A career is a growth and achievement path a person experiences in their working life. A career is necessarily a personal pattern in that it is defined as successful by each individual. Yet there are common patterns to careers - whether those careers are in traditional business environments or non-traditional working environments. This write-up describes some common patterns to the traditional, organization-based careers.

The discussion is divided into three Sections. The first section describes a career from the perspective of the individual person. There are ideas an individual should consider when planning a career. The second section describes the career from the perspective of the organization. The organization's notion of a career may or may not coincide with that of an individual because the goals of each may be different. However, to be successful both the individual and the organization must come to some common understanding if they are to cooperate for mutual benefit. The third section discusses the matching of the individual and the organization's career perspectives.

I. The Individual Perspective

There are three elements an individual must consider when planning a career. They are Stages, Anchors, and a Planning Process. The Stages concept provides the overall framework of the career as a "life-cycle". Anchors provide a theoretical base for illustrating how careers develop based upon personality tropisms. Finally, the planning process is a series of steps the individual can complete to ensure career success.

A. Career Stages

Career stages describes the "life-cycle" aspect of a career. A career has four distinct stages, each with its special requirements or tasks. The four stages are Apprentice, Colleague, Mentor, and Sponsor.1

Apprentice Stage
The Apprentice stage begins when the individual joins the organization. The person must discover which elements of work are critical, which require the greatest attention, and he or she must learn to competently perform the required tasks.
Colleague Stage
The Colleague stage is where the individual moves from dependence to independence. He or she must develop ideas, judgement, and an area of specialization. Activities include having one's own project or area of responsibility. This will enhance his or her sense of competence and self-esteem.
Mentor Stage
The Mentor stage is distinguished by increased responsibility for influencing, guiding, directing, and developing other people. The person must be psychologically willing to take responsibility for someone else's output. The individual utilizes his or her abilities to achieve results and trains others to do the same.
Sponsor Stage
The Sponsor stage is last. The person is responsible for directing the organization or some major segment of it. Negotiating with environmental elements and directing the resources of the organization toward specific goals are roles required at this stage.

B. Career Anchors

Career Anchors is a theory developed by Edgar Schein. It is based upon a longitudinal study of business graduates from M.I.T. He hypothesises that people have a dominant self-concept based upon perceived talents, abilities, motives, attitudes, and values. This self-concept remains relatively stable and guides, constrains, and stabilizes the person's career.2 Most people operate from a combination of anchors, but one of the five usually dominates. The five anchors are managerial competence, technical/functional competence, security, creativity, and autonomy and independence. The selection of particular jobs or companies is influenced by these anchors.

Managerial Anchor
is a combination of interpersonal and analytical competencies tempered by the emotional stability to bear a high level of responsibility and authority.
Technical/Functional Anchor
is rooted in analytical tasks where the person is motivated by the need to successfully complete the task.
Security Anchor
seeks stability by linking a career with the organization. This person most often accepts the organization's definition as the only valid notion of a career.
Creativity Anchor
is characterized by the need to make or participate in something unique or at least different from the usual activities of others.
Autonomy and Independence Anchor
describes one's need for personal freedom.

C. The Career Planning Process

The career planning process is a method to ensure that the individual is achieving his or her career aspirations. It involves three steps.

  1. Self-Analysis
  2. Environmental Analysis
    • Mentors
    • Position Analysis
  3. Goal Setting and Plan Implementation

The first step is self-analysis and involves determining one's personal goals and assessing one's skills and abilities. This is accomplished through an analysis of one's past successes. Numerous sources provide help with this stage. One of the more popular books on self-analysis for over 25 years is What Color Is your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. A related book a more rigorous approach is Where Do I Go From Here With My Life? by John Crystal and Richard Bolles.

