Often when we talk about career development, we talk about climbing the ladder, or taking that next step upwards, yet often we don’t know what this really means to us. We are conditioned to think that success always should mean a vertical climb, when in all truthfulness, success comes from achieving whatever YOU want to!
The number of people that I speak to about career development or career progression who want to know how they can get to that “next level” is always eye-opening to me. Why? Not because I don’t find it inspiring, I think driven and ambitious people are amazing – yet, what I find interesting, and a common thread in these conversations is that when I ask why an individual wants to progress to the next step on the ladder, or what it is about the next step that they specifically want, many people cannot articulate it. Often, I think it is the lure of the perceived status, or the title you receive. Perhaps it is the assumption of more money that people really want (and of course, who doesn’t want more money!?!).
These things are all great and are most definitely representations of moving your way forward professionally, however, it is important to consider that these benefits, although they might satisfy in the short term, if the position and the work that you are doing is not aligned with where you want to go longer term, then the ability to experience genuine satisfaction once you achieve this “next step” will not be long lasting. Once the hype of a new title, or a salary increase dies down, if you are not completely sure of where you want to go, then you may find yourself having these feelings of “what next?”, again.
If climbing the ladder for you makes sense and aligns with your career aspirations and you know that each step “up” gets you closer to those career dreams you continue to have, then that is flippin’ brilliant my friend – kudos to you, and keep pushing!! But, if there is any part of you that thinks you are only aiming upwards because you think you must, or that it is the only logical path that meets the definition of success, then I assure you that it is not.
Here are just a couple of ways that you can still experience amazing career growth and development, AND success without following the conventional pathway from entry level, to junior, to individual contributor, to leader, to Executive etc.
Go sideways to go upwards – increase your business awareness by increasing your scope and knowledge horizontally. A lateral move gives you the opportunity to increase your skillset, build relationships and take the time to work out what really lights you up. If then, at the end of this you were still clear that your next move was upwards into a leadership role, or an executive position, then you would be best placed with your now well-rounded knowledge of the operations of the business.
Freelance on the side to build up a network and hone in on your skills – there are endless numbers of freelancing sites now all dedicated to helping people hone in on their expertise and provide a product or service direct from them to the end consumer. And allowing them to build their brand and name in the process. Whether it is Graphic Design you want to do, or even Jewellery making, there is a site for it from Freelancer, to Airtasker, through to Etsy.
Start your own side hustle – Think you want out of the corporate climb and want to have the freedom to do your own thing? Build up a side hustle outside of your 9-5 and see what traction you get there. At the very least, you’ll find out if this is the path for you, but imagine the fruits of your hard work if it all comes off! #nothingventurednothinggained
Take some time off to work out what lights you up and then go for it– This is one that will be different for everyone and their own unique situation, but if you find yourself in a head space where you think you may be stuck on the hamster wheel, and you don’t know why, take some time and some space to reflect. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are you passionate about? What excites you?
- What do you value in life? (i.e. family, friends, adventure, career, wealth, freedom etc).
- What are your non-negotiables in life? (i.e. having a successful career, being fit, having children, driving a nice car etc).
- When you wake up each morning, are you pumped for your day, or do you drag yourself out of bed counting how many days until the weekend?
- What are your strengths? What would your friends or family say your strengths were?
- What career opportunities are there that align both with your values and your strengths?
For those who know they want to be in the C-Suite of titles (CEO, CFO etc) that is great, and I look forward to sharing future blog posts with you about the transition from individual contributor, to leader to executive, as well as tips and tricks on how you can get there. But, for those of us who are on this path just because you think you should be, or because that is what you’ve been led to believe is what success means – get the f*ck out of your own way!
Success is whatever YOU make it, and whatever YOUR definition of it is. And, it won’t be the same as the next persons, and that is OK.
If you need a little extra support working out what your next career move is, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and lets talk about how I can help you get some clarity.
Keen advocate for helping you get the f*ck out of your own way!