Lateral Climb: Moving Forward When You Can’t Move Up

Man walking into bright futureClimbing the “corporate ladder” has long been the driving force behind many ambitious professionals looking to stake a claim to their corner of the business world. From recent grads looking to prove their mettle to seasoned executives eager to take on newer and bigger challenges, upward momentum is often viewed as the most important measure of success.

However, sometimes reaching that next rung on the ladder is much easier said than done. Whether it’s lack of room at the top, changing business priorities, a mismatch of skills, or any of a wide range of both personal and professional challenges, many people find themselves stuck somewhere in the middle watching opportunities to climb become fewer and far between.

But, just because you can’t move up, doesn’t mean you can’t move forward.

According to author, entrepreneur, and marketing guru Seth Godin, “the ladder of success isn’t a ladder. It’s a series of steps with leaps interspersed along the way.”

So, although you may seek a new challenge, more responsibility, a salary bump, or simply a fancy new title and a gold nameplate, it is still possible to advance in your career without officially moving up.

Redefine your current role
Albert Einstein is often credited with saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It’s easy to become complacent in a job without forward momentum, but just because your title can’t change, it doesn’t mean your job shouldn’t. If you’re not able to move up, is there an opportunity to redefine your current role into something more satisfying? Whether it’s volunteering to take on extra work, offering your expertise to another team, or serving on the office fun committee, seek out opportunities to supplement your daily responsibilities. You’ll feel more engaged and the extra initiative only helps to put yourself in a better position when a promotion does open up.

Embark on a new career path
It’s not uncommon for people to change careers throughout their working life. In fact, according to a Harris survey for the University of Phoenix, 64% of people in their 30s and 54% of people in their 40s said they want to change careers. It’s very possible you’ve reached a point in your career where the next step up the ladder doesn’t look a whole lot different than the one before it. At this point, it may be time to take a leap of faith and pursue a new career path altogether. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start over at the bottom of the corporate ladder—rather, to borrow a concept from legendary leadership expert Stephen Covey, reevaluating whether or not your “ladder” is leaning against the right wall.

Invest in education
A 2015 Georgetown University study found that “by 2020, 65% of all jobs will require post-secondary education or training beyond high school.” And, the workforce “will fall short by five million workers with post-secondary education.” So, even if a promotion isn’t in your immediate future, all indications point toward plenty of prospects on the horizon for ambitious workers who take steps in the right direction to be better educated, and thus better prepared, when an opportunity does arise. In addition to local colleges and technical schools, there are countless learning options online. Express Employment Professionals, for example, has a wide variety of learning resources available at ExpressPros.com employer resources to build your skills or to help develop your workforce.

In the end, the onus in on you to make a move. You may not be climbing the corporate ladder as quickly as you would like, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop your career. How have you moved your career forward when there wasn’t an opportunity to move up? Let us know in the comments section below.

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