The second stage is environmental analysis. It is the one critical aspect of career planning that most self-inventory methods forget.3 Career objectives cannot be achieved by an individual alone: it requires interaction with others. The individual and the organizational perspectives are closely intertwined at this stage. The person requires feedback on performance and information about career opportunities. Without feedback planning becomes difficult. The difficulty is compounded when the organization doesn't readily supply feedback. That issue will be addressed in the second section on the Organiziational Perspective.


With or without formal assessment and career information, the individual will do well to obtain a mentor. Most successful business people have had one. Many surveys of people whose promotions were announced in the Wall Street Journal indicated that fully two-thirds of rising business people have had mentors.4

A mentor provides the individual with needed information. The mentor is a senior person who has achieved at least some success within the firm. Consequently, they can teach the young aspirant the unwritten rules of how to accomplish his or her tasks in the most effective manner. The mentor also has the contacts with those who should know about the individual's performance.5

Position Analysis

Position analysis is another important factor in environmental analysis. Each particular job is important in terms of who one sees, what one learns, and how one becomes qualified in one's field. Position analysis helps the individual assess a job in terms of exposure, visibility, and growth.6

describes what the individual sees from the vantage point of the job. To rate high on exposure, a job should provide opportunity to discover and sample various tasks in one's field. This allows the person to have a good view of the career field--an essential requirement for later career moves.

is the opportunity the job provides the person for being seen. The point brought out by this job characteristic is that who sees one's performance is critical for career advancement. The individual needs to be visible to the right people; those who can advance one's career must get examples of one's good work. The mentor can help with this. The person must also be visible outside of the firm because career opportunities may exist elsewhere.

means staying current in both skills and in the timing of one's career moves. One needs to develop new capabilities continually over one's lifetime. Career planning means focusing on the skills needed by those on higher levels--possibly looking two or more steps above one's present position.

Growth and timing of career moves can be very important according to one study of middle managers: of the first six positions of a career, plateaued managers began to show noticeable characteristics by the third position. The plateaued manager spends an average of one year longer than the three years non-plateaued managers spend in a position. The plateaued person moved into a position that the predecessor had also stayed in for an inordinant amount of time--up to three years longer than the predecessors of non-plateaued managers. Plateaued individuals rated lower on job visibility and exposure, spent significantly less time per week in projects with upper management (13% vs. 20%), and were less impatient with their career progress than managers who were still in the mainstream of the firm.7

The final stage of career planning is goal setting and plan implementation. This state is dependent upon the unique characteristics of each individual's situation. The critical consideration is to have goals and plans on how to achieve them. Goal setting can range from simple set of goals with an anticipated target year for each to extensive career plans that resemble corporate strategic plans. The latter can include career goals organized by short, medium, and long term horizons with specific action plans for accomplishing each of them.

II. The Organizational Perspective

The organization sees the career as a sequence of positions that have been defined as a career path. The positions contain certain duties and require specific skills. The organization seeks to ensure that an adequate supply of trained labor is available for these positions. Avoiding skill obsolescence is one reason why firms engage in career planning.

A second reason is the increased pressure to provide better opportunities for minorities and women to move up in the organization. The E.E.O.C. and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the Department of Labor have been requiring organizations to identify career paths.8

A third reason is the improved utilization of personnel. Performance is better when people are placed in jobs they like and which fit their ambitions. This coincides with the increased demand for better quality of working life. Younger employees are expressing a desire for greater control of their own careers. In order to retain good personnel, organizations must provide them with clear opportunities.9

An effective Career Management program includes six ingredients:

  1. human resource plans;
  2. career path design;
  3. career information;
  4. employee assessment;
  5. career counseling; and
  6. work experiences.10

The foundation of career management is human resource plans. It is the inventory of current manpower, a forecast of future manpower needs, and an analysis of the differences between the two.

