The Future of Work: Why the Career Ladder is Going Nowhere

SkyeTeam leadership Development

I had the opportunity to deliver a keynote presentation to the Society for Information Management’s Portland chapter. The audience included IT leaders some who had had 30+ years of career experience, as well as current University Students about to embark on their careers.

We had a powerful conversation about the myths and realities of a 21st century career. I also shared five tactics that we all need to adopt today to future-proof our careers, whether we are starting out, in mid-stream, or considering our next big adventure. To learn more about those please call me!

If you pay your dues and stay with our company long enough, you will move up the ladder. – Ancient inscription on an employee orientation letter

You might remember the days, or heard the urban legends, when someone worked at the same company for fifty years, received their gold watch, and walked into the sunset. Hold on tight, be patient, and keep climbing—this will pay off some day.

Think about it. A hamster wheel is simply a ladder made into a circle. It’s designed for running in place.

In this Century, with the flattening of organizations, the career ladder has been replaced by a career lattice—where advancement isn’t only about vertical movement. Success is also about horizontal opportunities that provide new experiences and expand skills.

My career is a case in point: currently in my fifth career, aspiring engineer, became a corporate banker, moved into leadership development, and became a solopreneur, then an entrepreneur with a growing team, and now an author and professional speaker.

Careers today don’t follow nice tidy paths. They zig and zag in response to the doors that open and opportunities that are seized. This makes some people seasick, but it’s the new reality.

Josh Bersin of Bersin and Associates recently told me, “I think there’s a basically a redefinition of what business is, that it isn’t a hierarchical company anymore. It’s a network and that is having profound implications on how we manage people, people’s careers, how we develop people, how we do performance management. All of that traditional management stuff is getting questioned because it doesn’t serve you as well in this new world. I hear this all of the time now from companies of all sizes.”

The career lattice is also indicative of how the corporate hierarchy is shifting. From defined “hard-line reporting” and top-down structure to one that is matrixed. A team member could be “hard lined” to one manager while “dotted lined” to another manager or team. We now work in a series of interconnected and interdependent networks, even if they are difficult to chart.

When we pause to consider who our “bosses” are, most of us will identify an ever-extending and convoluted group that includes customers, colleagues, our immediate boss, our bosses boss , the area manager, the regional leader, and the functional leader.

Learning to manage what may become competing perspectives and opinions will differentiate the high performer of the future. To future-proof your career you need to be connected at multiple levels, to multiple people, and actively cultivate those connections.

The idea of an employer taking care of their employees from Day One through retirement might seem too good to be true, and it’s certainly too good to be true now. The rules of the employer-employee contract, whether implicit or explicit, are being rewritten.

The future of work is less of a chore or a place we have to go to. Instead, work becomes something we choose to do, because we want to.

  • The question is, are you managing your career accordingly?
  • Are you stuck on the ladder, or enjoying the lattice?
  • As a manager, are you dealing with the new reality of employees who expect to climb a lattice—and jump when opportunity knocks?

I need your help!

Please pre-order The Future-Proof Workplace today!

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I do hope that this article has piqued your curiosity. My new book is published next month and the reality is, publishing is a numbers game. If everyone in my network bought just one copy of The Future-Proof Workplace we would likely make the best seller list.

If you pre-order before March 19th I’m able to provide a 40% discount. That’s practically a buy-one-get-one-free offer. So be my Ally, please buy a copy, in fact buy two!

Buy 50+ and expect a phone call from me 🙂

Thank you in advance for your help.

Morag

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The Future-Proof Workplace is a survival guide for the new reality of business. The future is no longer some far-off destination; it is here, right now, and already changing the way we work.

Whether you’re a CEO, a leader or manager, or just trying to survive the chaos, this invaluable guide is your wake-up call—the future is now.

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