I’ve always had a troubled relationship with the notion of “career plan”. I remember filling out my MBA application in the mid 90s and saying that I had never had a career plan… I just seized opportunities as they came along. Well, at that point in time, I had mostly been a student, with 10 years spent as a full-time university student, and jobs were just meant to pay the rent and tuition, and enough food on the plate to keep me going.
When I was finishing that MBA, I did participate in a career planning workshop, and while it was somewhat useful, especially in helping me define what I had to offer to a potential employer, I don’t remember much of it.
My current employer offers employees career development workshops, and guess what? I get to facilitate them. When we started reviewing the content last year and I was preparing to facilitate my first workshop, I attended one as a participant and that got me thinking a lot more about what I really want out of life, the place that work has in it and the personal projects I really want to have time for, and the meaning of success. At the time, I had a boss who kept talking about “what it takes to be successful in this organization” and I just could not connect to what he was saying. After some reflection, I concluded that we had very different career and life expectations. And that what really matters (for me, at any rate) is not what factors lead to success in a specific organization but what brings me satisfaction and what aligns to my own idea of what success is. And success is not about progressing in a set way in the hierarchy of the organization.
While I thought that the workshop had value, I felt that the view of career progression the material portrayed was not the one that works for me. I was working on further revisions to the material over the summer and I had a fortuitous encounter with a talent management specialist that was visiting our office and she recommended a book…
In this career development workshop for employees, our way of presenting career progression (mostly the good old career ladder) was in need of renewal. The Corporate Lattice, by Benko and Anderson, talks instead of career “lattices” and proposes that exceptions to the career ladder view of career progression are now the norm.
“Personal views of success are bringing the cookie-cutter career to an end. Employees with diverse goals and experiences are moving up, across, and even down the organization chart — sometimes in collaboration with their employers, and sometimes not. Their goal: a custom-tailors career that fits them.” p. 51
Career lattices are characterized by: high rates of job mobility, varied career-life needs, nonlinear careers with lateral and vertical moves that vary over time, multiple acceptable ways to contribute and succeed, growth and development as a key measure of success, and continual customized development. That is much closer to how I was seeing my own career. It is interesting though that the authors say that is what Gen Y employees are looking for. This old Gen Xer wants the same!
Benko, Cathleen and Molly Anderson, The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA, 2010.