychological career resources such as being behaviourally adaptable and flexible in dealing with more frequent career transitions; having a sense of calling regarding one's career; having a sense of awareness of one's career preferences, values and motives; and demonstrating positive core self-evaluations, self-management skills, relationship skills and emotional literacy (Briscoe & Hall, 1999; Coetzee, 2008; Hall & Chandler, 2005; Judge, Bono, Erez & Locke, 2005; Kuijpers & Scheerens, 2006).

    Furthermore, with individuals' careers being less predictable and ordered than they once were, interest in the behaviour and characteristics that predict individuals' career success and employability has gained greater salience in contemporary career research (Arnold & Cohen, 2008; Arthur, Khapova & Wilderom, 2005). Although a vast majority of career-related studies conducted continue to focus on the external organisational factors and material incentives related to career progression and career success (Herr et al., 2004), other researchers seem to increasingly emphasise more subjective measures of career success (Arnold & Cohen, 2008). These measures focus on the career self-concept or career identity, the internal career orientation and the core self-evaluations related to people's psychological career resources (Coetzee, 2008; Fugate et al., 2004; Kanye & Crous, 2007; Kuijpers & Scheerens, 2006; Van Dam, 2004; Van der Heijde & Van der Heijden, 2006). In view of the above, this paper extends research on the internal career by investigating the relationship between the notion of internal career orientations or career anchors as conceptualised by Schein (1978) and psychological career resource constructs related to individuals' career preferences and values and their career enablers, career drivers and career harmonisers.

    Psychological career resources

    In the context of this study, the psychological career resources model developed by Coetzee (2008) is used as a theoretical framework. An individual's psychological career resources profile reflects his/her career consciousness. Based on Adler's (1956) viewpoints on the concept of consciousness, Coetzee (2007) describes career consciousness as people's conscious, career-related cognitions (that is, perceptions, awareness and self-evaluations) of their career preferences, values, skills, attitudes and behaviours that are understood and regarded by people as being helpful in realising their goals and achieving career success. In this regard, individuals' repertoires of psychological career resources consist of those career preferences, career values, attitudes and competencies that go beyond work-related technical skills (Coetzee, 2008; Gunz & Heslin, 2005). Psychological career resources have been found to be linked to people's experiences of life satisfaction and job/career satisfaction, perceptions of general employability and their ability to deal resourcefully with life and career challenges (Coetzee & Bergh, 2008; Esterhuizen & Coetzee, 2008; Fugate et al., 2004; Parker, 2008). Moreover, a well-established psychological career resources profile enables people to pro-actively engage in career self-management activities that enhance their job performance and experiences of subjective career success within a particular socio-cultural context (Coetzee, 2008; Ebberwein, Krieskok, Ulven & Prosser, 2004; Van der Heijde & Van der Heijden, 2006).

    According to Coetzee (2008), the various components of an individual's repertoire of psychological career resources need to be well developed to enable the enactment of pro-active career behaviour. If any one facet is out of balance, none of the other career resource components can function maximally to facilitate self-empowering career behaviour. An overall well-developed psychological career resources profile suggests conscious, self-directed career behaviour that is internally guided and driven by the individual's career preferences, career values, career enablers, career drivers and career harmonisers.

    People's 'career preferences and career values' refer to people's unique views about the paths their careers should follow and which guide their career decisions. Individuals' career preferences and career values are also regarded as the enduring cognitive or conceptual structures underlying their thinking about their careers and which define the meaning of a career to them (Driver, 1982; Kim, 2005). Career preferences and career values therefore become the guiding foundation for individuals' long-term career choices. Whereas individuals' career preferences guide their career moves, career values represent the motivation for a particular career preference (Brousseau, 1990).

    'Career drivers' refer to people's sense of career purpose, career directedness and career venturing orientation, which are the attitudes that energise people and motivate them towards experimenting with career and employment possibilities. People's attitudes toward their careers are based on their perceptions of the persons they can become and their possible future work roles (Coetzee, 2008). Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin and Schwartz (1997) state that people who feel a strong calling to their careers and jobs report far higher levels of life and job satisfaction and lower levels of absenteeism than people who merely have a job and/or career orientation. People with a calling orientation (or strong sense of purpose) tend to work for the fulfilment their jobs and careers offer and in addition believe that their work impacts society in some way (Bellah, Sullivan, Tipton, Madsen & Swindler, 1996). Career directedness is described as individuals' sense of clarity about future career directions and goals as well as the clarity in terms of where and how to find support for achieving their career goals or finding new job opportunities. The term 'career venturing' relates to individuals' willingness to take risks in finding and experimenting with new career opportunities (Coetzee, 2008).

