Is four too much for you?
Last week I presented a few career-style typologies that came in sets of four, but it’s entirely possible that remembering four types might be too much for you — it often is for me.
So, how about just two types: Players and Purists. These two archetypes represent extreme approaches that graduates may take in managing their employability.
They were identified by Phil Brown and Anthony Hesketh from Lancaster University in their book The MisManagement of Talent: Employability and Jobs in the Knowledge Economy.
Purists see employability as being about having the best attributes. They believe that the job market should be an objective meritocracy, and that the people with the best qualities should get the job.
Purists also believe that they have to be authentic to themselves and preserve the integrity of their identity. Whether you match the job and can do it well is more important that whether you fit with the organisational culture and can build the right relationships.
Players think of employability as a game in which you have to adapt yourself to the expectations of the employers (or at least pretend to) in order to win. For players, it’s all about sussing out how to play the system.
Players are prepared to shift their identities in order to present a better fit for a desirable organisation. They are aware of the importance of the need to gain approval from those with the power to influence their careers and strive to get themselves noticed.
This distinction reminds me of some research on career success I blogged about quite a while ago which compared graduates who construed their work selves in terms of achievement and competence with those who construed themselves in terms of social behaviour, adjustment and flexibility.
I was also reminded of the two systems of social/career mobility proposed in 1960 by Ralph Turner.
In a contest mobility framework, progress and promotion is the result of open competition. Your success is largely a result of how hard you work, your ability, education and training. In this situation, success is in the hands of the individual. If you succeed, it is down to your merit; if you fail, it is your own fault.
In a sponsorship mobility framework, advancement is under the control of the existing elite. Those who already have the power choose who else will be admitted to the club and extend favour to the chosen individuals. If you don’t get the approval from above, you cannot succeed, no matter how hard you try. In this situation, all the individual can do is to try to make themselves as appealing to the elite as possible and hope for the best.
So, it seems that Purists believe the world of work operates on a contest mobility basis and Players see things in terms of sponsorship mobility.
In reality, of course, most working environments will lie somewhere between the contest and sponsorship extremes. In the same way, most people will be a mix of Player and Purist. Indeed, they may move closer to one end or the other depending on their circumstances.
Which end are you closest to?
- Brown, P. & Hesketh, A. (2004). The MisManagement of Talent: Employability and Jobs in the Knowledge Economy, Oxford University Press.
- Turner, R. (1960). Sponsored and Contest mobility and the school system. American Sociological Review, 25(6), 855-867. DOI: 10.2307/2089982