Tips on Advancing your Career when you see no Ladder
People often mention in their resumes: “For a job with a career growth perspective.” When they quit the job, they explain it by the “lack of career prospects.” However, the simple question – “What do you mean by career prospects?” – Makes many feel confused. At best, the applicant will respond: “I want to be the head of the department.” Perhaps some brave souls say: “I want to become a president of the bank or general director of the company,” without even thinking about what is behind this. For most, a career is something like a vertical race: the higher you go, the more critical the position and the bigger the salary. Nevertheless, a job means different options for professional development.
What is a career?
Over the past 20 years, the attitude towards the very concept of “career” has changed. The word “careerist” meant “bad man,” and in general, everything related to career had a negative connotation. However, the 2000s edition, the Big Dictionary of Economics, already reflects a shift in the public consciousness: career is “successful advancement in any field and occupation, profession,” and “careerism” – “pursuit of a job promotion, success in professional activities to achieve personal well-being.” If the word “careerist” still has a negative color, the expression “making a career” seems to be rehabilitated – it means professional self-realization: you made a career — well done, no — a loser.
Conventionally, I would highlight three “career” directions: in a vertical direction, in a horizontal direction, and a diagonal direction. There are other intermediate options. However, we will focus on the main ones.
Types of career
In vertical direction. An upright job implies a climb along the hierarchy – and not necessarily in one company, in one business or field of activity. A careerist, like a rock-climber, is always invited by height. With each rise, with each jump, the status changes, and with it the money, the name of the position sounds steeper and a salary higher. Progress is apparent – therefore the very concept of “career” is associated with a vertical career.
In this race, the so-called trade union capitalists are breaking free. These are people deprived of professional identity, their credo, their vocation is a career. The goal is to move up the career ladder as quickly as possible ¬ not lingering in one place for more than a year and a half or two years. When they talk about an excellent career, it is they who work as a model – life is full of them, they say, as an example: “Look, you studied together, and there it is!” And you still”.
A professional capitalist is a regular client of headhunters. His main product is a summary: for the sake of a new line in this most crucial document for his life, he is ready for anything. He knows what the employer needs; he carefully thinks about how to present himself, forms his image, legend, spreads the winning information about himself. His appearance in the organization was set correctly: someone phoned the right person in advance and presented the candidate, as it should.
In search of the next position in the following company, the professional capitalist becomes a real tracker: he monitors new opportunities, searches for the most profitable locations and companies for himself. He is well versed in the market, and he knows who and where he went from, where he has moved, with which people there is a need to communicate so that he can get help, prompted, supported.
Career capitalists know how to apply and sell themselves. However, when the desired position and salary are already in your pocket, they will do precisely so that the employer does not have serious complaints about them. There is no question of any kind of corporatism or loyalty to the management. They, figuratively speaking, do not have such gyres. They are ready to adapt, to make compromises for the sake of position, social package, and salary, to change their sympathies, preferences and even principles. They do not grow to the company, to the project, to the business. They do not want to delve deeply into problems, fully surrender to work, seriously interact with people, and join the team, because, after a year or two, they will run farther. Therefore, if you need to change something in essence, create something new, build, any better than that. They are bored with sitting still: “This is not my cup of tea, mine is somewhere out there …” They come there – again, “not mine.” And the only way to get rid of boredom is a vertical career. Moreover, the profession itself is of no interest in career capitalists; usually, they quickly change it to another, more profitable and prestigious.
However, career capitalists sometimes are beneficial for the organization, especially where they can score points at the same time: at presentations, conferences, during IPOs, at negotiations, when it is necessary to cut a feather, to sell the product, the idea, to increase the value of the company.
To build a career, it is not necessary to become a “climber.” Someone thinks that a smart one will not go up in the world. For these, it is better to be just a traveler – to walk on the plain, developing in your profession, pushing your professional horizons, acquiring new knowledge and skills. Horizontal career is a professional career.
Not everyone wants and can be a boss: less than 1% of people can lead others. And not all who drive, do it voluntarily, just because life has developed. However, in a horizontal career, reaching the top is almost impossible, unless, of course, all the time to improve in their field.
