Your career doesn’t have to be moving up to mean it’s growing and progressing. Here’s why.

Career progression and success in the past has often been thought of in terms of gaining a promotion or title that signifies another rung on the career ladder has been climbed. But the work world is changing, and gradual, linear gains to the ‘top’ aren’t the reality anymore. Organizations need leaders who have a wider range of experience that the traditional career pathway doesn’t often afford. 

In my book, The Inequality Equalizer, and throughout my years of experience, I’ve advised professionals to take those ‘sideways’ and ‘diagonal’ opportunities too, gathering what unique skills and experiences they can because those non-linear positions can often lead you to the next best step for your career. 

A recent blog post from Korn Ferry addresses this strategy, referring to it as the career lattice, a term that clearly illustrates the idea of advancing a career through all sorts of directions. The blog post says, “Companies have delayered and the world has become more complex and diverse. Organizations now need leaders with a breadth of experience that can’t be found traveling up the rungs of a narrow career ladder. And they need them to acquire these skills quickly.” The blog post also says that just because progress isn’t in a direct line doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be planned. The post calls for Companies to optimise their development and education programs and to provide support for creating strategic career moves that prepare leaders for future roles while also boosting their chances of success.

There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to this change in the world of work. Technology and globalized business have changed where and how work is done, and that will continue to change as technology advances. A leader’s skills and experience need to reflect this diversity, and it’s becoming harder and harder to find that diversity on just one single career ladder. 

An article from The Atlantic discusses this shift in the work world, describing it as a focus on skillful transitions and transferable skills. The article says it’s all about “skill sets that prove to be relevant across a variety of job sectors—team management and customer service, for instance—create opportunities for people to be hired but also open new avenues for advancement within that company.” The article contains an interview with Lauren Laitin, Founder and Principal of Parachute Coaching, a career and leadership coaching firm that specializes in preparing job candidates who are facing significant career switches. According to the article, Laitin says the key is helping workers see the connections in their own lives and the episodes that link all kinds of experiences that also highlight transferable skills. An excerpt from the article says, “‘Develop a clear, honest story about why this transition makes sense.’ She says employers want to know two things: ‘That you’ll be able to do the job and that you are going to love it. The more your story can answer those questions, the less concerned an employer will be in saying yes, even if the transition is unconventional.’”

Even before the pandemic, nonlinear career paths were gaining traction. A 2019 article from Forbes highlighted three ways that people can make their nonlinear career paths move in their favor. The article says, “Many of us were led to believe that to be successful our careers should follow a logical and predictable path. Our well-meaning parents, teachers and advisors strongly encouraged us to pick a lane, earn a practical degree (or maybe two), and get a job. From there, we should work hard and over the years, advance up the ranks at that company.” The article then asks the question, what do you do when you find yourself wanting to deviate from that formula? The article advises readers to lose the guilt and shame from stepping off the ladder, think of a career in terms of seasons, and find the common threads that you can weave together to make your unique career story. The article writer, Amy Blaschka, says, “Some of the most interesting and successful people I know have found a way to make their varied experience work for them. Instead of talking about their journey as jumping from gig to gig, they find the common thread that connects the dots of their career—and quickly becomes their point of differentiation.” 

Look for the dots to connect in your experience, assess the skills that you have, and don’t be afraid to jump off that ladder. 

Onward,

Finding balance and connections in a compare-and-contrast work world

My colleague and Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison, recently wrote on Korn Ferry’s blog about the importance of finding the connections in seemingly opposing expectations of the work world, saying, “These days, paradoxes abound—grit vs. grace; perform vs. transform; speed vs. significance; critique vs. create; execute vs. engage; head vs. heart. And one that I’ve … Read more »

Women’s History Month & The Return To Work

It’s a topic that has made headlines for months now: What does the return to work look like for the droves of women who left the workforce in 2020 due to the pandemic? According to the Los Angeles Times and the U.S. Census Bureau, four times more women than men left their jobs and women were more … Read more »

What I learned about business from Sean Payton

First, you need to know, I am a huge football fan.  It all goes back to watching football with my father as a little girl; it was something that bonded us. He decided even if I was a girl, he could still teach me the technical aspects of the game. Actually, this knowledge became somewhat of an “equalizer” for me in the workplace with many of my male colleagues who were surprised and shocked by my knowledge of the game.

My dad coached Pee Wee Football for years and was a huge Washington Redskins fan since Virginia did not have an NFL team, per se.  So, fast forward to Charlotte, North Carolina and I am literally living in the Carolina Panthers’ backyard. What happens? Well, you adopt the home team and so many years ago, I joined “Panther Nation”.  I still get goosebumps when I hear Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” being belted out after a win by those of us left in the stadium, singing along in our triumphant, off-key shouts of glee.