    'Career enablers' refer to people's transferable skills such as their practical or creative skills and self-management and relationship skills, which are those abilities that help them to succeed in their careers. 'Career harmonisers' describe people's self-esteem, behavioural adaptability, emotional literacy and social connectivity, which are the psychological attributes which act as promoters of flexibility and resilience. Moreover, career harmonisers also act as controls by keeping career drivers in balance so that people do not go overboard (or burn themselves out) in the process of pursuing and reinventing their careers (Coetzee, 2008). Self-esteem refers to the self-evaluations people make and maintain. It includes attitudes of approval or disapproval and the degree to which people feel worthy, capable, significant and effective in comparison to other members of their social group (Battle, 1992; Hewitt, 2002). Behavioural adaptability involves individuals' ability to identify those qualities that are critical for future performance and the willingness to make the necessary personal changes to meet their career-related needs (Hall, 2002). Thus, individuals with high behavioural adaptability would have the capacity to engage pro-actively in the process of goal-setting, initiating effort and achieving psychological success (Hall & Chandler, 2005).

    Emotional literacy refers to the degree to which individuals are able to accept and express a range of affect, based on the premise that a range of emotional responses facilitates career-adaptive behaviours in the career decision-making process (Emmerling & Cherniss, 2003). Social connectivity describes individuals' ability to connect with others, and establish and maintain mutually satisfying and supporting relationships (BarOn, 1997). Research by Emmerling and Cherniss (2003) indicate that the emotions experienced during the career decision-making process and in relation to social relations at work have implications for the perception of risk related to specific career options, the amount and kind of self-exploration individuals will engage in, and how information related to career choice will be processed.

    Career anchors

    Schein's work (1975, 1978, 1990, 1996) on career orientations, which he termed career anchors, introduced the operationalisation of the multi-dimensionality of the internal career construct and its relationship to career success. According to Schein (1978), a career anchor forms an intrinsic part of the career self-concept by acting as a master career motive. The career anchor is 'inside' the person, functioning as a set of driving and constraining forces on career decisions and choices (Schein, 1978:125). Career anchors are therefore an important element of individuals' internal careers (or subjective sense of where they are going in their working lives) and signify the non-monetary or psychological factors in the career decision-making process (Custodio, 2004). Employees generally discover their career anchors after they have worked for a number of years (generally by the age of 30) by using both self-observation and external feedback on their behaviour in actual job situations (Erdoğmus, 2003; Schein, 1992).

    Schein (1992) indicated that the career anchor functions in a person's work life as a way of evaluating organisational experience, identifying areas of contribution and generating criteria for work settings that people like to function in and developing criteria for success by which people will measure themselves (Kanye & Crous, 2007). Different types of careers offer different types of rewards and opportunities to satisfy different work- and career-related needs. People's work values and career motives were found to be significantly associated with their ideal career patterns or their cognitions about the meaning of and preferred form and direction their careers should take (Coetzee & Schreuder, 2002; Coetzee, 2008; Driver, 1982; Jiang, Klein & Balloun, 2001). As such, career anchors are similar to what others have referred to as career values (Arthur, Hall & Lawrence, 1989; Ramakrishna & Potosky, 2003). According to Schein (1996), values serve as stars which steer and guide individuals to specific places within life spaces - places that can be the centre of career preferences and interests. Values are more fundamental than preferences and interests because values indicate qualities or goals sought. Judge and Bretz (1992) reported findings indicating that individuals were likely to choose jobs whose value content was similar to their own value orientation. An individual's career self-concept or identity therefore acts as a stabilising force in such a manner that when an important life or career choice needs to be made, there are certain concerns or values that the individual will not give up (Schein, 1978). Organisations and occupational groups themselves are therefore not likely to cause individuals to maintain or abandon pre-determined anchors (Lee & Wong, 2004; Schein, 1975).

    Although Schein (1978) argued that, by definition, an individual can maintain only one dominant career anchor, his own empirical evidence suggested that individuals can nonetheless have more than one strong career anchor. Given that the career anchor includes needs, values and talents that surface to the top of a person's self-concept, DeLong (1982b) and Feldman and Bolino (1996) found that one to three anchors tend to cluster together to form an individual's career and work preferences. To date, no empirical data have eliminated the possibility that multiple career anchors may stabilise over time, thus resulting in multiple stable dominant career anchors (Feldman & Bolino, 1996; Kniveton, 2004; Ramakrishna & Potosky, 2003). However, the dominant career anchor or anchors do appear to represent a stable, enduring set of beliefs (Ramakrishna & Potosky, 2002).