Many organizations lack career path design. There isn't any clear path the employee can see as a logical career track. Paths can be created for growth within various broad occupational groupings such as clerical-office, data processing, research laboratory, sales, personnel, engineering, and manufacturing.11 Jobs should be grouped according to their duties and the skills required such that successive jobs involve some skill development but not a completely new skill set. One source suggested clustering jobs into families based upon the six orientations of John Holland.12

Career information should be provided so that employees can realistically plan for advancement. However, the practice usually is to keep job opportunities as a precious piece of information among a few top executives. To ensure an adequate supply of ready labor that management will need to open up about position availability and career opportunities so employees can be ready when an opening arises.

Employee assessment is another key ingredient of the Career Management Program. Employee performance and potential must be assessed for smooth career growth for both the organization and the individual. Several methods can be used.

Career counseling can take many forms. One survey of 40 U.S. organizations discovered the following types of career counseling: planning workshops, workbooks, and counseling/discussion. The programs also included job posting, skills inventories, career pathing, career resource centers, and outplacement counseling. This survey concluded that the most effective form is the career workshop. The organizations who used the workshop indicated that it provides a more visible impact on a larger audience than either workbooks or counseling.13 It should be stressed that providing career counseling is not an offer by the firm for future career advancement.l4

One of the most powerful tools for training employees is on-the-job training. The employee provided with work experience can learn and master relevent knowledge and skills. There are many forms for these planned experiences. Job rotation, temporary job assignments, temporary lateral transfers, and assignment to a temporary task force are examples.

III. The Matching Process

The organization and the individual have their own needs and desires for career planning and management. They need to be meshed in order to provide the greatest satisfaction for both parties. Schein provides a framework wherein each party's needs are matched. Figure 1 shows the diagram for this process.

The three components of the model are Individual needs, Organizational needs, and the Matching process. The first is illustrated in terms of an employee's work life-cycle. The second includes such activities as planning for staffing, growth, and replacement. The third includes common techniques such as job analysis, recruiting, and training.

Figure 1

The Matching Process
Organizational and Individual Career Needs

Organizational                         Matching                          Individual
    Needs                              Process                             Needs
--------------                         --------                          ----------

A. Planning for Staffing

Strategic business,              Job Analysis
Job/role, & Human      ---->     Recruitment & Selection      <----   A. Career or Job Choice
Resource Planning                Introduction, socialization
                                  and initial training
                                 Job design and job assignment

B. Planning for Growth                                                B. Early Career Issues
   & Development
                                                                         Locating one's area of
1. Inventory Development         Supervise & Coaching                     contribution, learning
   Plans                  -->    Performance appraisal &       <--        how to fit into the
2. Follow-up & evaluate            judgement of potential                 organization.
   development activities        Organizational rewards                  Becoming productive
                                 Promotions & other job changes          Seeing a viable future for
                                                                           oneself in the career.

                                 Training & Development Opportunities
                                 Career Counseling
                                 Joint career planning

C. Planning for Leveling Off                                           C. Mid-Career Issues
   and Disengagement             Continuing Education & retraining
                                 Job re-design and job enrichment         Locating one's career anchor
                          -->    Alternative patterns of work &     <--     building a career around it.
                                   rewards.                               Specializing vs
                                 Retirement planning and counseling         generalizing.

D. Planning for Replacement                                            D. Late Career Issues
   Restaffing                    Update Human Resource inventory
                                 Replacement training programs            Becoming a mentor
                          -->    Re-analysis of jobs                <--   Leveraging experience
                                 New cycle of recruitment                   and wisdom
                                                                          Letting go & retiring

Milkovich and Anderson, pg 348.

IV. Summary

Career Planning and Development is a complex process involving two perspectives that must be matched together. The individual perspective includes career stages, anchors, and a planning heuristic. The stages are Apprentice, Colleague, Mentor, and Sponsor with each having its own special tasks. An anchor is a dominant self-concept that guides, constrains, and stabilizes the individual's career. The career planning process involves three steps: self analysis, environmental analysis, and goal selection and implementation. Mentors, visibility, exposure, and growth are important elements of this process.

