Why we should no longer see our careers as ladders

Rosie Murray-West     

Mar : 31 : 2017



Whether you see it as a greasy pole to conquer, a ladder to climb or a glass ceiling to smash, all the metaphors surrounding career advancement echo the idea that your job must be an upward progression.

However, most of us in the world of work today know these metaphors are outdated. The idea of a job for life, where your only progression is to the next rung of the company hierarchy, seems to be becoming a thing of the past.

Instead, many people’s focus is now on financial freedom, using your strengths to work when and where you want. “Work has changed a lot,” says Lindsey Reed from career experts Career Ambitions.

“My Dad worked in a bank and that was it ? but nowadays there is a lot of scope to change, for those who want to.” She says that many of us have opportunities to take our careers in a new direction. “It’s quite easy to rebrand your skills and do something different,” says Reed.

Here’s how to make a start.

Get your finances in order

If you are planning to make a big change to your career, there are a number of considerations such as retraining, making new contacts and fully getting to know the job market for your chosen field.

The financial aspect of a new career direction can be one of the most daunting, however.

Talking to a financial specialist could help ensure that you see the big picture and consider everything from how your pension contributions could be affected to ensuring that you’ve got a safety net in place.

Consider a sabbatical

A sabbatical can give you the breathing space you crave, with your job still there at the end of it

According to the Chartered Institute of Professional Development, three in 10 employers in the UK offer career breaks and sabbaticals to long-term employees. Though often unpaid, these give travellers the security of their job back at the end of their trip.

Academic studies show that these career breaks can benefit workers, increasing creativity and performance.

Consider a move from a ladder to a lattice

Forget climbing one rung at a time. Popular business book The Corporate Lattice by Cathy Benko argues that the career ladder ? which has endured since the Industrial Revolution ? has been replaced by a more flexible lattice structure.

“The lattice career pursues continued growth, development and organisational influence by creating and valuing career paths that move laterally,” her book argues.[2]

This could include running your own business on the side of your current one ? or a portfolio career working part-time in several industries.

Rebrand yourself

Consider your strengths and the things you enjoy doing, and think laterally about how you could apply them to a new career.

Ms Reed says simple tweaks to documents and public-facing profiles such as those on LinkedIn can help to move you from one industry to another.

See retirement flexibly

In the brave new world of work, what used to be your retirement date can just be the start of a new adventure.

With record numbers of older people now self-employed, it’s clear that it is a good time for setting up a new business to showcase the skills you’ve already gained.

More than a million over-65s are now in work, and many choose a part-time career to help fund retirement plans.

Careful budgeting and financial planning will help to ensure you get the balance right between work and play as you get older.

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