    Feldman and Bolino (1996) reconceptualised Schein's eight career anchors into three distinct groupings along with the inherent motivations underlying the various career anchors. These motivations are described as being talent-based, needs-based and value-based anchors. The 'talent-based' anchors consist of managerial competence (willingness to solve complex, whole-of-organisation problems and undertake subsequent decision making), technical/functional competence (the achievement of expert status among peers) and entrepreneurial creativity (opportunity for creativity and identification of new businesses, products or services). The 'needs-based' anchors consist of security and stability (long-term employment for health benefits and retirement options), autonomy and independence (personal freedom in job content and settings) and lifestyle motivations (balancing one's personal and family welfare with work commitments). The 'value-based' anchors consist of pure challenge (testing personal endurance through risky projects or physically challenging work) and service or dedication to a cause (working for the greater good of organisations or communities). Figure 1 gives an integrated overview of the concept of career anchors.

    Considering Schein's (1978, 1990) viewpoint that a person's abilities, motives and values are mutually interactive and inseparable in influencing individuals' career choices and decisions, it stands to reason that their repertoire of psychological career resources will be related to their career anchors. In this regard, it appears that individuals' psychological resources provide the energy and impetus that facilitate the actual enactment of their career desires. As shown in Figure 2, whereas people's career anchors or 'master career motives' (as an intrinsic aspect of their career consciousness) act as a cognitive compass (Fugate et al., 2004) that motivate and pull them towards (or constrain them from) specific career choices and decisions, their psychological career resources (in the form of preferences, values, skills and attitudes) empower them to pro-actively realise or create opportunities that match their career aspirations. The aim of this research therefore was to investigate whether people's psychological career resources are related to their career anchors. In view of the preceding reasoning, the following hypothesis seems to follow:

     

     

    H1: There is an interactive relationship between people's psychological career resources and their career anchors.

    In the context of the broadening career development needs of a more diversified workforce, this study is expected to contribute important knowledge that will inform career development, guidance and counselling practices concerned with enhancing employees' career meta-competencies as an important element of their general employability and experiences of intrinsic career success.

     

    RESEARCH DESIGN

    Research approach

    For this exploratory pilot study, a survey design was used to achieve the research objective (Shaughnessy & Zechmeister, 2003).

    Research method

    Participants

    The participants were a random sample of employed students who were registered across various fields of study at a higher distance education institution for a particular year. The descriptive statistics revealed that the total sample of 2 997 constituted predominantly Africans (41%) followed by white participants (31%). Indians and coloureds were under-represented (5%). Overall, black (African, Indian and Coloured) (67%) and female (58%) participants predominated in the sample. The sample was predominantly represented by participants in the early adulthood life stage (25 to 40 years) (82%). The mean age of the participants was 32, which implies well-established internal career preferences and values (Schein, 1996).

    The sample had a relatively high educational level, with 84% having attained a Grade 12 qualification, diploma and undergraduate higher education qualification. Students with a post-graduate qualification represented only 3% of the sample. The sample predominantly represented participants in full-time employment (80%), who occupied relatively high-level positions at senior and middle management level (18%) and middle- and first-level supervisory level (54%) in the service industry (81%). The following economic sectors were represented: government 35%; services 15%; financial, insurance, real-estates and business 18%; wholesale and retail 7%; transport, storage and communication 6%; and other sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, electricity/gas and construction 19%. The predominant fields of expertise reported by the participants were as follows: financial field (including accounting, auditing, banking, economics) 21%; education 11%; human resources management 9%; protective services (South African Police Service, security, military) 9%; health care 8%; marketing/media/communication 6%; public administration 6%; IT 5%; legal/law 3%; retail/sales 5%; and catering/hospitality 2%.

    Measuring instruments

    The Psychological Career Resources Inventory (PCRI) (Coetzee, 2007) and the Career Orientations Inventory (COI) developed by Schein in collaboration with DeLong (1982a; 1982b) were used to measure the variables of concern to this study.

