the corporate ladder is changing: what does getting ahead mean today?

Everyone wants to get ahead, right? Maybe not. At least, not in the traditional sense. These days, workers are redefining what ‘getting ahead’ mean for them. Increased prestige? Better pay? Corporate dominance? Not always. Today’s workers are frequently substituting the term ‘moving up’ with ‘personal and professional growth.’ But it’s more than just language that’s changing.

corporate ladder is changing

the corporate ladder is disappearing

A successful climb up for corporate ladder used to be the very definition of success. It had a much more prominent place in the world of work, unaffected by constant economic, political and market changes. Words like consistency and security were key attractors for prospective employees, who, once hired, could count on climbing a ladder firmly entrenched and on solid footing. Not anymore. And that’s changed what workers look for in work.

Security and constancy are anything but a sure thing in today’s workplaces. Jobs come and go, and even if you want to stick with an employer for 20+ years, getting there is anything but a guarantee. It’s rare to hear of an employee sticking with one employer for their entire career and slowly but surely working their way up the ranks until they reach retirement and cash in on a steady pension. Those pensions have all but disappeared, and so has the reliable career trajectory that leads to them.

what workers look for is shifting

More and more frequently, personal satisfaction and meaningful work are key drivers for job searchers. The now unreliable corporate ladder is the work equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket. Instead of hoping to move vertically at a single company, job seekers are looking to go wide and deep, for ways to broaden their horizons, increase their scope, grow and learn. A substantial salary boost, while necessary in these days of rampantly fluctuating cost of living and precarious work, is no longer the only reason people give for changing jobs or careers. Though let’s be honest, a salary boost remains the number one motivator to change jobs, so some things truly never change.

adaptability is a prime skill in today’s job market

Hiring managers still look to your experience and ability to perform as proof of your value and potential for success but in different ways. The speed at which you climbed the ranks may catch their attention but it’s the quality of your experience that will keep them reading your resume. The more attractive candidate may not be the one who stayed in the same role for decades but the shorter-term candidate who moved through the company assuming more responsibility and diversity of roles. Hiring managers know they run the risk of losing such an employee through boredom or the drive to up their game once they’ve gobbled up whatever opportunities may exist. But they’re willing to take the chance.

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finding your place in today’s world of work

It’s still necessary to have a career path as long as you understand it will change and are open and flexible in the face of change. You’re not ‘climbing up’ as often as you may be climbing sideways, on an angle, sometimes sliding down a few rungs and occasionally hanging on for dear life. Whatever your direction, remember you’re still moving, growing and learning. Here are a few reminders to help you navigate your career trajectory:

make a plan.

Wise job seekers know that what may seem like a lateral career move may prove to be the quickest road to career success. That’s because they’ve studied their industry, investigated what skills they need to add to their tool belt and sometimes accepted that there’s nowhere to go in their present situation. They’ve formulated a long-term plan – where they want to be in five years, ten years – as well as a short-term plan. Knowing what short-term steps you need to take to achieve your long-term goals is essential.

build on your skills.

Look for opportunities in your present job that expand your knowledge base. Focus on picking up transferable skills. Say yes to new opportunities and changes to learn from others. Ask for tasks that may be outside your expertise but simple enough that, with support, you can do. Take courses, training and workshops that support your long-term plan. In today’s job-seeker driven job market knowledge is power. The more you know, the more prospects and opportunities will arise.

work hard.

Success isn’t bestowed; it’s earned. There are no shortcuts. Be the tortoise and not the hare. Become known as a person who goes the extra mile, stays later, works beyond expectations. Not only will you prime yourself when golden opportunities present themselves in your current organization or another, you’ll gain a reputation for being an outstanding employee, which will follow you everywhere.

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In today’s workplace, every person has the prerogative to live by their own definition of success. Remember, that’s the only yardstick by which you need to measure. Don’t compare yourself to co-workers. Not everyone wants to manage others, run corporations, or deal with the responsibilities those positions entail. You may prefer to do work you love and happily balance your work and home life instead of putting in 60-hour workweeks. Moving up has a whole new meaning in today’s workplace: you define it for yourself.