Career Ladders are Changing: Get Ready to Jump, Skip, and Twirl
The traditional career ladder, climbing straight up one ladder in one company for your whole career (or at least most of your career), is on its last rung. For some of us it never really existed. However, it can still be found in some places. For now.
Whether your career path has already jumped (or fallen) off the one-ladder model or if you foresee it happening soon, now is a good time to take a look at what changes are happening in the realm of career ladders and what you can do about it. It is time take the reins and determine your own course, which can be exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Job insecurity and its negative impacts have been a growing concern for decades, and that does not seem to be going away any time soon. The evidence that job security is no longer a guarantee is all around us. Mass Layoffs are still a current reality, even as we appear to be recovering from the Great Recession. Per the last report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2013 more than 100,000 workers were involved in Mass Layoffs (http://www.bls.gov/mls/). [As an aside, the BLS no longer produces these reports because of their own budget cuts]. This number does not count any layoffs by organizations letting go fewer than 50 workers. It also does not count “forced” early retirements, resignations due to the threat of layoffs, downgrades and demotions due to lack of equivalent positions, people who found a job right after getting laid off, and those who became self-employed within thirty days after losing their jobs. More recently, Microsoft announced major layoffs just last month, estimating up to 18,000 positions will be cut.
Furthermore, trends in job losses show an increase in permanent job losses that occur when the positions are no longer available even after economic recovery. To add insult to injury, people often have to settle for lower wages when they are finally re-employed after a stint of unemployment (Bertaux & Queneau, 2002). This is the exact opposite of traditional career trajectories (i.e. those with job security) where people move up a clearly-defined ladder over time, encouraged and guided by the company they work for, gaining pay increases with each new position.
Interestingly, perceptions of job insecurity are high even when unemployment is relatively low (Bertaux & Queneau, 2002). This may be because layoffs (reduction-in-force) strategies are in vogue even when the economy is doing well and the company is not suffering from financial difficulties or adjusting to changes in labor demand. Instead, various layoff practices over the last few decades are a part of the many management fads utilized to increase competitive edge, maximize profit, and keep shareholders happy (Gandolfi, 2010). Considering these factors, it is no wonder feelings of job insecurity are not necessarily tied to real unemployment numbers.
Consequently, these shifting employment relationships mean that people can no longer depend on organizations to take care of them as loyal employees. Therefore, employees need to take their careers into their own hands. The shift from permanent (traditional) employment to individual maintenance of employability means people need to focus on career self-management, self-awareness, political awareness, networking, flexibility, adaptability, continuing education, and skill development (Clarke, 2008; Gandolfi, 2010). This requires people to be proactive, strategic, self-aware and aware of their context (current employment, industry changes, etc). Just reading those lists of new things to focus on can be overwhelming. And to do all this, you may need help.
An array of different practitioners are asked to help with career issues, including career counselors, mental health counselors, consultants, coaches, human resources professionals, spiritual/religious leaders, and more. Because of this, it is important for people in all of these fields to have a good handle on how to help people take responsibility for their own careers and manage their own employability, along with all the other things these professionals are expected to know.
New ladders may need to be built, along with bridges to other ladders and knotted ropes for climbing. Sometimes you may need a nice, sturdy hang glider. Or perhaps a dance floor with foot silhouettes showing the dance steps from one place to another. Each path will be a little different, especially now that we are all creating our own. As terrifying as it can be, it is also an exciting new adventure. Get ready to jump, skip, and twirl along your very own career path.
Although you may have a nice grip on the reins of your career, stay tuned for tips and tools on creating your own multi-ladder career path and for helping someone else create theirs. Over the next few weeks there will be more articles on careers and career paths, and you never know what interesting tidbits you have not yet discovered.