Workplace culture has changed dramatically over the last several generations. Employers are offering more work-from-home opportunities; office buildings are becoming open and collaborative spaces with trendy furniture, coffee bars, and gyms; but, employees aren’t staying at one or even two companies for the duration of their careers.
Those earning a wage or salary, on average, stay at a company for 4.2 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today’s generation doesn’t just want a j-o-b. Millennials and xennials want to feel like they are making a difference; they want to enjoy what they do. Many times, that requires changing positions or employers.
Even though workers are making adjustments, most employees think their career changes should only be upward movement.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, says career paths should look like a jungle gym, not a ladder. Ladders have a clear direction — you move up by taking one step at a time. Jungle gyms, however, often look like cobwebs with points in every direction.
Types of Movement
A jungle gym has three basic moves — up, to the side, and down. And just like moving on a jungle gym, you can make those same moves on your career path. Upward movement is self explanatory — you move up the ladder as you gain experience.
Lateral movement is moving to a position to your right or left. It’s not necessarily an increase in pay or a higher position, but it may be that move that will allow for upward movement later. Downward movement is as the name suggests — taking a step back. It can be a move to gain new experience in a different field or industry.
There are no bad moves if it’s the right move for you. All changes, even lateral and backward, can be a learning opportunity, provide growth, and get you to where you want to be.
Sheryl encourages people not to miss an opportunity if it feels like the right next step. “I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.”
Tips for Climbing the Jungle Gym
If you are ready to take the leap off the ladder and move to the jungle gym, here are three pointers to get you started.
1. Define your long term goal(s).
What do I most want to achieve?
Looking back over my life, what will make me disappointed if I don’t try it?
2. Determine how you will get there.
Focus on the step-by-step ways to accomplish that goal. Is it SMART? Is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive? This will help you determine if the next move is the right one.
3. Stay open minded.
Remember it is a jungle gym and you never know when you might see a spot to land, which could take you in a completely different direction. Some of these unexpected moves could take you to a place you could never have connected the dots to, and it may be a better opportunity than you ever imagined.