It’s simple to think of career progression as climbing the corporate ladder; advancing by promotion. Perform well and step-up to more responsibility and money. We all know reality is not this kind; the ladder is more like a greasy pole.
Career progression in this way can be compared to vertical integration in business. This is where companies expand by purchasing other steps in the supply chain. Like Coca Cola Bottlers acquiring its distributors, or McDonald’s acquiring the farms that grow its produce.
This is a challenging way for businesses to grow. It’s expensive, and management needs to learn something completely new, outside of their expertise. Like climbing the corporate ladder, there are no guarantees of success.
A more common way for businesses to grow is horizontally. This is where a company purchases another that basically does the same thing. Coke acquiring Pepsi, or McDonald’s acquiring Wendy’s, for example. The big advantage here is that management already knows the business. They will be doing the same thing, just on a bigger scale, and to a larger audience. It’s an easier way to make more money.
If the vertical career approach is holding you back, then try growing horizontally. A little creativity should produce several ideas, depending upon what you do. Consider leveraging your skills and expertise in new ways. Position yourself as an expert by offering classes; teaching others about what you do. Public speakers are always in demand, and blogging is also a viable option. Like a business growing sideways, you are doing simply the same thing, but on a bigger scale to a larger audience.
Even if your efforts don’t produce a massive financial reward immediately, you have solved the boredom issue of your day-job. More importantly, you are learning new ways of marketing your skills and this will pad your resume when vertical opportunities present themselves. It’s a win-win.
My favorite example of this approach is Rachael Ray, media personality and star of 30 minute meals. Fleeing New York City after multiple muggings at gunpoint, Rachael settled in Albany, NY and soon began working in a market. A brilliant, self-taught culinary specialist, her employer asked that she teach cooking classes. Inspired by the Domino’s pizza promise, 30 minutes or it’s free, Rachael created a class to show how to make great meals in the same time it takes to order a mediocre one. After reaching out for some local publicity, her idea caught on. Following a spot on the Today Show, the Food Network offered a syndicated TV show, 30 Minute Meals. Rachael Ray has leveraged her skills horizontally.
Challenge yourself to think of unconventional ways to advance your career by repackaging your skills. Are you doing this now?