    Psychological Career Resources Inventory (PCRI)

    The PCRI (Coetzee, 2007) is a self-rated multi-factorial measure which contains 64 items and five subscales (career preferences, career values, career enablers, career drivers, career harmonisers). To avoid neutral answers, a four-point Likert-type scale was used for subject responses to each of the 64 items. The PCRI measures 15 constructs in total. The results of exploratory factor analyses conducted by Coetzee (2007) reveal not only that the PCRI items satisfy the psychometric criteria of both convergent and discriminant validity, but also that their content is commensurate with the theoretical constructs being measured.

    The reliability of the PCRI was determined by means of Cronbach's alpha coefficient. According to Anastasi (1976), a desirable reliability coefficient would fall in the range of 0.80 to 0.90. Nunnaly and Bernstein (1994) use 0.70 as a directive, while Bartholomew, Antonia and Marcia (2000) argue that between 0.60 and 0.80 is acceptable. The reliability of the 15 constructs measured by the Cronbach alpha was also confirmed by means of the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure of sampling adequacy and the Bartlett test of sphericity (Coetzee, 2007). The overall average of the Cronbach alpha for each subscale ranges from 0.71 to 0.88, which clearly falls within the range of directives. The KMO measure for adequacy ranged from 0.79 to 0.92 for each of the subscales, indicating that the sample was adequate. The Bartlett test of sphericity yielded a statistical approximate chisquare (p < 0.001) for each of the subscales, which also indicated the probability that the correlation matrix had significant correlation amongst the variables (Coetzee, 2007).

    Career Orientations Inventory (COI)

    The COI (DeLong, 1982a; 1982b) is a self-rated measure containing 41 items. A ten point Likert-type scale was used for subject responses on each of the 41 items. The COI provides a pre-tested instrument with demonstrated high internal validity and reliability (Burke, 1983; Custodio, 2004; DeLong, 1982a; 1982b; Wood, Winston & Polkosnik, 1985). The Cronbach alpha coefficients obtained for each subscale for the sample of this study are as follows: lifestyle (0.46); technical/functional (0.59); pure challenge (0.64); security/stability (0.69); autonomy/independence (0.71); service/dedication to a cause (0.0.78); general management (0.82); entrepreneurial creativity (0.85). Since the purpose of this study was not to make individual predictions based on the COI, but rather to investigate certain relationships between variables, the instrument was considered to be psychometrically acceptable.

    It should be pointed out that the COI does not purport to measure career anchors as such, but rather career orientations. In an attempt to validate and refine Schein's (1978) career anchor model, DeLong (1982b) found that the COI measured career attitudes, values and needs of individuals, but did not reflect individuals' perception of their talents. According to DeLong (1982b), the COI measures a central part of the concept of career anchors, namely career orientation. Schein (1990) agrees with the view that the construct career anchors can be measured by means of a combination of the COI and a structured in-depth interview exercise. Moreover, applying the COI as a measurement of career anchors for research purposes is regarded as an acceptable and reliable practice by researchers in the field (Burke, 1983; Custodio, 2004; Erdoğmus, 2003; Marshall & Bonner, 2003; Ramakrishna & Potosky, 2002).

    Research procedure

    Questionnaires were mailed to 60 000 randomly selected students who were registered at the higher education institution for the particular year. The postal facilities of the institution were used to post these questionnaires. Each questionnaire included a covering letter inviting subjects to participate in the study and assuring them that their individual responses would remain confidential. Participants were requested to complete the questionnaires and return them by mail to the researchers using the return envelope. A sample of 2 997 usable questionnaires was returned. The questionnaires were scored electronically.

    Statistical analysis

    The statistical procedures chosen for this research were based on their applicability to the exploratory nature of the research design. The statistical analysis was carried out with the help of SAS software, Version 9.1 (SAS Institute, 2003). Cronbach alpha coefficients were used to assess the reliability of the constructs measured in this study. In terms of the stated research hypothesis, stepwise multiple regression analyses were carried out to identify the PCRI variables that provide the best explanation of the dependent variables (the eight COI variables). Ordinary least squares multiple regression analysis was then performed, using the most significant PCRI predictors identified by the stepwise procedure in order to obtain a better model fit and more precise estimates of the regression parameters (Draper & Smith, 1981). The value of R² was used to determine the proportion of the total variance of the dependent variable that is explained by the independent variables. The F-test was used to test whether there was a significant regression (p < 0.05) between the independent and dependent variables.