So, with this perspective, you now understand why I was watching the NFL Playoff Game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams a few weeks ago.  While I am definitely not part of “Who Dat” Nation during the regular season – we are division rivals – I did cast my allegiance to the NFC South team in the Playoffs. So there I was, on the couch cheering on Brees and feeling good about their performance, when late in the 4th quarter, the unthinkable happened. No, not an interception or fumble.  It was a blatant, and I mean blatant, missed personal foul that would have most likely sealed the game for the Saints and their quest for the Super Bowl.

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How To Network Like A Pro

Networking is a crucial pillar to building a successful career, but it often gets a bad rep as being this smarmy, glad-handing way of getting new business. Fear and shyness can cripple some people to the point that networking feels like a terrible chore and is avoided at all costs.

Learning this important soft skill can mean the difference between you reaching your career goals or staying in the same place the rest of your career.

Let’s talk about some ways to network correctly and how to build your sphere of influence like a pro.

Networking is about building relationships

First of all, networking is not about putting on a cheesy smile, slipping your business card into a handshake, exchanging a few surface greetings, and then hoping that person decides they want to do business with you. Networking is about building relationships and getting to know people.

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Four Ways to Uncover A Company’s Culture Before You Accept A Job

It’s never too early to uncover the culture at an organization. Doing so before accepting a job can be a wise move. You may find that either you’re not a good fit for that company, or that company is not a good fit for your values and work style. 

It’s important to find out what you can about policies, the organization’s leaders and stakeholders, the work environment, and the numbers. How is its stock doing? How does it compare to competitors? Doing your due diligence will help fill in some of those crucial planks, and it can help you get a feel for the company before you walk in the door for your first interview.

Here are four ways you can get the real scoop on a company’s culture:

1. Look to social and traditional media

See what people are saying on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook about the company, it’s products, employees, and services. Check out sites like Glassdoor to see what former employees have to say. Investigate what business media are saying about this organization and its key stakeholders.

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How To Choose A Career That’s Right For You

Choosing a career path can be a daunting task. Whether you’re a college student feeling unsure about what to do after graduation, or you’re a professional simply looking for a change, it takes some self-reflection and honesty to answer this question.

Get to know yourself

First, take time to get to know yourself. What are your values? What matters to you? If you want to choose a career path that’s right for you, it’s crucial that you become self-aware and know the answers to these questions because they can help guide you throughout your career. So many of us climb the corporate ladder, shape-shifting as necessary depending on what organization we work for, pausing only when something we’re told to do sends shivers down our spines. Instead of taking the time to identify our values, we plod along just hoping to avoid making any terrible mistakes.
A better plan is to craft a values statement, identifying the things in life that are most important to you. This will help you get to know yourself, and it will help you know when to say no to the things that will only be distractions from your real goals. Gaining clarity on values can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as likes and dislikes. Aligning your values with the mission of the organization may help you in deciding which employer is going to be a cultural fit for you personally. Having this clarity can also help you in assessing your passion and deciding how you want to make your mark in the organization you are spending the majority of your time working for day-in and day-out.

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How to fall in love with your job again

       It’s another day at the office. You’re trying to stay focused on the tasks in front of you, but the day-to-day hustle has made the job you love feel mundane. And there at your desk, surrounded by everything you thought you ever wanted, you’re suffocating.

Sound familiar?

      Or maybe your story is that you’re just trying to make a paycheck. Circumstances brought you to your current job, and you haven’t had a chance to even think about what you really want. You can’t always pursue your passion because you have to put food on the table. How can you fall in love with the job you didn’t want, but it’s what you got?

Before you give up, let me tell you there is hope. It is possible to fall in love with your job all over again (or for the first time).

Here are some ways to work toward that right now:

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Gift-giving In The Workplace – How To Navigate Those Gray Areas

Getting through another season of gift-giving in the workplace can create a whole new kind of holiday stress. Shopping for friends and family can already be a struggle for some, so the thought of finding a gift for a colleague that is inoffensive and appropriate can become a daunting task.

In light of all the news that has surfaced in the last month about sexual harassment, my hope is that professionals will become more aware of how their actions, including their gift-giving, can affect their careers and reputations.

Some do’s and don’ts are more apparent than others, but what about those seemingly gray areas? A gift-giving pitfall has the potential to be a career downfall. Here are some guidelines for office gift-giving that can help you conquer your shopping and calm your career anxiety.

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