The Lattice in The Ladders

It’s a collision of career metaphors!  Veteran business writer Robin Madell wrote a comprehensive outline of lattice strategies for– wait for it — striver career site The Ladders.

The story is a terrific primer for those near the top who are wondering if a developmental lateral move is worth the risk. I especially like the advice of carer coach Darcy Eikenberg. Here’s her take on creating your own promotion:

With the collapse of mid-management roles in many companies, an employee with 10 to 15 years of experience may suddenly find there’s no next level in sight—their leaders may be in the same age range with no plans to retire or leave any time soon. Eikenberg said that in cases where you can’t expect a promotion, it may be time to orchestrate your own with a few key strategies:

  • Identify the pain in your organization and how you are uniquely suited to help calm that pain from your current position.
  • Build a business plan for a new role, department, or service you might lead.
  • Communicate with key players in your organization to let your intentions be known.
  • Take your efforts as seriously as you would a new job search.


Lattice to a Higher IQ

Boost your intelligence through a lateral career assignment.

How’s that?

Learning itself makes you smarter, according to  Ken Bain, author of “What the Best College Students Do.”

The habit of expecting to learn, which leads to putting yourself in situations where you’ll be challenged, learn, and grow, actually rewires your brain to help you learn faster and better.

That’s why you feel ‘brain dead’ as you molder in the same job with the same responsibilities, and likely with the same results.

If your workplace is not open to a lateral move, construct one on your own time. Choose a skill — such as learning the underpinnings of a popular content management system — or a business experience — such as fundraising — you’d like to master. As you gain traction with this developmental self-assignment, you’ll not only act smarter. You’ll be smarter, too.

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Volunteer Your Way to the Top

Work for free and build your career!

No, that’s not a shady classified come-on. It’s a genuine career development strategy that advances women in public accounting, outlined in depth in the 2012 Accounting MOVE Project Report: Building Careers and Communities: How Strategic Community Service Advances Women in Public Accounting.

Here are some highlights of the report, which was designed and managed by my firm, Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc.:

  • 79% of accounting firms encourage employees to join nonprofit boards as a way to gain professional skills
  • 71% of firms offer leadership training through volunteer programs they support

But here’s the missing link: firms rarely tie nonprofit service back to firm growth goals or even to talent development strategy. At most firms, employees are on their own: sure, volunteer, climb through committees to a board, and we’ll even give you paid time off to do it…but it’s up to you to figure out exactly what skills you need to get and how to integrate them into your career path.

Future posts will outline winning strategies for integrating community service with professional development.

Make Your Job Description a You Description

What’s not on your resume?

  • What you’ve learned about sourcing materials running your Etsy shop?
  • How you’ve gained project management skills by chairing a nonprofit fundraiser?
  • That you overcame your white-knuckle fear of public speaking by leading a Scout troop?

Skills you gain through life experience — you remember life — it’s what happens between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. — can propel professional growth.

But there’s rarely a place to wedge in these experiences on a traditional resume. And there are even fewer opportunities to apply off-hours experience on the job — at least, not officially. (If you’ve managed a carpool or playgroup, you have univerally applicable leadership skills.)

Finally, though, employers are starting to mine the deep veins of talent lurking in their very own corridors. As reported thoroughly in the Wall St. Journal, employers like Cisco, Google,  and Booz Allen Hamilton are hard-wiring 360-degree talent searches into their human resources databases. Yup, they’re catching up with recommendations in The Career Lattice!

Employer are in sync with the life skills deemed most applicable to professional development by The Career Lattice research partner, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning:

  • Cross-cultural adaptability
  • Foreign language skills
  • Willingness to relocate – i.e., appetite for adventure!
  • Client retention track record

Have you discovered unusual life skills that have played into professional advancement? Tell us about it!

Why Career Reinvention is a Dead End

Two magazines on my coffee table insist on coaching me to career reinvention — even on the weekend.

The latest issue of Fortune tells its always-ambitious readers how to pull off the ultimate career makeover.

MORE,  geared for women of my generation (that’d be those 40 and up, and I’m not telling you how hard I have to squint see that threshold) loves to showcase ‘career reinventions’ that involve lawyers monetizing inner peace as yoga instructors and exhausted hedge fund manager channeling Gaia through organic farming.  Money, MORE likes to posit, shouldn’t get in the way of a good reinvention.

The overarching theme: you have to abandon who you were to become who you need to be to stay solvent — and to have a prayer of saving enough for retirement. Take the case of former trial lawyer and mystery novelist Paul Levine. His minor celebrity wasn’t sufficient to tide him over from print to Kindle. Now he’s coaching would-be authors in how to navigate the choppy waters of getting their books published electronically and sold through the likes of Amazon — the precise transition that he barely survived. “I didn’t have a grand plan,” Levine told Fortune. “I was fueled by fear and desperation.”

What a waste of energy, talent, and experience.

Reinvention is a false hope. As Levine’s own career illustrates, there’s no point in reinventing yourself from one dead end career to another.

Reinvention sounds great –  fresh start and all that. But it’s a reaction, not a plan.

What is a plan is the model of the career lattice — continual, incremental change. Always adding skills that complement those you already use every day; cycling into assignments that give you new experiences related to those you already handle every day; finding new uses for skills you’ve mastered.

Reinvention is reactive: it demands that a new opportunity exist before you make a wholesale jump from your old, dying career to a new career that may or may not have greater potential. Latticing positions you to prepare today for careers of tomorrow that aren’t quite invented yet. But through latticing, you can move into those careers as soon as they emerge.