     

    RESULTS

    Descriptive statistics

    Psychological career resources

    The mean and standard deviation of each PCRI subscale are presented in Table 1, which shows that stability/expertise (mean = 3.52; SD = 0.48) and variety/creativity (mean = 3.17; SD = 0.71) are indicated as the dominant career preferences for the total sample. In line with this observation, the sample indicated growth/development (mean = 3.58; SD = 0.46) as their dominant career value. With respect to the career enabler subscale, the self/other skills (mean = 3.40; SD = 0.53) variable obtained a higher mean score than the practical/creative skills (mean = 2.41; SD = 0.69) variable. The career purpose (mean = 3.62; SD = 0.41) and career directedness (mean = 3.01; SD = 0.68) variables obtained higher mean scores than the career venturing (mean = 2.92; SD = 0.85) variable. The variables described by the career harmonisers subscale all achieved high mean scores with the social connectivity (mean = 3.33; SD = 0.55) and self-esteem (mean = 3.30; SD = 0.51) variables showing the highest mean scores.

     

     

    Career anchors

    The mean and standard deviation of each COI scale are presented in Table 1, which shows a high preference for, in particular, the service/dedication to a cause (mean = 8.54; SD = 1.29) career anchor, followed by the lifestyle (mean = 7.39; SD = 1.28) and general management (mean = 7.08; SD = 1.94) career anchors for the total sample. The technical/functional (mean = 6.14; SD = 1.60) and autonomy/independence (mean = 6.14; SD = 1.80) career anchors appeared to be the least preferred.

    Ordinary least squares multiple regression analysis

    Technical/functional career anchor

    Table 2 shows that the regression of the selected PCRI predictor variables (the career driver variables career directedness and career venturing; the career preferences variables stability/expertise and variety/creativity and the career enabler variable self/other skills) upon the technical/functional career anchor variable produced a statistically significant model (F (5, 2979) = 62.017; p < 0.001), accounting for 9% of the variance.

    General management

    The entry of the PCRI predictor variables (the career preference variables managerial and freedom/autonomy; the career values variable authority/influence; the career harmoniser variables self-esteem and behaviour adaptability; the career driver variable career venturing and the career enabler variable self/other skills) in the regression analysis for the general management career anchor variable also produced a statistically significant model (F (7, 2977) = 423.294; p < 0.001), accounting for 50% of the variance.

    Autonomy/Independence

    When the selected PCRI predictor variables (the career preference variables freedom/autonomy, stability/expertise and managerial, the career values variables authority/influence and growth/development and the career driver variables career venturing and career purpose) were regressed upon the autonomy/independence career anchor variable, a statistically significant model (F (7, 2977) = 225.309; p < 0.001), accounting for 35% of the variance, was produced.

    Security/stability

    As shown in Table 3, a statistically significant model (F (6, 2978) = 32.690; p < 0.001) was produced when the PCRI predictor variables (the career preferences variables stability/expertise and variety/creativity; the career values variable authority/influence, the career driver variable career venturing, the career harmoniser variable emotional literacy and the career enabler variable self/other skills) were regressed upon the security/stability career anchor variable, explaining 6% of the variance.

    Service/dedication to a cause

    As shown in Table 4, when the selected PCRI predictor variables (the career driver variables career purpose and career directedness, the career enabler variables self/other skills and career directedness, the career preference variable stability/expertise, the career value variable growth/development and the career harmoniser variable social connectivity) were regressed upon the service/dedication to a cause career anchor variable, a statistically significant model (F (6, 2923) = 240.485; p < 0.001), accounting for 33% of the variance, was produced.

    Pure challenge

    Table 4 shows that a statistically significant model (F (6, 2923) = 185.416; p < 0.001) was produced when the PCRI predictor variables (the career preferences variables managerial and variety/creativity, the career driver variable career venturing, the career enabler variable self/other skills, the career harmoniser variable self-esteem and the career value variable authority/influence) were regressed upon the pure challenge career anchor variable, explaining 27% of the variance.

    Lifestyle

    Table 5 shows that the regression of the selected PCRI predictor variables (the career preference variable freedom/autonomy, the career enabler variable self/other skills, the career values variable authority/influence and the career harmoniser variable emotional literacy) produced a statistically significant model (F (4, 2925) = 132.758; p < 0.001), accounting for 15% of the variance.

    Entrepreneurial creativity

    The entry of the PCRI predictor variables (the career preference variables freedom/autonomy and managerial, the career driver variable career venturing, the career enabler variable self/other skills and the career harmoniser variables self-esteem and behaviour adaptability) in the regression analysis for the entrepreneurial creativity career anchor variable also produced a statistically significant model (F (6, 2923) = 180.306; p < 0.01), accounting for 27% of the variance.

