Is your career a ladder or lattice?

Work Wisdom

Is your career a ladder or lattice?

One of your 2020 career goals might be to get a new job.

You can accomplish that a couple of ways.

First, by researching companies and applying for a position outside of your current one. Or, you can apply for an internal job opening.

Either way, you have an important question to ask yourself: Should I move in the direction of a career ladder or a career lattice?

Career ladders are viewed as job promotions. It’s when an employee moves into a position of higher responsibility, skill and authority. An example is an employee who moves from customer service representative to customer service manager.

Career lattices also involve job movement but as the term lattice implies, it can take place in any direction (upward, lateral or even downward). For instance, a customer service manager might accept a new role as sales manager. They’re both manager positions but in different areas of the organization.

Career ladders and lattices have definite advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to consider both the short-term and long-term implications of each as you’re considering new opportunities.

Career ladders ups and downs

Most of us are familiar with the concept of career ladders — that’s helpful, since our managers, human resources and the organization in general know how to discuss careers in terms of career ladders. They can offer advice and support when they know you want to move up using a traditional career ladder strategy.

A big advantage of the career ladder model is the ability to specialize in an area. You can attend training and development programs. The organization might be willing to pay for you to get a certification or attend a certificate program.

A disadvantage might be missing out on exposure to the rest of the organization. In some situations, that might not be a big deal. But in others, it could hold you back because you can’t see the big picture or haven’t networked enough around the company.

Career lattice pros and cons

Career lattices are a little trickier to navigate. Often there are no proven rules or paths for a career lattice. This can make it difficult for the organization to support you because you don’t have a history of successes to share. The good news is, because career lattices are so flexible, you have many different paths to career success.

Another plus to career lattices is gaining exposure to the rest of the organization. You’re involved in a variety of different projects and build relationships with people you might not typically work with. This could be helpful long-term.

However, it may take longer to achieve your career goals. If you choose to take a lateral move or even a downward one to gain experience, it might take an extra step or promotion to get the job you’ve been wanting. Granted, you enter that new role with extra knowledge and skills — a tradeoff you’d have to accept.

Both career ladders and career lattices are necessary

Both career lattices and career ladders may be necessary to achieve your career goals. The key is understanding what your options are and when to opt for a lattice or ladder. And remember, you don’t have to stick to one or another: maybe the lattice is best this time and the ladder for the next opportunity.

The more you understand your career options, the better equipped you are to manage you career goals.

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