14 Oct 2022

Corporate Ladder or Squiggly Career?

Advice

Climbing the traditional corporate ladder, rung by rung, works for a lot of people. They join an organisation, with or without further or higher education, and advance their career by shifting from role to role once certain criteria are met, with their salary and responsibility -and often also their level of authority – increasing as they climb the ranks.

Still, this formal process isn’t for everyone, especially in today’s world of constant change and disruption. Take me, for example. I’m now a technologist, passionate about diverse talent in our industry, but I studied Environmental Science, which, although a STEM subject, had way too many lab coats and wellies for my liking. On top of that, I didn’t enter the workforce through a graduate scheme, instead following my childhood hobby – playing around with technology, just like my dad – and started off at EY as an IT Trainer. I then
moved around the firm in a non-linear way, as my LinkedIn shows.

This sort of career is what Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, co-founders of award-winning career-improvement company Amazing If, call a “squiggly career”. In their best-selling 2020 book, The Squiggly Career, they explain that frequent and fluid movement between roles, industries, locations, and even careers is becoming the new normal.

A squiggly career might be the best choice for an individual, but it won’t always be the easiest. Tupper and Ellis warn their readers that while the squiggly career can be stressful and overwhelming, knowing how to make the most of one can lead to a world of opportunity,
freedom and purpose. As a ‘mini’ squiggler myself, who moved around roles, career direction and locations, if not employer, I can confirm that they’re spot on.

Tupper and Ellis’ fantastic book is packed with thought-provoking exercises, as well as insights and inspiration from successful people who shunned the predictable, staircase-like corporate ladder for a more contemporary approach to work. Check it out – it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to learn how to do the same, and do it well, as is their Squiggly Careers Podcast.

Happy squiggling, Stemettes!

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