    Significant psychological career resources as predictors of career anchors

    Career preferences

    While the career preference variable variety/creativity positively predicts the pure challenge career anchor (β = 0.114; p = 0.000), it shows a negative prediction of the technical/functional (β = -0.097; p = 0.000) and security/stability (β = -0.152; p = 0.000) career anchors. On the other hand, the career preference variable managerial positively predicts the general management (β = 0.604; p = 0.000), pure challenge (β = 0.279; p = 0.000) and entrepreneurial creativity (β = 0.170; p = 0.000) career anchors, and negatively predicts the autonomy/independence career anchor (β = -0.051; p = 0.01).

    The career preference stability/expertise positively predicts the technical/functional (β = 0.194; p = 0.000) and security/stability (β = 0.169; p = 0.000) career anchors and negatively predicts the autonomy/independence (β = -0.083; p = 0.000) career anchor. Furthermore, the career preference variable freedom/autonomy positively predicts the autonomy/independence (β = 0.406; p = 0.000), lifestyle (β = 0.239; p = 0.000) and entrepreneurial creativity (β = 0.196; p = 0.000) career anchors and negatively predicts the general management (β = -0.088; p = 0.000) career anchor.

    Career values

    The career values variable authority/influence positively predicts the following career anchors: general management (β = 0.124; p = 0.000), autonomy/independence (β = 0.338; p = 0.000), security/stability (β = 0.105; p = 0.000), pure challenge (β = 0.097; p = 0.000) and lifestyle (β = 0.146; p = 0.000). The growth/development career values variable positively predicts the service/dedication to a cause career anchor (β = 0.192; p = 0.000) and negatively predicts the autonomy/independence career anchor (β = -0.104; p = 0.000).

    Career enablers

    The career enabler self/other skills positively predicts the following career anchors: technical/functional (â = 0.090; p= 0.000), general management (â = 0.057; p = 0.000); security/0.057; p = 0.000); security/stability (β = 0.072; p = 0.000), service/dedication to a cause (β = 0.205; p = 0.000), pure challenge (β = 0.108; p = 0.000), lifestyle (β = 0.121; p = 0.000) and entrepreneurial creativity (β = 0.159; p = 0.000). On the other hand, the career enabler practical/creative skills negatively predicts the service/dedication to a cause career anchor (β = -0.104; p = 0.000).

    Career drivers

    The career driver variable career purpose positively predicts the service/dedication to a cause (β = 0.294; p = 0.000) career anchor and negatively predicts the autonomy/independence (β= -0.044; p = 0.018) career anchor. Career directedness positively predicts the technical/functional (β = 0.208; p = 0.000) career anchor, and negatively predicts the service/dedication to a cause (β = -0.070; p = 0.000) career anchor. Career venturing positively predicts the general management (β = 0.056; p = 0.000), autonomy/independence (β = 0.061; p = 0.000), pure challenge (β = 0.141; p = 0.000) and entrepreneurial creativity (β = 0.201; p = 0.000) career anchors, and negatively predicts the technical/functional (β= -0.102; p = 0.000) and security/stability (β= -0.139; p = 0.000) career anchors.

    Career harmonisers

    The career harmoniser self-esteem positively predicts the following career anchors: general management (β = 0.136; p = 0.000), pure challenge (β = 0.143; p = 0.000) and entrepreneurial creativity (β = 0.123; p = 0.000). On the other hand, behaviour adaptability negatively predicts the general management (β = -0.107; p = 0.000) and entrepreneurial creativity (β = -0.095; p = 0.000) career anchors. Emotional literacy positively predicts the security/stability (β = 0.070; p = 0.000) and lifestyle (β = 0.069; p = 0.000) career anchors while social connectivity positively predicts the service/dedication to a cause (β = 0.078; p = 0.000) career anchor.

     

    DISCUSSION

    The main objective of this study was to determine the relationship between participants' psychological career resources and their career anchors. Overall, the stepwise regression analyses indicated dimensions of psychological career resources as significant predictors of participants' career anchors. The research hypothesis is therefore accepted. In interpreting the results, the following socio-demographic characteristics of the sample were kept in mind: the participants were predominantly from the service industry and held mostly managerial and supervisory level positions. Furthermore, the sample represented predominantly full-time employed Blacks and females in the entry and establishment life/career stages (25 to 40 years; mean age 32), who have attained a Grade 12 and undergraduate level qualification at a higher education institution.

