I recently read remarks from Harvard Business School’s Class Day by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. She says that as the internet and social media are available to everyone and information becomes more accessible, everyone can have a voice. This, of course, changes the way companies do business. At the same time, traditional hierarchies are crumbling.
The ever-so-efficient business model of the 60′s, where the boss made decisions and everyone else towed the line, doesn’t work as well as it used to. And power doesn’t mean what it used to, either.
The crumbling of career ladders is good news for people who are tired of climbing. Ms. Sandberg quotes Facebook employee Lori Goler says today’s career is more jungle gym than career ladder. Sometimes you might go sideways. You might climb down for a while. You might go up. You might even move to a different structure or step off the gym completely to take care of other priorities. Employers care less about whether or not you’ve been moving upward and more about what skills you bring to the position.
This is important for women, especially when you consider that many of us scale back on our careers to take care of family responsibilities. Yes, some workplaces are still built on traditional models, and some old-school employers might not know what to do with people whose climb has been less than linear. But eventually, employers who are looking for quality employees (which will only get harder if current trends continue) will care less about which direction the rungs are heading or even what kind of ladder you’ve been climbing on and more about the person who wants to do the climbing.
For those of us who don’t follow the workaholic model, this is great news. If you want to take some time off from work to be with your family, you’re not doomed. If you decide to work part-time or as a volunteer for a while, it’s not the end of the world. If you take a position that pays less and carries less authority than where you used to work, don’t despair that you’ll be stuck there forever.
Every opportunity will teach you something, and that can translate into a valuable job skill. You don’t know where you’ll end up or how your new skills will come in handy. You don’t have to be moving up in order to be learning.
Maybe all you know right now is that you’re doing your best to find some semblance of balance. But you’re not the only one. More and more workplaces are recognizing that employees are different, and they don’t necessarily expect everyone to follow the same path. So take heart, even if you’re hanging upside down or falling off or just gazing at the jungle gym from a distance. It will still be there later, and chances are, as workplaces change, it will have even more twists and turns for you later than it does right now.
And that makes playtime at the jungle gym sound a lot more exciting.
This guest blog has been provided by Kaylie Astin, founder of Family Friendly Work, for the Women’s Business Center.