In this post, I’m doggedly continuing my pursuit to explore the idea of career success.
We started with a simple binary distinction: objective success versus subjective success. We realised that this was somewhat crude and that a bit more subtlety might be useful.
In the previous post, we added an extra dimension about how you might measure success (self-referent versus other-referent comparison).
Now it’s time to take things multidimensional!
Researchers in Belgium interviewed a number managers using a laddering technique to understand how they conceptualised career success. Having gathered the ideas, they grouped them on a set of axes
- Affect–Achievement: The Affect end of this axis stands for ‘feelings and perceptions people may have had throughout their careers that cause them to evaluate their career success as high or low’. The Achievement end refers to ‘factual accomplishments characteristic of peoples’ careers that cause them to evaluate their career success as high or low’. This seems to be a different way of saying subjective versus objective.
- Intra-personal–Inter-personal: The Intra-personal end focuses on aspects of someone’s ‘internal world that would cause him or her to evaluate career success as high or low’. The Inter-personal end focuses on ‘the relationships with the outside world career actors engage in — validations of their careers that take place outside their self that cause them to evaluate their own career success as high or low’. Again, this seems to be similar to the self-referent versus other-referent dimension. However, the inter-personal side also includes an awareness of other people’s evaluations of your success.
So far this hasn’t taken us much further than we have gone already.
What they did next was to plot the managers responses on this grid and see how ideas clustered together. This enabled them to come up with nine dimensions of career success distributed over four quadrants.
Quadrant I — Inter-personal achievement
- Performance — achieving verifiable results and meeting set goals.
- Advancement — progressing and growing in both level of responsibility and experience.
- Contribution (factual) — contributing something tangible to an organisation.
Quadrant II — Intra-personal achievement
- Self-development — reaching your full potential through meeting challenges and learning. (This has sub-domains of personal goal attainment, continuous learning, self-expression and career self-management.)
- Creativity — producing something innovative and extraordinary.
Quadrant III — Intra-personal affect
- Security — being able to meet your financial needs and having stability.
- Satisfaction — happiness in the family and work domain. (This has sub-domains of work-life balance, achievement satisfaction and independence.)
Quadrant IV — Inter-personal affect
- Recognition — being adequately rewarded and appreciated for your efforts and abilities.
- Cooperation — working well with peers, superiors, subordinates and clients.
- Contribution (perceived) — serving society through work in an ethical way.
We’ve managed to find a model which expands our ideas of career success so that we are no longer just talking about pay and job satisfaction. How does that help?
Based on the idea stimulated by Jill’s comment on the previous post, I’ve started to make a list of ‘success questions’. These are questions, some of which are based on this model, that someone can ask themselves in order to work out what success means for them individually.
I’m going to be posting these questions on Twitter with the hashtag #successquestions. Please join in or add your suggestions here. In the meantime here are a few questions for you to think about.
- Can you feel successful if people you value don’t think you are successful?
- Do you gain your main sense of career success in any particular quadrant?
- Is there anything missing from the above list that is important to your idea of career success?
- Dries, N., Pepermans, R. & Carlier, O. (2008). Career success: Constructing a multidimensional model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 73(2), 254-267. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2008.05.005