    As outlined previously, psychological career resources are necessarily exhibited in a wide range of career preferences, career values, career-related skills and attitudes that form a person's career consciousness (Coetzee, 2007). It was therefore expected in general terms that specific psychological career resource variables would be related to the participants' career anchor preferences. The value of the findings obtained in the present study lies in the explanatory and predictive utility of the identified psychological career resource variables that seem to drive (and give impetus to) the enactment of the master career motives that underlie the participants' career anchors. However, each of the identified psychological career resource variables can be seen to be important only for conceptually related career anchors - those in which there exists a seemingly logical overlap between a career preference, career value or career-related skill and attitude and the master career motive underlying a specific career anchor.

    More specifically, the participants indicated the service/dedication to a cause career anchor as their dominant career anchor, followed by lifestyle and general management as the second and third career anchor preferences for the total group. The autonomy/independence and technical/functional competence career anchors were the least preferred by participants. It is interesting to note that the participants who indicated service/dedication to a cause as a master career motive also perceived themselves as having lower skills in developing and implementing personal career goals and plans. They also seem to have less clarity on the future direction of their careers (which may explain the negative association with career directedness and practical/creative skills). Participants who value being of service to a higher cause also seem to place stronger emphasis on self-management and relationship skills and being able to form supportive connections with others. Furthermore, they also seem to have a strong sense of career purpose (that is, they appear to feel called towards their careers and tend to work for the fulfilment their jobs and careers offer). These findings confirm Schein's (1990) description of people with a service/dedication to a cause career anchor as being more concerned with finding jobs which meet their values of helping others than with focusing on career progression.

    Participants whose master career motives are related to the autonomy/independence, lifestyle and entrepreneurial creativity career anchors seem to have a stronger need for freedom and autonomy than those who prefer the general management career anchor. The core overlapping themes for these three career anchors appear to be freedom from processes, norms and the rules of others and the option to negotiate their freedom so that work fits their lifestyles and habits. In this regard, Feldman and Bolino (2000) found that individuals with the autonomy/independence career anchor were most driven by the desire to live as they would like to live. They are also likely to have higher levels of entrepreneurial intentions. Similarly, people with a lifestyle career anchor also prefer to have the freedom and autonomy to balance family matters with their career and work demands (Suutari & Taka, 2004). An exploratory factor analysis of the COI (Delong, 1982a; 1982b) conducted by Coetzee and Schreuder (2009), found in this regard that the lifestyle career anchor showed to be related to two underlying dimensions: developing and maintaining a lifestyle that balances one's career and family needs, and having the freedom and autonomy to choose and maintain a certain lifestyle. The findings further suggest that a strong need for the lifestyle career anchor is positively related to participants' self-management and relationship skills. Similarly, a preference for the lifestyle career anchor also appears to lead to positive self-evaluations of the ability to express one's careerrelated needs in an emotionally literate manner.

    The entrepreneurial creativity, pure challenge and general management career anchors seem to be strongly associated with a need to manage others in positions of higher seniority and responsibility. Participants who show a strong preference for these career anchors also appear to be driven by a strong need to constantly venture out in search of new, different and challenging assignments. They furthermore appear to have positive self-regard and confidence in their ability to achieve their career goals. Moreover, these three career anchor preferences appear to be associated with self-management and relationship skills as enabling resources in achieving career success. Marshall and Bonner (2003) also point out that the general management competence requires a high level of interpersonal skills. Research by Goffee and Sease (1992) indicates that people face fewer opportunities for promotion due to increased competitive pressures and corporate downsizing. Instead, individuals who have a strong managerial career anchor are often expected to behave as 'entrepreneurs', and to be flexible and responsive to changing work requirements. In this regard, however, it is interesting to note that both the general management and entrepreneurial creativity career anchor preferences show a negative association with the ability to adapt to changing situations and the ability to deal with setbacks and failures. This may be due to a high need for achievement, status, personal power and a sense of being in control, which are often linked to these two career anchors (Lee & Wong, 2004).

    Although the need to be in positions of authority that allow one to influence others appears to be associated with the autonomy/independence, lifestyle, general management and security/stability career anchors, participants with autonomy and independence as a master career motive apparently prefer to have authority and influence without the responsibility of managing others. Moreover, the need for carving one's own space in the organisation appears to be stronger than feeling called to one's career and pursuing it for a higher purpose (or for the fulfilment it provides). The desire for opportunities to accomplish personal goals and being rewarded for performance also seems stronger than the need for further growth and development opportunities. Research conducted by Coetzee and Schreuder (2007) indicates that people who value autonomy and independence have lower job/career satisfaction than those with a technical/functional and security/stability career orientation. This may be due to the constant need for a variety of new, different and challenging assignments and opportunities to be innovative and creative.

