Preview Thursday: Up is Not the Only Way by Beverly Kaye, Lindy Williams, and Lynn Cowart

The following post is a preview excerpt from "Up is Not the Only Way: Rethinking Career Mobility" by Beverly Kaye, Lindy Williams, and Lynn Cowart, with permission from Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2017).


Careers used to be predictable.

There were paths and ladders.

The hierarchy worked – for some.

As downsizing, restructuring and delayering took hold in the late 1980’s, old ladders became largely inaccessible. Some rungs disappeared. The space between others became leaps. Individual aspirations and company needs were evolving. Terms like ‘work-life balance’ were overheard. Organizations began to weigh breadth of experience against depth of expertise during talent reviews. The world of work was changing.

Careers today happen in that world–a world that continues to change. The environment is more global, more multi-generational, more dispersed, diverse and complex than ever. Hierarchies continue to flatten. Organizational structures flex. The value people place on work is changing.

Employees play multiple roles—from individual contributor to peer to leader and back, sometimes in the same day or assignment. Roles emerge and evolve. Carefully written descriptions no longer define job boundaries. Teams form and disperse based on projects. Feedback comes from multiple sources. The ladder, if it’s still there, may be harder to see and tougher to climb.

Is this the end of the career as we know it?

Every industry is changing. Internal workplace structures are changing as well. Up – the promotion path and perhaps even a ladder or two – may still exist and could still be a goal – for some. However, disappearing hierarchy resulted in fewer promotional opportunities. The route to promotion may take new turns. Someone who wants to manage others can still get there. And with the right mix of experiences, will likely arrive better prepared to take on the role.

Flattened organizations and limited career ladders don’t spell the end of growth OR careers. Opportunities may be different but they are still there. The next change frontier means changing the conversation and the mindset about careers.

Let’s be honest

Up was never for everyone. It still isn’t. Managing others is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to move up or take on more. That doesn’t mean a rewarding career is out of reach.

The message has been out there for a while now that individuals own their careers. What does that really mean? We think it means that defining career success is up to each of us. Every time circumstances shuffle the deck, you can deal a new hand. That’s actually GREAT news! We are the only ones who can envision what success looks like. And, to add to that great news, as creators of our career success pictures, we’re free to alter them when and how we choose! THAT is what it means to own a career.

So how do we do it?


You can order your copy of Up is Not the Only Way here.

Beverly Kaye founded Career Systems International (CSI) more than thirty years ago, and it has become a global leader in developing and delivering innovative, action-based talent management solutions.



Lindy Williams, designer and senior consultant with CSI, held roles in operations and human resources before stepping out of the corporate world to work on designing and implementing award-winning development processes.



Lynn Cowart is responsible for the quality delivery and implementation of Career Systems International s learning solutions, which includes facilitation, coaching and consulting and plays a strategic role in the development and certification of CSI s facilitators and trainers.

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