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Career Laddering: Making Positive Moves

You have a job, but how do you make it a rewarding career? Or is it even the right job for you? You may feel frustrated and bored in your current job and just want a change. Or maybe you want to expand your skills and experiences or find new challenges

It may be a good time to consider career laddering. Also known as career pathing, this process can help you improve and renew your career, whether you want to step sideways or move up.

Use this tip to evaluate your current job and find answers to questions like:

  • Can I find satisfaction in my current job?
  • Is a promotion to the next rung up the ladder what I want? Or would I prefer a different job in the same company?
  • Should I consider a job with a different employer?

Evaluate where you are now

Reflect on how you would complete each of these statements (or write down your answers):

  • I was originally attracted to my job by…
  • I like my work because…
  • I dislike my work because…
  • I am challenged in my work because…
  • I am not challenged in my job because…
  • I am good at the following skills…
  • I use the following skills at my work…
  • My job has (or has not) changed to reflect my professional growth and experience since I was hired…
  • My job supports (or does not support) the demands of my personal life and values…

Think about whether you can make your current job more satisfying. Reflect on how you would complete each of these statements (or write down your answers):

  • I can use more of my skills by…
  • I can change some of the things I don’t like about my work by…
  • I can learn new skills that will help me grow by…
  • I can find new challenges and new opportunities by…

Consider growing in place

Now that you had a chance to think about your current position, consider what changes you can make to find more satisfaction in your job or organization. Talk to your boss about the changes you have in mind.

The following suggestions will help you start looking for new opportunities at work:

  • Think about job satisfaction. Job redesign (also called job carving) allows you to do more of the work you find satisfying and less of the work that isn’t. You may be able to trade or share some less satisfying parts of your work with your co-workers.

  • Look at a lateral move. Think about moving laterally to a job that relies more on the skills and values important to you. A lateral move can also be an excellent opportunity to increase your skills and knowledge and renew your interest.

  • Build your skills. Identify skills that would help you grow and stay engaged in your present job or make it easier to request a lateral move. Do you need to take a workshop or course or take advantage of an on-the-job learning opportunity?

  • Take on new challenges. Take some risks: volunteer for assignments, projects or work location changes that offer the opportunity to use the skills and attributes you value.

  • Look at work alternatives. Check out the possibilities for part-time work and job-sharing. Would modified or reduced work hours make it easier for you to deal with the challenges in your life?

  • Maintain your network. Network widely within and outside your organization or occupation. Maintaining current connections and making new ones can help you discover new directions.

Consider moving on

If you’re unable to make changes that renew your sense of satisfaction at work or you find you are no longer learning new things, you may want to look in some new directions:

  • Think beyond the skill set you use at work. Do you have skills that could become the basis of a new career direction?

  • Take a close look at your transferable skills (skills required in most positions, such as communication or teamwork skills). Which of these could lead you in a different direction?

  • Widen your scope. Look at your industry or sector rather than at a specific job or occupation.

  • Even with your experience, you may need to go back to school or retrain in order to make the changes you want. Could you study and work part time or get some of the training you need through your current job? For more information, visit the ALIS website at and click on Education/Training Seekers.

The career laddering process encourages you to take responsibility for the ongoing development of your career. Career laddering can help you increase your job satisfaction by taking a close look at where you are, discovering where you’d like to be and making changes to close the gap.

When your work aligns with your values and passions, the result is renewed energy, greater job satisfaction and a fulfilling career.

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