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Traditionally, advancing your career meant climbing the corporate ladder. But times have changed. Sometimes, you need both vertical and lateral movements to achieve your desired professional goals. By building a lattice instead of moving up a ladder, you can often find new opportunities, broaden your skillset, and cultivate valuable contacts.

Ladder or Lattice?

Only you can make an informed decision which path your career should take. You can climb the ladder in the traditional sense – or lattice your way to the job of your dreams. It all comes down to what would benefit you the most in the long term.

  • Taking a strictly vertical approach makes the most sense when you’re on a specialist track in your field and have a clear idea of the role you’d like to have. For instance, technical specialists with deep subject matter expertise benefit tend to more from a ladder approach, as each role builds upon and deepens their specific experience and expertise.
  • The cons of a vertical approach include operating with a limited perspective of your business or industry. Likewise, as surprising as it may sound, it could actually limit your opportunities for advancement, especially in smaller companies or those with long-tenured employees.
  • A lattice approach can apply to many job functions. It’s especially critical if you aspire to be a general manager, senior business leader, or hold any other role that requires a cross-functional and more generalist set of skills. It also can be useful if you’re considering a career change, need a better work/life balance, or are returning to the workforce after a prolonged absence.
  • Moving across an organization and not just up presents opportunities to meet and work with a more varied set of people. By taking on a new role in a different part of your business, you broaden your overall perspective and challenge yourself to learn more, faster.

How to Build a Lattice

If you think the lattice approach is right for you:

  • Let go of rigid, preconceived notions. Start thinking of ways you can use and improve your strengths to create different cross sections of your lattice.
  • Align yourself with a mentor who will support both your lateral and vertical moves. This advocate who is willing to invest in your professional growth and development can be a tremendous asset.
  • Take small steps to get started. For instance, ask your manager if you can make a presentation on a specific, relevant topic. Or, volunteer for a task in a new area that interests you. This way, you open yourself up to learning more about your passions.

As you plan your next career move, don’t do it in isolation. Engage with your manager, reach out to your professional network – and consider partnering with a recruitment expert who has the knowledge, expertise and market intelligent to help point you in the right direction. In fields including engineering, accounting, finance, marketing and logistics, start with TRC Professional Solutions. Contact us today to learn more.


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