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Make Positive Career Moves with Career Laddering

We all feel frustrated or bored at work from time to time. But how do you know if it’s time to look for new challenges, skills, or experiences in your current job—or to look for a new job?

Career laddering, also known as career pathing, can help. You can use career laddering to evaluate where you’re at in your career and answer questions such as:

  • Can I find satisfaction in my current job?
  • Do I want a promotion in my current company?
  • Would I prefer a new, lateral job in my current company?
  • Do I want to become a manager or an expert?
  • Should I think about a job with a different company?

Evaluate where you are now

Think about your current job. Complete these statements:

  • I was originally attracted to my job by…
  • I like my work because…
  • I dislike my work because…
  • My work challenges me because…
  • My work doesn’t challenge me because…
  • I am good at the following skills…
  • I use the following skills at my work…
  • As I have gained experience at work, my job has changed in these ways…
  • My job supports the demands of my personal life and values in these ways…

Now think about whether you can make your current job more satisfying. Complete these statements:

  • 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…

How do your answers make you feel about where you are now in your career?

Sometimes the reason people leave a job is that they are unhappy with the work. It could be that you are overqualified and don’t find the work to be challenging. Or, it could be that you feel underqualified because you don’t have the skills, education, training, or support to do the job you have been hired to do. If that’s the case for you, maybe it’s time to do some career planning.

Explore your options

You're not alone. Many people with jobs much like yours have added new rungs to their personal career ladders. Thankfully, you can learn from their their experience.

Free tools like LinkedIn's Career Explorer, Planext, PayScale's Career Path Planner, and the Conference Board of Canada's OpportuNext can help you explore some common next steps that people in your type of role often take. If you have post-secondary training, the Canada Job Bank's Fields of Study tool lets you see what types of occupations people with the same type of education often work in.

You can use these tools to get a sense of what types of roles might be easiest for you to step up to as the next rung in your own career ladder. You may be able to do that within your current role and employer. Or you may need make a larger change to get to where you want to be.

Consider growing in place

You’ve had a chance to think about your current position. Now’s a good time to consider more ways to find satisfaction in your current job. Talk to your boss about any changes you have in mind. Check out the following suggestions:

  • Think about job redesign. You may be able to trade or share some less satisfying parts of your work with your co-workers. This type of job redesign (also called job carving) may let you do more of the work you find satisfying and less of the work that isn’t.
  • Look at a lateral move. You may be able to move to a job that relies more on the skills and values that are important to you. A lateral move can also help you increase your skills and knowledge and renew your interest in your work.
  • Build your skills. Take time to identify the skills you need to make your present job more interesting or to prepare for another job. Then consider taking a course or workshop or applying for some on-the-job training.
  • Take on new challenges. Work on your leadership skills. Volunteer for assignments, projects or new work locations that allow you to use the skills and traits you value. Take some calculated risks.
  • Look at alternatives to your workday. Think about whether modified or reduced work hours would help you deal with the challenges in your life. Check out part-time work, job-sharing and other options.
  • Grow your network. Reach out to people within and outside your organization or occupation. When you keep up with current connections and make new ones, you may discover new ways to grow in your job.

Consider moving on

If you can’t make changes that will help you feel satisfied with your work, you may want to look in some new directions:

  • Think beyond the skills that are specific to your work. Do your skills qualify you for other jobs? Do you have other skills that can lead you in a new career direction?
  • Take a close look at your transferable skills. These are skills you can use in most positions, such as communication or teamwork skills. Can these 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 to make the changes you want. Can you study and work part time, or get some of the training through your current job?

Use career laddering to improve your career

Career laddering encourages you to think about and develop your career. You can increase your job satisfaction by taking a close look at where you are, finding out where you’d like to be and making changes to close the gap.

When your work aligns with your values and passions, you’ll discover renewed energy, greater job satisfaction and a fulfilling career.

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