Hell hath a big title

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Promotions. Always celebrated. Rarely refused.

For most of us a promotion is something we strive for, particularly in the early stages of our career. There is something appealing about a neatly carved out promotional pathway of celebratory milestones, remuneration increases and impressive new titles. But as we grow and change, so too can our reason for being, our needs, wants and aspirations ... and we can find ourselves wanting to deviate from the gilded path laid out before us.

I love a great title. Chief Something Officer. Director of Stuff. Lead Whatsit. But the glint of a title and all the trappings that go with it disappear very quickly when you don’t want the role behind it. Honing your craft can be one of the most rewarding endeavors in any profession. Whether you're an architect, lawyer, midwife or engineer, many of you stepped into your profession because you loved the actual craft. When a promotion takes you away from your craft it can feel like a double edged sword, particularly when everyone around you is applauding your 'success'.

Suggesting a different way forward to those who have gone before you can border on the insulting. How do you tell them you don't harbor the same ambitions? That you have a sneaking suspicion that you may climb your way to the top, just as they did, and not like the view? We often talk about strategic foresight, or the ability to 'see around corners', when we talk about strategic planning. But we don't often look around career corners. And before we know it we are on a predetermined pathway with one destination.

Saying 'no thanks' to a well worn promotional pathway is not testament to a lack of ambition.

Sometimes our lack of enthusiasm for a particular path is telling us something. A reticence for promotion may in fact signify an underlying, unexplored ambition. An interest in another discipline. A pull towards starting your own business. A love of being ‘on the tools’. Ignoring these messages can see us adapt to someone else's idea of 'success', rather than our own.

And it is for this reason that those of us in the employee experience space need to step up and understand the impact our often rigidly designed career pathways have on workplace diversity, engagement and retention. To do this, we need to design flexible and creative career pathways with our employees, not for them. Pathways that invite difference in. Pathways that smash apart preconceived notions of ‘success’ and celebrate individual aspirations, creativity and choice.

For it's fairly obvious; if we don't create diverse career pathways for our people, they will create their own ... somewhere else.

First published: 2017

Image: Johnson Wang on Unsplash