    Both the security/stability and technical/functional competence career anchors appear to be associated with a preference for stable, predictable and steady employment that provide them with the opportunity to apply their expertise in a particular field of specialty (and hence they also seem to have a lower need for venturing out in search of new, different and more challenging career opportunities). These career anchor preferences also show a lower need for being exposed to a variety of challenging tasks that may require the use of creativity. Both career anchor preferences also appear to be associated with self-management and relationship skills as enabling resources in achieving career success. Whereas the security/stability career anchor preference seems to be associated with the ability to be aware of and express personal career needs in an emotionally mature manner, the participants with a technical/functional competence career anchor preference appear to have more certainty about their future career paths and goals. Schein (1978) indicated in this regard that individuals with a security/stability career anchor tend to be more risk-averse and generally trust the organisation to develop their career paths for them. On the other hand, people who organise their careers around their specific area of technical or functional competencies are generally interested in clear technical career ladders, to maximise their opportunities to remain challenged in their specific functional area.

    Conclusion and recommendation

    Previous research on the inner career has confirmed the role of salient career identities, career orientations, career values and career-related attitudes and meta-skills in enabling pro-active, self-directed career behaviour (Derr & Briscoe, 2007; Driver, 1982; Fugate et al., 2004; Hall, 2004; Schein, 1978; 1992; 1996). Overall, the empirical results suggest that the construct career anchors is conceptually related to a number of psychological career resource variables. As mentioned previously, Schein (1992) views a career anchor as a product of core values, motives, talents and skills that form a career self-concept which in turn shapes the form and direction of the career an individual wishes to pursue. The findings of this study showed that, apart from a dominant career anchor, individuals appear to have a number of career-related meta-skills, attitudes, preferences and values (as described by their psychological career resources). These appear to explain and drive the enactment of the master career motives and values underlying their dominant career anchors. In this regard, the findings of the study extend the career literature, particularly research on the inner or psychological career.

    Given the paucity of empirical work on the relationship between the psychological career resources and the career anchor constructs relevant to this research, it would seem sensible not to over-interpret the present findings with reference to practical implications without further corroborative research. Yet, two preliminary implications may be suggested. Firstly, as the findings illustrate that people's psychological career resources may have some potential in explaining their career anchors, it is suggested that organisations and managers consider the importance of how individuals' unique career motives and values influence their experiences of career success and satisfaction by offering multiple rewards and career paths that address the diverse needs of a multi-cultural workforce. Favourable organisational conditions and career development support practices that foster pro-active and effective career development and management may invoke higher levels of subjective and objective experiences of career success. These may lead to other important outcomes such as organisational commitment, talent retention, employee engagement and job performance.

    Secondly, as the aim of this research was not specifically to establish causality, the findings highlight the need for further research in exploring the relationship between working adults' psychological career resources and their inner career orientations. However, the practical value of the findings lies in the richness of new knowledge gained regarding the identified associations between participants' psychological career resources and career anchors. Considering the competitive global and South African employment equity context resulting in a more diversified workforce, the findings add valuable new knowledge that may be used to inform organisational career development support practices concerned with enhancing individuals' employability. In this regard, research by Kuijpers and Scheerens (2006) indicates that career support practices affect the career development ability, behaviour and motivation of employees. Such practices may include education, guidance and coaching for self-empowering career behaviours, and career meta-skills that clearly underpin individuals' inner career orientations.

    Since the present study has been limited to participants predominantly employed in the South African service industry, the findings cannot be generalised to other occupational contexts. Furthermore, given the exploratory nature of the research design, this study can yield no statements about causation. Associations between participants' psychological career resources and career anchors have therefore been interpreted rather than established. These findings need to be replicated with broader samples across various occupational groups and economic sectors before conclusions can be drawn about the relationship between these constructs.

     

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    Correspondence to:
    Melinde Coetzee
    Postal address: Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology
    PO Box 392, UNISA, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa, 0003
    e-mail: coetzm1@unisa.ac.za

    Received: 12 Feb. 2009
    Accepted: 12 May 2009
    Published: 24 July 2009

     

     

    This article is available at: http://www.sajip.co.za
    © 2009. The Authors. Licensee: OpenJournals Publishing. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.