Fast risers, steady climbers: Career advancement styles

Fast risers, steady climbers: Career advancement styles

Are you a rising star or an unstoppable freight train? Not sure? Then you’d better read on.

Some managers enter the workplace in their early 20s, propel themselves into middle management within a year, and climb into upper management before their 30th birthday. Others move steadily, according to a long-established plan, through the ranks to the upper echelons of a company. Yet others make one or two lateral moves that provide them with enough experience to move straight to a senior position.

Many managers are aspirational. However, how we attain our career goals differs from person to person. And here’s the interesting part: by knowing your career advancement style, you’ll be better equipped to make career choices that work for you. In addition, you’ll also have a better idea of what types of challenges and opportunities you might encounter, and how they can hamper or help your advancement.

The Rising Star is young, aspirational, and a fast mover. She’s a people person with strategic skills and sees opportunities for the company while others are still rubbing their eyes. Her challenges include potential difficulties asserting her authority due to her relative youth and a (perceived) lack of industry knowledge. Her opportunities include bringing fresh insights to company leadership, which can result in more influence in company strategy and even opportunities to spearhead new initiatives.

The Unstoppable Freight Train had his career planned out from the day he started middle school. He knows exactly what career move to make and when, and never wavers from his plan. His main challenge is the risk of missing opportunities due to hyperfocus on his established plan. Opportunities may come to him because his supervisors know he’s dependable and can predict the types of projects where he’d be an asset.

The Lateral Mover enjoys expanding her skills, knowledge, and experience by making lateral moves. She might work as a free agent, or she could make lateral moves between departments or even employers. Her challenges include being perceived as having a lack of expertise or not being loyal to an employer. At the same time, she might miss opportunities to advance because she doesn’t stay in one role for long enough. Her opportunities are likely to come in the form of projects that require knowledge of multiple fields combined with versatility, creativity, and flexibility.

The Lingerer consistently performs well—but he doesn’t stray out of his comfort zone. His challenges could include being seen as unmotivated or timid, which could diminish his chances of advancing. His opportunities, which he might not really welcome due to a lack of confidence, could come in the form of stretch assignments or employer-prompted promotions.

The Re-Inventor isn’t afraid to change course completely if she finds her work unfulfilling. She’s adaptable, a quick study, and a tireless worker, which allows her to change industries and roles with relative ease. Her challenges may include having to start over at the bottom of the ladder. Her opportunities are likely to come from having transferable skills that she can use in multiple industries. Plus, experience, as well as the courage and ability to change careers are highly sought after by some employers.

Developing a career plan

Now you know your career advancement style, use that knowledge to develop a career plan. According to Tara Duggan in her Chron article titled “Career Management Methods for HR,” a career plan should include two to three development objectives and a range of possible activities to assist in achieving these objectives. This will make you proactive rather than reactive. Return to this plan regularly throughout your career, especially when a challenge or opportunity arises, because it will help you decide what your best course of action is.

Knowing your career advancement style offers you insights into how and why you make specific career decisions. Use your knowledge of your professional self to guide your decisions and develop a career plan that supports your abilities and is aligned with your natural preferences.