A recent fortune left me somewhat dissatisfied: “To climb the ladder of success, work hard and you’ll reach it.” Really? Seems that hard work and effort are the price of admission – they certainly don’t guarantee the opportunity to rise through the ranks in any profession.
And, then, I met Stephanie Moran, the brilliant Senior Vice President of Innovation at the economic development-focused, Go Topeka, who introduced me to the idea that, “It’s not a corporate ladder. It’s a jungle gym.” Yes!
Traditionally, we’ve been taught to envision our career progression as a straightforward climb up a corporate ladder. However, Moran’s jungle gym metaphor encourages us to view our journey as a dynamic, multidimensional experience. Just like a jungle gym offers various routes and opportunities for exploration, so does your career. Embrace the lateral moves, the unexpected twists, and the chance encounters that make your professional journey unique.
One key element in successfully navigating this jungle gym is the cultivation of relationships. Instead of focusing solely on climbing upward, consider the importance of building strong connections in all directions—up, down, and sideways. Reach out to mentors who can guide you, collaborate with peers to expand your network, and mentor those who are just starting their climb. The relationships you build will serve as your support system, providing insights, opportunities, and a safety net when you need it most.
When you establish connections with people at different levels of the organization, you gain a more holistic understanding of the company and industry. You might discover hidden opportunities, innovative ideas, or even a passion you hadn’t considered before. Building relationships in all directions enhances your adaptability, resilience, and overall career satisfaction.
As you navigate your own jungle gym, remember that success is not solely determined by how high you climb but by the relationships you cultivate along the way. The jungle gym metaphor encourages us to value the journey, appreciate the people around us, and remain open to unexpected opportunities.
So, let’s embrace the jungle gym mentality in our careers and lives. Break free from the confines of the traditional ladder and swing from bar to bar, building meaningful connections at every turn.