A horizontal career has many advantages. For example, they can lose a job from any position, and they cannot transfer the skill, professionalism, or knowledge by order. If a vertical career often depends on the circumstances and people with whom you need to build relationships, then a horizontal direction does a job almost independently.
A horizontal careerist does not care about his position; the main thing for him is to go about his business and do it at the highest level.
Still, many strive to become chiefs, even if in their hearts they understand: this is not mine. Why? One has to justify oneself in front of one’s family somehow and front of oneself, otherwise, it will turn out ¬ “I am sitting and not growing.” And few people think about professional development.
Meanwhile, acquiring professional skills is a stimulating activity. If a person wants to become a unique specialist, grow creatively, expand the circle of professional communication and thereby increase his value in the labor market, it means that a horizontal career is better for him. Constant development is one of the conditions of a job in a horizontal direction.
Most often, people with creative rather than career ambitions choose a horizontal career: designers, programmers, journalists, trainers, doctors, lawyers, musicians.
However, horizontal careerists are in any field. They have their ethics: they are ashamed to do their own thing poorly. For them, the respect of colleagues, the realization that their work is needed, that they can do it better than others, is more critical than any regalia. Such people namely develop the profession. They do not jump from place to place, from company to company for the sake of a new position. They are confident in themselves because they know that they will not get lost in the labor market during an economic and political storm. No wonder they are hunted by recruiters.
Of course, a career in the horizontal direction has its limitations – financial and status. However, there are advantages: for example, you can concentrate on one thing, answer only for yourself, and not for those who are in your hand.
In diagonal direction. And what about those who would like to grow professionally, but not without career ambitions? Move both vertically and horizontally. If you add up these two vectors, you get a diagonal.
Diagonal career develops within one company. Such a job does not involve forcing – “higher and higher and higher.” A person moves forward progressively, taking advantage of opening opportunities. He works in his place; he likes his company or field of activity; there are roots in the organization; he is interested there and feels comfortable.
You could say he is a company patriot. He wants to work for it and does not hide it – on the contrary, shows activity, initiative. He is devoted to it, and his loyalty and corporate spirit are entirely sincere. He shares the values of the organization, norms, and rules. He is genuinely attached to its people and does not become less self-sufficient. He contributes to the corporate culture, to the formation of a warm, trusting atmosphere. It enriches both the company and himself, making his life emotionally filled.
Usually, the diagonal careerist grows professionally for a while, and then he gets a promotion. When will the next one be and whether it is not known, and it continues to work, not trying to move to another organization to a higher position? The bosses appreciate this – and here lies the danger. They are starting to drive him upstairs – well, how can you not appoint such a specialist as head of the department? Did you do it? We move further – to the head of the department. Then on the board of directors.
There is another danger in the career in a diagonal direction. When you work for many years in the same company, it seems that you know its length and breadth, so it will be easier to get used to the new position than to the outsider. Perhaps, “their” will not appoint a trial period, but they will look more closely than to a stranger. Also, relations with colleagues can be complicated: for many years you were on an equal footing, studying together, working, chatting in a smoking room – and suddenly you became their boss! An internal transition can be much more difficult and painful than to another company.
Therefore, on the one hand, we need to understand our limitations, and on the other, the boundaries of the company, which may not have a vacancy for us. However, the advantages of diagonal growth are apparent. Experience in one organization allows you to thoroughly understand the problem, gain credibility, be in the right place and feel more confident than many others.
How to choose your career?
It is a matter of personal taste. For most, life is all about work. And a career develops throughout the entire professional history – each has its way. Building a job is difficult. There are many strategies, methods, and everyone can choose what is close to him.
A career in a vertical direction is upward mobility, wage increase. Career achievements are reflected even on a business card; others can see it and in response to hearing: “Ooh! Grow up! ”
A career in the horizontal direction is the accumulation of knowledge and skills. Sometimes only a narrow circle of people knows about success; sometimes those are us just who knows.
There is something about a career in a diagonal direction from both: a new position, and professional growth. Take a surgeon, for example. He can set himself various tasks: to become, for example, the deputy minister of health or the head of a department (vertical career), merely a high-quality surgeon (horizontal), chief doctor or leader of a department in the hospital where he works (diagonal).
