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Up Is Not the Only Way

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Up Was Never for Everyone!

Move up or move out. When those two options appear to be the only ones, dissatisfaction grows and engagement suffers. In decades of studying careers around the globe, Beverly Kaye, Lindy Williams, and Lynn Cowart have found that, in fact, there are more options. And rethinking career mobility can lead you to them!

The authors show how managers, coaches, and employees can partner to determine what's best and what's next. Keep the same job but discover new ways to learn and grow? Explore moving to a position that could be a better fit? Step back without getting derailed? This book encourages readers to take a “kaleidoscope” view—to be open to ever-shifting patterns of opportunities and possibilities—so they can create a unique, personalized path to a truly rewarding career.

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Note from the Authors1     Up Was Never for Everyone2     Telescope to Kaleidoscope3     Leave the Ladder behind4     Grow Here Enrichment5     Try before You Buy Exploratory6     Sideways to Highways Lateral7     Step Back for a Reason or a Season Realignment8     When Up Is the Way Vertical9     Is That Grass Really Greener? Relocation10     Go for It!AcknowledgmentsIndexAbout the Authors

 

1 Up Was Never for Everyone

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As downsizing, restructuring, and delayering took hold in the late 1980s, old ladders became largely inaccessible. Some rungs disappeared, and the space between others shifted from steps to leaps. At the same time, individual aspirations and company needs were evolving. Terms like work–life balance were overheard in break rooms. Organizations began to examine how breadth of experience weighed against depth of expertise during talent reviews. The world of work was changing.

Careers today happen in that world—a world that continues to change. The environment is more global, more multigenerational, more dispersed, diverse, and complex than ever before. Hierarchies continue to flatten. Organizational structures are flexing. Even the value people place on work is changing.

Employees play multiple roles—from individual contributor to peer to leader and back, sometimes in the same day or within the same assignment. Roles emerge and evolve based on tasks and needs. Carefully written descriptions no longer define the boundaries of a job. Teams form and disperse based on projects. Feedback comes from multiple sources. The ladder, if it’s still there, may be harder to see and tougher to climb.

 

2 Telescope to Kaleidoscope

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Turn in your telescope. Pick up your kaleidoscope. A telescope offers you one linear point of view—one straight line focused on something that may be pretty far away. A kaleidoscope gives you a fascinating array of views. Rather than having a clear, static career path, the workplace’s changing landscape offers us unique patterns to view and evaluate. Like the design change even one small turn of the kaleidoscope gives you, the experiences that make up a career shift offer a wide variety of development options and a pretty amazing array of growth possibilities, including some you can reach for now—if, and only if, you learn to appreciate the emerging displays.

Did you know that the inside of the typical, basic kaleidoscope contains just three mirrors? Yes! All those intricate patterns can result from just three mirrors and a handful of beads or pieces of glass. Positioned at angles to one another, the mirrors combine to reflect one another as well as the items captured in the base of the tube. As beads shift and move with each twist of the kaleido-scope tube, the three mirrors produce unique patterns—patterns waiting for you to consider and act on them.

 

3 Leave the Ladder behind

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We’ve said that opportunities still exist . . . they may even be more plentiful. They may just look a little different.

An old management saying goes “You need the right person, in the right place, at the right time.”

We are suggesting a change to that saying. What if there were more right places? More right places mean more opportunities to grow and develop. It’s happening now in organizations where career mobility is taking hold. So our update of the phrase would be “When more right places are named and visible, more right times will be available to accommodate, engage, and retain all the talented right people throughout the organization.” An inclusive environment, where everyone has growth opportunities, can take hold and flourish in your workplace, too.

Career mobility patterns are flexible. Like the small, colorful beads in a kaleidoscope, which tumble and reshuffle, development experiences can happen in different sequences tailored to individual preferences, abilities, timing, and tastes. When a slight change—a twist of the kaleidoscope—happens, new patterns and possibilities surface. When you want to know your options, you can twist the tube to see what emerges. Or, let’s face it, sometimes that kaleido-scope may be shaken by external forces. A merger or reorganization can produce a whole new landscape of possibilities. We need to adjust our vision to see not just the ladder but also the adjacent possibilities.

 

4 Grow Here Enrichment

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Enrichment is mandatory.

There! We’ve said it! And growing in place is, in fact, mobility in a world where standing still means falling behind. We need more people who fall in love with what they do, becoming specialists by deepening their abilities and setting the bar higher in their fields.

How many jobs are exactly the same as they were a year ago, or even a month ago? Keeping up with change is a demand in every industry. Yet mind-sets are not changing as fast as jobs are changing. We need to change the conversation. We need to see the current job as fertile soil for career growth.

Every year, individuals who have been raised with technology at their fingertips since they were in their cribs join the workforce and the consumer market. This latest group is equipped with a level of intuitive digital knowledge and familiarity that drives organizations to evolve quickly and constantly. At the same time, employees expect and need the latest technology and tools to do the job.

 

5 Try before You Buy Exploratory

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What’s the biggest purchase you’ve ever made?

Maybe it was a car or a home or a major appliance. It would be hard to imagine driving that car off the lot without reading all you can about it, or at least sitting in it or taking it for a spin.

