Exploring Your Career Growth Journey
by Wisnu Aryo Setio
The term “corporate ladder” is something that has been largely dismissed by most people nowadays. Back then, people were willing to patiently wait for more than a decade in order to reach the top position in their respective jobs. It was common to hear stories of great leaders who literally started from the bottom --as salesman, as officeboys, as an intern-- that ended up in a really good position after dedicating their time and energy to follow the career path that their employers had provided for them. Now, when I asked my twenty-something friends on how long they will stay in their current jobs, most of them said that they will stay for a year. Maximum. “At least my CV looks good and I’m not perceived as a flaky employee,” they said.
There’s a certain stigma that the society puts for people who constantly change their jobs. Some will say that they don’t have the willpower to endure a long and monotonous career. Other may say that they are easily distracted and highly opportunistic. Loyalty has became an underappreciated currency, and companies found it harder to retain good talent. The question is: is it inherently bad to hop from one jobs to another? I personally don’t think so.
To put things into perspective, with the existence of websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor that constantly provide us with an abundance of opportunities, it’s understandable if we are always “distracted” by the greener grass on the other side. It’s important for us to know our worth and see whether our current jobs can fulfill our personal and professional development needs. You can stay in your company for the longest time, or switch between different jobs every year, as long as your career storyline shows that you grow.
Remember, growth can happen in many different ways. The conventional belief is someone has to grow vertically, being an expert in one specific role and industry, climbing from a junior position until they reach the top. I don’t think that notion is still relevant in the age of startup mentality, where value creation can happen anywhere inside the organization. You can freely choose to grow horizontally, trying out many different positions and industries before finally settling in to a career path that can suit you best. This is something that has not been valued well enough in our current professional landscape.
Horizontal career growth enables us to thrive in an era where employees are required to have fluid competencies. A career in one specific field like finance or marketing might not exist in the next 5 years, replaced by highly versatile roles. For example, someone who works as “Performance Marketing Optimization” has to master numericals and data crunching while thinking of what kind of creative marketing campaigns that perform best. This competency can only be gained through experience in different fields that somehow are still relevant to each other. Such roles might not exist 10 years ago, but those who have prepared themselves by trying out different fields can just jump in to these ambiguous jobs seamlessly.
In order for us not to be lost in our own career progression, I highly recommend you to set your own personal north star in determining each of your career moves. Think of this north star as your short-term and long-term goals; the things that you wanted to get out of your career journey. Say if you aspire to be a CEO of a multinational company in the long run, what are the skill sets that the position requires? It might be a combination of decision making skills in certain areas like finance, operations, and marketing, equipped with great leadership and people management skills. After determining your own north star, what you need to do is to break it down and see which areas that still requires development in order to reach the long term goal.
To use my own experience as an example, in the past 4 years I have became a management consultant, a small business entrepreneur, a strategy manager, a retail store buyer, and a marketing person. It might sound far off from each other, but I can draw lines between all these seemingly random dots - because my north star is to become a successful lifestyle entrepreneur. The breadth of roles that I experienced has taught me to balance between creativity and business, between art and science. It has made me a better numerical person while sharpening my taste and creative judgement. Somehow, all my experiences have shaped and prepared me to become a good business leader in the future.
Artwork by Jean Jullien
So, if you’re thinking of planning your next career move, don’t feel hesitant to try out different things as long as you can make sense of your own movement as a stepping stone for your own professional growth. In the end, you have the full control over your professional journey. Your career is not a ladder anymore; it’s a vast open sea, and you are the captain of your own ship. As long as you can navigate your way to reach your one true north, no matter which islands you choose to pass by, it is still one step closer to the dream that you’re trying to pursue.