In real life, a “pure” career option is rare; most often it is a mix of all three. Nevertheless, the ratio of career “ingredients” is purely individual. Therefore, before choosing your career path, you need to assess the situation, your ambitions, and opportunities. The more objective we are, the more likely that our career will thrive.
I want, I can, I must. First of all, we need to understand what we want, and this is not so easy, although it is very worthwhile to spend time and think about your desires. Any of our journey through life begins with the phrase: “I want …”. You can consider career planning can be thought of as organizing a vacation.
Usually, we know in advance where we are going, on which plane, in which hotel we will stay. Even if we are hitchhiking, we know which road we will take.
And before you climb the career ladder, you need to look: did I put it to that building? What is my goal? What do I want? Of course, it is difficult to formulate a specific purpose, in many respects because we are afraid in advance that we will not be able to achieve it. Internal censor whispers: if you are not 100% sure, then it is better not to think about it.
Then let us go from the opposite – we think about what we do not want. To say what I do not want or what I am not ready to sacrifice is usually much more comfortable. For example, I do not want to work in a large bureaucratic company, and I am not interested in all my life doing bookkeeping. On the other hand, I do not want to break up with my colleagues. Such a “career” vision is necessary. It is like a bridge from the present to the future, no matter how common it may sound.
You can still simplify the task. Let us dream. Imagine that there are no external restrictions, and we will think about what I want to change in my life, what work to do, what team to have, which corporate culture is closer to me, where I would like to live, what salary to receive, what kind of burden I can bear? It will be easier to till the field if to answer these questions.
It is essential to understand what I want, without regard to others, even the most significant ones.
Then you need to see what resources I have, that is what I can. And try to assess how much the market demands it. Therefore, the triad is built “I want – I can – I must.” Our task is to find a balance between these components: we correlate our desires with our capabilities, project the result obtained onto the situation outside, assess our chances for success and then make a choice.
When we cut off all unnecessary things, when it became clear to us where to go, the choice itself begins to work. I watched it many times. The option organizes us, sets the rhythm, aspiration, motivation. For example, I decided: I want to make a career in an international consulting company. However, for this you need good Spanish, which means that I am going to language courses so that in six months or a year, I can receive a certificate or vice versa, I refuse the offer to move to a higher position in another organization, because everything suits me – and the essence of the work, salary, and team. To change nothing is also a choice.
Fatigue from fast running appears when we are not clear where, when there is no sense in movement. And if the goal is clear – this is already running not from someone, but in the name of something, it is a movement towards the goal.
“Do what you like, and do your best.” Therefore, we have determined where to start, made the first steps. True, we do not see the whole way – you will not look beyond the horizon. However, if there is a goal, the task for today and the next year can and should be set. Therefore, in our realities, short-range -, medium-range and long-term planning – for a year, for five and ten years – must be approached flexibly and in some sense with humor. Then everything will come true. At the same time, acting, it is necessary to analyze the situation continually: what am I doing now, why am I doing this, does it bring me closer to my goal or postpones.
There is no perfect career, one for all. Everyone determines one`s path by oneself. At the same time, you need to remember a few important things. First of all, the responsibility for the decision made, for the choice of the goal, for the failure and success lies with us, and we must not shed it to anyone. Secondly, if you made a decision, you should not listen to pessimists, you need to believe in best, aim for a win, see decisive moments in anything, even fruitless efforts and trust your intuition. Thirdly, no matter what decision we take – to build a career in a vertical direction, in the horizontal direction or a diagonal one, we must try not to become better in our field only, but also to learn how to do what others cannot.
One more thing. If something suddenly went wrong, as we would like, you can always change it. I insist: it is never too late to fix it – sit down, think what suits you best, look around and act. Do not be afraid to start all over again, no matter how old we are. Life is a long distance. The career does not end either at 40, or at 50, or 60 years. What is happening to us now is just a part of a long journey. If we suddenly feel like changing something in our life, it is not by chance. So, all that was before will help to build another career. The main thing is to understand what we need personally. Then you can apply the classic formula for success: “Do what you like and do your best.”
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