The organizational perspective sees career planning as all the activities required to ensure a ready supply of trained labor. The six activities are human resource planning, career path design, career information, assessment, counseling, and work experiences.

Career Development has become a major concern today because of the individual's increased desire for career autonomy in a fast-paced economy that sheds and re-hires workers with greater frequency than in previous generations.

  1. Milkovich and Anderson, "Career Planning and Development Systems," p. 368.
  2. Thorn, Fee, and Carter, "Career Development: A Collaborative Approach," p. 38.
  3. Leach, "Career Development: Some Questions and Tentative Answers," p. 32.
  4. Johnson, "Mentors--The Key to Development and Growth," p. 55.
  5. ibid.
  6. Moore, The Career Game.
  7. Veiga, "Plateaued versus Nonplateaued Managers...," pp. 570-575.
  8. Beach, Personnel: The Management of People at Work, p. 320.
  9. ibid.
  10. ibid, pp. 326-328.
  11. ibid., p. 327.
  12. Kravetz and Derderian, "Developing a Career Guidance Program Through the Job Family Concept." The six are realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional.
  13. Gutteridga and Otte, "Organizational Career Development: What's Going on Out There?"
  14. Milkovich and Anderson, op. cit., p. 385.

  • Gutteridge, Thomas and Otte, Fred, "Organizational Career Development: What's Going On Out There?" Training and Development Journal, February 1983, pp. 22-26.
  • Hanson, Marlys, "Career/Life Planning Workshops As Career Services in Organizations--Are They Working?" Training and Development Journal, February 1982, pp. 58-63.
  • Hurley, Patricia, "Conversations with Edgar Schein, Tim Hall, and Marlys Hanson," Training and Development Journal, February 1983, pp. 66-70.
  • Johnson, Mary, "Mentors--The Key to Development and Growth," Training and Development Journal, July 1980, pp. 55-57.
  • Kravetz, Dennis and Derderian, Stephanie, "Developing a Career Guidance Program Through the Job Family Concept," Personnel Administrator, October 1980, pp. 39-42+.
  • Leach, John, "Career Development: Some Questions and Tentative Answers," Personnel Administrator, October 1980, pp. 31-34.
  • Leach, John, "The Career Planning Process," Personnel Journal, April 1981, pp. 283-287.
  • Leibowitz, Zandy, Caela Farren, and Beverly Kaye, "Will Your Organization Be Doing Career Development in the Year 2000?" Training and Development Journal, February 1983, pp. 14-20.
  • "Life and Work: Ending the Separation," Management World, May 1983, p. 23.
  • Longenecker, Justin and Pringle, Charles, Management, 6th ed., Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill, 1984.
  • McKain, Robert, Realize Your Potential, New York: AMACOM, 1975.
  • Milkovich, George and Anderson, John, "Career Planning and Development Systems," Roland and Ferris, Personnel Management, pp. 364-389.
  • Moore, Charles G., The Career Game, New York: Ballantine Books, 1976.
  • "The Neglected Art of Career Planning," Fortune, June 27, 1983, pp. 153-155.
  • Phillips-Jones, Linda, "Establishing a Formalized Mentoring Program," Training and Development Journal, February 1983, pp. 38-42.
  • Roach, John (ed.), Career Planning: A How-To Chart for Your Future, New York: Society for Advancement of Management, 1975.
  • Roland, Kendrith M. and Ferris, Gerald R. (ed.), Personnel Management, Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1982.
  • Schein, Edgar, "How 'Career Anchors' Hold Executives to Their Career Paths," in John Roach, Career Planning: A How-To Chart for Your Future, pp. 37-50.
  • Thorn, I. Marlene, Francis X. Fee and Jane O'Hara Carter, "Career Development: A Collaborative Approach," Management Review, September 1982, pp. 27-28+.
  • Veiga, John, "Plateaued Versus Non Plateaued Managers: Career Patterns, Attitudes, and Path Potential," Academy of Management Journal, September 1981, pp. 566-578.

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