We probably would not schedule delivery of a new refrigerator without first making sure those shelves will accommodate that five-gallon water pitcher. We watch potential buyers on real estate shows decide not to take a risk after walking through a few rooms or peering into closets. And yet, too often we see employees leap into a new role without considering all the implications—without investigating possibilities—without an exploratory experience or two.

Taking on a new role or responsibility without doing the homework can increase stress. Learning more about a role will identify opportunities that would be a great fit. It can also eliminate others from consideration, or at least place them in the “not so great” or “maybe later” categories. Exploratory experiences can bring development plans to life by providing a road map of behaviors to acquire or polish in order to be seriously considered for a future role. We have all known colleagues who took on leadership roles, only to discover that managing people was not their favorite thing.

 

6 Sideways to Highways Lateral

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Do you know how to do everything your teammates can do? If you traded places with a peer in another group, could you hit the ground running?

Teams are everywhere, in every industry and every organization we work with today. Movement among teams is more fluid than in the past and offers terrific opportunities to grow. Lateral experiences build breadth of expertise—something senior leaders need and value. The person who gets hands-on experience in multiple areas learns functional interdependencies and gains a deeper understanding of just how the organization works.

Years ago, lateral moves carried a subtle warning message. In fact, the accepted political whisper was that if your organization moved you laterally more than three times, they were sending you a coded message that your career was going nowhere! Lateral experiences no longer carry that message. Sideways moves no longer sideline talent. Instead, as the title of this chapter suggests, lateral moves can lead to bigger and better opportunities. People who can fulfill multiple roles build resilience and position themselves as valuable resources in a changing environment.

 

7 Step Back for a Reason or a Season Realignment

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Let’s be clear about what we mean by realignment. When you choose a realignment experience, you are voluntarily taking a step back or a step down. You are initiating the move with the support of your manager or mentor or coach. Stepping back can be an opportunity to recalibrate, a chance to rethink a route you may have committed to at one point and now want to reconsider. Or you may include a realignment experience in a career pattern as a stepping stone to future opportunities.

If realignment experiences are not common in your organization, it can be puzzling to understand the why behind including this option in a career pattern. The realignment experience is becoming more common, though. We have heard from a number of our clients that employees have a wide variety of reasons for choosing a realignment experience. Several interviewees shared with us that they were:

•    returning to an individual contributor role after discovering that management was not all it appeared to be;

 

8 When Up Is the Way Vertical

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When the telescope focuses only on moving up, sometimes the glitter is all the viewer can see. For decades, vertical movement was that shiny object. For some, it still is. Promotions can offer status, responsibility, power, prestige, compensation, title, ability to call the shots, and maybe even a coveted parking space. Some promotion seekers are simply hoping that next rung will bring respect, acknowledgment, and maybe a little envy from colleagues.

Traditional definitions of success were often based mostly on upward movement. It was why you went to college or graduate school. It was why you worked those long, tedious days for someone who was senior to you but maybe not respected by you. The reward at the end looked good. For many, that mental image may be hard to erase. And family and friends may be asking, “So when are you getting promoted?”

Rarely does anyone move in a solely vertical trajectory throughout a career, but upward moves are important pieces of many career patterns. In this chapter, we’ll take a look at the rewards and the realities of moving up.

 

9 Is That Grass Really Greener? Relocation

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We’ve all had days (or weeks) when we were truly dissatisfied with the job. Maybe today is one of them.

It might be a momentary I’m done here! reaction to a frustrating task. Or maybe the result of one too many late nights trying to hit a deadline. Or possibly even the result of a neighborhood get-together where the conversation turned to the pros and cons of everyone’s jobs and somehow the cons of your job far outnumbered the pros. This wave of emotion typically passes soon after the immediate issue is resolved.

This chapter is about the deeper waves, the recurring waves of dissatisfaction, the waves that drive careful and serious thought about leaving. And not just leaving a team or a function but leaving the organization entirely. Relocation, by our definition, means voluntarily walking out the door.

A time comes in all careers when the writing is on the wall. It’s time to move on.

When it’s clear that relocation is a good fit in the pattern, is the job done? No! There’s still important work to be done when someone is thinking about leaving. The objective is not to talk anyone out of the decision. It might be the right time and the right place for them to make just such a move. Instead, the aim is to make sure the person has chosen the relocation experience objectively, considering all the implications of moving on.

 

10 Go for It!

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Throughout this book, we have asked you to view career mobility through a kaleidoscope lens. We have challenged you to create a personal career pattern from six types of developmental experiences. We have offered questions as conversation starters to think about and talk about. And we have encouraged you to have conversations that lead to insights and ideas.

If you are saying “Yes! I can’t wait to get started,” then maybe our work here is done. But we all know—any of us who have spent time inside busy organizations—that it’s rarely as easy as it sounds. Sometimes it takes more than just wanting to do something. Here’s what we think it will take for you to seize development.

Courage—to speak from your heart about what you want from your career pattern. It takes courage to give and receive the feedback that shapes development. It takes courage to redirect and let go when things change. Courage empowers you to accept an experience that may not be traditional but that matches your interests, values, and skills. It takes courage to say that your mobility is going to mean growing right where you are for now.

 

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