The corporate ladder only goes one way. Up. You would think it would go down too, but with all the jostling, pushing and fighting, the only way down is falling.
The role of the next rung up is usually a manager of sorts. You do something well, so you’re promoted out of that role and into one of managing a team of others doing that role you did so well. That may be fine for some, but it certainly isn’t fine for everyone.
Think of an orchestra. If you’re a violinist in the back desk of the violins, your career progression is to potentially move to the first desk, possibly even becoming the principal first violinist. You wouldn’t get promoted to the conductor. If you did, all that mastery of your instrument is lost to the orchestra. Those long hours of practise would be wasted. Even worse, you wouldn’t have the necessary skills to be a good conductor because you would’ve been focusing on the violin, not conducting. The whole orchestra would suffer.
Yet this is what we do regularly in the workplace. We only give people a single path of progression. If they want to progress and get more money, they generally have to move into a managerial role. Doesn’t this strike you as extremely counter-intuitive?
Mastery is where it’s at. Mastery of your particular skills. Companies create career paths for employees, but are those really the paths you want to travel? Are they taking you in the direction you should be going in? Is it right just because everyone else is doing it?
Choose your own path. Make a conscious decision where you want to take your life. It may be the corporate ladder, it may not. But make sure it involves mastery.
Also published on Medium.