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Career ladder – The rise and fall

Career ladders are an artifact of the Mad Men era. A generation ago, many companies offered a straightforward career ladder. If you performed well, you could count on a steady climb in salary, job title, and responsibilities until receiving a gold watch for 25 years of loyal service.

Insights Louise Pope 12 February 2016
— 2 minute read

Careers, like life, do not move in a straight line. In today’s lightening fast, roller coaster business environment, the concept of solely developing deep expertise in one skillset in order to sequentially climb each rung of the career ladder to get to the top is an anachronism. Todays, organisations freely reassign and fire employees as needed, yet many organisations and employees are still in the dark, mistakenly believing that supporting this strategy leads to the greatest probability of career and company success. This handicaps, if not completely derails, them both.


Why? Because the complexity, competitive landscape and shrinking budgets of many enterprises require a dynamic flexible workforce with multiple competencies to remain competitive. The traditional career ladder does not offer the diversity of career opportunities to employees to grow outside their single focus and therefore provide additional benefits to organisations.

So despite their near extinction, why do we still believe in career ladders? Intentionally or not, we are still promising traditional careers. There will not be an easy next step for every person in want of promotion.

Too many people believe it’s their company’s job to carve out a career and professional development plan for them. Your inability to make progress is not a function of your company’s ability to train you. It’s your job to train yourself.

I recently read The Secrets of Success at Work by Richard Hall, he recommends the following tips:

To survive let alone succeed you will need a totally focused strategy. To climb that ladder you will need to be extraordinary.

• Know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest about your talents.

• Know where you want to go – destinations matter. To be told that you look as though you know where you are going is high praise.

• Keep on learning. In a world of change make sure you’re up to date.

• Become an avid listener. Listen more than you talk. Learn from those smarter than you.

• Be an enthusiast. Enthusiasts win. If you hate your job change it before they change you … or change your attitude.

• Give your boss all the help you can. Be accommodating; be a motivational force. He determines your future.

• Increasingly it’s a world of teams not one of individuals. Learn how to be a great team player.

• Be responsive. We live in a service orientated world. Those who are most customer or stakeholder responsive will do best.

• Be attractive. Be smart. Look good. Sound good. Look as though you care. Present with passion and power.

• Be exciting. Be a thinker and a doer. Stand out through your energy and desire to innovate.

Final Thought

Jack Welch, one time Chairman and CEO of General Electric (regarded as the best business leader we have known), demanded the three “s”s from his subordinates:-

• Speed

• Simplicity

• Self Confidence

Add these to those above and you will achieve the WOW factor (Walking On Water) that distinguishes the extraordinary from the ordinary.

Head over to Finni to view the latest accounting career tips and advice.

Career ladder – The rise and fall
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Louise Pope

Louise Pope

Louise has accumulated more than 20 years of recruitment experience in the UK and Australia. After successfully managing teams for one of the largest finance recruiters in the world, Louise transferred to Sydney in April 1999 and launched new offices and new product lines, managing the group through significant growth as head of the Accounting and Finance division.

In 2004, Louise founded Aequalis Consulting. Louise has a down to earth approach, but her energy, passion and ambition still fuel the business today, and will continue to contribute to Aequalis’s long-term success. She is a strong advocate of acknowledging the shortcomings of the recruitment industry, and is known for telling it like it is.