When it comes to visualizing movement in our careers, we mostly think of ladders. The desire to get to the top is real, and anything else feels iffy. These ladder assumptions are limiting our ability to respond to the changing corporate landscape today. What’s needed is a new model for driving agility and high performance. Hence, we’d like to invite a new metaphor that has been famously used by Sheryl Sandberg in her book. Our career is a jungle gym. And that’s anything but a ladder. You climb it for sure. But you mostly move sideways, swing around, stay or maybe even go upside down. There is never a bee line for the top.

Can you imagine your career like that? It might feel a tad challenging. But let’s unpack some compelling reasons for why you’d want to consider this style.

The workforce is changing at a rapid pace due to proliferation of technology and introduction of diverse age groups. Being part of it is about keeping pace with the change. The best way to maintain this relevance and job security is to build an eclectic range of skills. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 60% of all new jobs in the 21st century will require skills that only 20% of the current workforce possesses. The most effective approach to fill this gap is by making lateral moves. This will broaden your career pathway, allowing you to build skills you want to build and making you versatile. You can also learn to take on more responsibilities.

In fact, according to a survey by Deloitte, 50% of the people looking for a job, express an interest in a complete career change. This could be for finding more meaning, creating better work-life effectiveness, or taking on a new challenge. If you like your company, but do not like your role, moving over to a different role will increase your job satisfaction significantly. If you’ve been in technical support roles thus far, consider taking on a client facing role next. You might excel in the new role, because you know what happens behind the scenes. It’s a win for the organization too, as they would’ve retained talent.

Moreover, internal role hops are a potent way to build leadership skills. Not only do you get the opportunity to gain depth and competence in different job families, but also network with people across the board. Through this hands-on cross-functional experience, you learn how different roles are synchronous. This will help you work with people better, and add more value. And with organizations moving towards flatter hierarchies, there is a strong call to shift the ‘me’ intent of hierarchies, to the ‘we’ tone of communities at work. Your lateral shifts will help create such a culture of collaboration.

A key point to remember while making lateral moves is that you need to have a strong drive to learn. You may have to score some quick wins to establish your credibility. Then you can even negotiate salaries or a designation jump. Given this new way of planning a career path in the direction you like, why look at the one-way trajectory of the ladder?

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