Navigating Today’s Career Ladder

Paolo Giuricich, Organisation Development Consultant

In the complex and heavily digitised world we live in, how we do business has changed considerably over the past few years – and so too has the development and evolution of career ladders. Indeed, the concept of the ‘ladder’ is now outdated, and the way we learn and enrich our skill sets throughout our professional journey are now more of a determiner of success.

I have always found Edgar H. Schein’s work to be particularly illuminating in this area. His theory of Career Anchors was devised to give individuals a new perspective on their careers and how work is intrinsically linked to our internal self too. Schein defines a Career Anchor as the core motivator behind our professional choices. It develops and changes throughout our lives and is interwoven with our sense of self, who we are and the personality traits we adopt.

A Career Anchor includes our skills, what we’re capable of and our natural talents. It also takes into account how we perceive ourselves in terms of strengths and weaknesses. It includes what we deem important and what our professional and personal goals are. Do you want financial gain, social status, a challenge, or complete autonomy and control of your time? A Career Anchor also takes into account our core values, attitudes and beliefs and the type of company we’d be most comfortable working with.

“The concept of a career ladder is now outdated”

The model is designed to help you connect with who you consider yourself to be, your life goals and how your career fits within those parameters to ensure you’re working in a direction that suits your abilities. It’s all too easy to lose sight of your core values when you’re the corporate world; Schein’s theory helps people recentre and reconnect with who they truly are and what they’re capable of. Starting afresh in this way can be incredibly beneficial for determining a career path that plays to your strengths.

The types of skills that are valued today are different from those in the past; now, soft skills (e.g. the ability to relate to one another and communicate successfully) are the most valuable when involved in the world of business. ‘Soft skills’ is even deemed by some to be a misleading term, as these types of skills are in fact difficult to obtain and require just as much time and commitment – if not more so – than hard skills.

“…connect with who you consider yourself to be, your life goals and how your career fits within those parameters…

We’re constantly being bombarded with information and advice on the qualities employers are looking for, so it seems there is no definitive skill set that we should aim for. It’s easy to be confused by this. However, through my work as an Organisation Development Consultant, I’ve come to realise the skills that I believe are absolutely essential for career success, which are:

Situational Awareness

Being able to understand the context – in terms of both business and social culture – of the people and location you’re working with is essential for forming meaningful connections and relate to one another.

Navigating the System

Having a close understanding of the way businesses and their personnel processes work.

Recognising Performance

Being aware of when performance is good or not, and being able to identify how to optimise your own behaviour to improve performance – both of you and your team.

Ongoing Reflection

Regular and consistent reflection is key for evaluating your strengths and weaknesses and preparing yourself for future growth.

While this isn’t a comprehensive guide to all the skills you need for professional success, they are a great starting point from which you can build and grow, and learn to navigate your own career path.

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