How you can reframe your career ladder to open yourself up to possibility
Historically, careers have been linear in nature: start in a junior role, progress to middle management, and then climb up the ladder to senior leadership. As employees, we have in turn been conditioned to keep our eyes focused on the rung above us as the top-most rung represents “success”.
But what happens when we start to question whether we want to take that step up the ladder? What happens when we question whether we want the people management responsibilities that accompany that next role? What happens when we start asking ourselves whether we even want to stay on that ladder – whether the ladder is making us happy?
For most, these thoughts can feel daunting and insurmountable. We tell ourselves that it’s too late to change the trajectory of our career or that we don’t have the skill set to do something new. Sometimes we question how we will be perceived if we want to stay in a technical, manage-self role and not progress into a people management role instead – we ask ourselves how this decision will adversely impact our career.
In essence, our fixation on the career ladder can lead to limiting beliefs about what success can look like, our potential to succeed, and our ability to pursue that which we truly desire.
Ask yourself what “success” truly means to me…
Success is not a one-size-fits-all term, but rather a subjective one that often links back to our personal values and core beliefs. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does financial wealth and status equate to success for me? What role, if any, do happiness, purpose, and fulfillment play?
- Does success require me to have an impact within the four walls of the organisation I work for OR do I need to have an impact in society?
- How does the health of my relationships with family and friends factor into my definition?
- Is my well-being a factor?
Then reframe the ladder…
Once you have redefined “success” for yourself, consider what possibilities are available to you if you view your career as a kids’ jungle gym rather than a ladder. A playground with features like:
- Monkey bars to move sideways on and find a different role that feels more exciting.
- Slides to get off the playground and get perspective on all the roles that are available to you, and perhaps even those that exist in a completely different environment, like the world of entrepreneurship.
- Ropes, which may have always felt too challenging, but which you now feel inspired to try.
- Swings, allow you to bring joy back into your career.
If you’ve watched kids at a playground, they are always full of energy and zipping from one corner to the next as they explore all of the equipment. What if you brought that energy and expansiveness to how you thought about your career? What if you didn’t let a ladder that someone else has built limit or define your potential?
Empowerment Coach, DEI Consultant
Keynote Speaker & Freelance General Counsel