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Career Growth as Anything but a Ladder That Only Goes Up

Career Strategies, Diversity, Recruitment...

Do you think of your career as starting at the bottom of a ladder, with every step taking you higher in terms of role, responsibility and salary?  In this article, our recruiters explain how diversified career experience looks something more like a complex web, or “jungle gym”, rather than a linear ladder.

We will share advice for embracing abstract career journeys that enrich both professional and life experience, and how to expand your skills by taking a few calculated risks with your career that can pay off, in terms of attracting opportunities from leading employers around the world.

The Myth of the Corporate Ladder

In today’s competitive business environment, the bureaucratic method of advancing through organizations is more a myth, than a fact for employees.   The truth is that senior management roles are frequently filled by external placement, where a manager or executive has demonstrated significant leadership skills in a similar role, for another related organization.

Does that mean that large organizations no longer offer the potential to grow upward, into higher salary opportunities?  No.  It simply means that when competing for those roles, your experience, education and tenure with the company must be comparable to other external candidates, who are looking to join your team.

The possibility of advancement is something that is instilled in all employees, and is part of a common retention strategy.  Continue to grow, develop your skills and engage at a high-performance level, and you can be eligible to apply for new roles.   But it is important to discern between having the “opportunity to advance” versus the expectation of advancing, simply based on tenure.   Businesses love to acknowledge and reward long term employees, but not at the cost of compromising on talent and capability, if it resides outside the current labor pool.

The realization of the competitive external factors has also contributed to shorter tenures, and some retention problems for even the most successful corporations around the world.  What does an employee do if he or she is bypassed for advancement that they feel they have earned?  Typically, they leave the organization after several unsuccessful attempts.

Visualize your career with one employer as having a “possibility” of advancement, depending on how invested you are to growing your skills, and engaging in training, continuing education, employer volunteerism and other aspects that help put you first in line for a promotion.

Job Stints Are Getting Shorter

Recruiting, training and developing an employee costs thousands of dollars.  When an experienced employee leaves, there is a skill and talent gap that must quickly be filled, before it jeopardizes the performance of the team.   Is it any wonder that employers frown upon “job jumping”, or candidates that promise a long-term commitment, and leave after 2-3 years, armed with experience and eager to seek new opportunities and higher salaries with another organization?

Industry experts have determined 4 years as the average tenure for employees under the age of forty-years.  When this statistic is shared with employers, they are not happy about the ever-shrinking pool of qualified candidates who are willing to make a long-term commitment to the organization.  However, rapidly advancing skills and retraining, as well as shortage for technology and other in-demand skills allows employees the flexibility to ‘shop around’ for a good fit, and change positions and employers, if they are not satisfied with salary, work environment or perks and benefits.

There is a benefit to employers who see the value in diverse job experience.  For many large corporations, this diversity is a key selling point and motivation to hire, as candidates demonstrate creativity, adaptability and other coveted skills.

Read: “What Employers and Recruiters Really Think About Job Jumping.”

Embracing Career Diversity

There are many paths that can build your career toward the level that you want to achieve.  Rather than being stuck in a career rut, or in a role where you feel you are not learning and growing at a rate that works with your goals, seek out new opportunities that will expand your soft skills, and CV.

Continuing education in today’s competitive employment market is a must.  Enroll in night classes or online courses that strategically support your desired direction. Volunteer opportunities, particularly with larger organizations, can expand your professional network, enhance skills, and contribute to personal growth.

Don’t be discouraged if your own career ladder looks something closer to a spider web, through multiple directions and professional phases. Stay focused, edit your career goals and revise your approach, and you can achieve advancement, increased salary opportunities and a job you are truly passionate about.