Traditionally we have thought of career pathways as linear steps, progressing from one role to another as we move up the corporate ladder, culminating in the highest rank possible within one’s field of expertise. The reality is that there is no set career ladder, and it’s up to the individual to take ownership of their career path.

Why is the career ladder obsolete?

The concept of a career ladder came into being in the 80s and 90s as a management theory on employment hierarchy, where career advancement is likened to climbing rungs on a ladder. Most organisations no longer take this view of a mystical and guaranteed career path for employees and in fact businesses are less focused on long-term retention, with some of the best employers actively supporting and encouraging their staff to take on new opportunities outside of the business.

A ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past; we’re more likely to move jobs every few years and make multiple career changes during our working life, both in terms of roles and sectors.

Innovation and technological change have created entirely new career paths that did not exist five years ago. Think about your own professional career, how many role titles have you had that did not even exist when you graduated from university or high school?

What are we doing instead?

With change and disruption comes opportunity. And for those who are adaptable and resilient, career paths are becoming more fluid – we are moving with the market, learning new skills, and changing careers and roles almost organically.

On first glance, it may appear like a person is making a sideways or even backward step in their career – traditionally we’ve been told to value vertical not horizontal moves. However, they are pursuing their own path that is as individual as we all are. On paper, Carrie Hurihanganui​ moved from a billion-dollar business (Air New Zealand) to a million-dollar business (Auckland Airport); Fraser Whineray moved from a Chief Executive position (Mercury) to Chief Operating Officer (Fonterra); did Christopher Luxon leave a CEO role to be a local MP? While we cannot say for sure what their motivations were, it is most certainly related to opportunity.

Opportunity does not necessarily have to mean advancement, with people increasingly pursuing roles or organisations with a strong social purpose or at least one that sits with their own values. The recent phenomenon of ‘The Great Resignation’ is also showing us that employees are no longer content with just “sticking it out” in roles.

Now back to the title of this blog

Sectors are fast moving, roles are evolving, what motivates employees is forever changing. We shape our own careers, but we do not need to do it alone. Don’t think in terms of what the next role will look like on your CV. Focus instead on the long term and where you want to be, what you want to achieve.

If you are feeling restless in your current role/organisation and asking yourself “what next” or perhaps there is an opportunity that has been presented to you and you’re uncertain if it’s right for you, then solicit the advice of your mentor, your work or industry colleagues or an impartial recruitment consultant. Use that insight to gain clarity on what your career goals and passions truly are.

Remember that establishing a connection with a recruitment consultant doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll find your next role but rather, you’ll form an enduring relationship that may just lead to the role after that, helping you to form your own unique career path, and not an imaginary ladder.

Need help?

Decipher Group provides a range of candidate support services that can help you navigate your next career move. Get in touch with us today, we’d love to chat.

The Decipher Team

To stay on top of current recruitment trends and technologies follow Decipher Group on LinkedIn.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Share this story

Our insights to your inbox

Subscribe and we’ll update you with our latest news and insights.

our people

Your first
port of call