At what point do you stop climbing the corporate ladder? It’s an interesting question and one that yields much debate. We all have a pinnacle to reach in our professional careers, but at which rung on the ladder do we say we’ve made it!?

The definition of success in our working lives is different for everyone. Some of us want to be CEO’s while others want a job role that allows them to travel the world. Evidently we don’t all measure our career success by job title, salary or where we sit within the corporate hierarchy in comparison to others. Often it is our values that determine our drive to succeed. Let’s look at that a little more closely.

Many of us commence our careers with big expectations. We want an amazing job that pays oodles of dollars and sees us sitting in a spacious corner office commanding the respect and attention of all. And of course along with it comes a fancy house, sparkly jewellery, a wardrobe that is to die for and a car that turns heads. Is this sounding a little superficial? Is this what prestige is? Or is this the moment we look around and realise that what we really want is love and a family, time to enjoy life and an abundance of experiences that money simply cannot buy? Is this the moment you step off the corporate ladder?

It happens. People wake up and realise that their original vision of success is not really what they were hoping to achieve. Maybe there was a major event that spun their perspective, maybe they embarked upon some self-reflection and soul searching that steered them down a more fulfilling path. Whatever the case, the definition of success has been redefined. Foreseeable? Probably. We are, in the main, looking for meaning in our work.  Whether that is within our current role or the opportunities we gain from peaking merely half way up the ladder. Unsurprisingly a study by Career Builder demonstrated that only one third of employees aspire to a leadership position, and only seven per cent of those seek a senior management role.

The astute managers among you will also be attuned to the fact that today’s workforce is being dominated by workers who enjoy leaping from one job to another. And they can do this with ease as technology and an entrepreneurial mindset is driving this ambition. And since they aren’t around long enough to engage with the traditional corporate ladder, how do you demonstrate reward for effort with a promotion? The individuals within your workforce have unique career goals and they may not be to your expectations. Nevertheless, they remain important to the individual.

For all the managers out there I now ask you this question, do you consider the career aspirations of the individuals within your team before offering a promotion? The best candidate for the role is not necessarily the most experienced, the most knowledgeable or the longest serving. Ambitious people will enjoy a rise in prestige, but the best and most creative may simply love doing the work and doesn’t want to lead others. So why pressure them to climb another rung on the ladder? Understanding what professional success looks like to each of your employees will better equip you when it comes time to undertaking performance reviews and assessing how individuals performed against company expectations, as well as their own individual aspirations. Is that something you think you can do or will your own notions of success override? I’m interested to know your response.

How we choose to work and how we choose to live are conscious choices. Your expectations probably won’t match my own. I suspect that you are following your values while I am following mine. And who will be happiest? Perhaps we are equally happy as we are both following our own rules to achieving success and happiness.

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