Career clinic: Building a ladder to your future

Career ladder
By Russell Borland, Executive Coach and Partner with Leading Figures

19 April 2018

Aligning your skills and goals with the ideal role is the key to making the right job decisions, says Russell Borland, a Coach on the ICAS Masterminds Executive Coaching Programme.

“How do I know which choices are going to be right for me?”

Some people reach the top of the career ladder, only to find that they are leaning against the wrong wall. But that needn’t be you if you take time to align your skills and goals with the rungs that lead to your ideal role. As Winston Churchill said: “If you find a job you love doing, you’ll never have to work again.”

Don’t leave your choices to chance

We may be fortunate enough to stumble on a role that happens to work out for us, but why not think about it carefully and help it to happen more by design than default? Sometimes it’s only when we start to feel the pain of where we are that we begin to dream of other options.

While the comfortable salary and future pension benefits may beckon us to stay, they might not be enough if you feel desperately unhappy in your current role or have ambitions to pursue another path.

This article is a reminder that you have choices and that you can exercise them.

If you don’t know exactly what you want, an alternative might be to start by thinking about what you don’t want, especially if your current role is, for whatever reason, thwarting or inhibiting your progress or fulfilment. Let where you are today inform where you want to be tomorrow by asking the following questions:

  • What are your values?
  • Which of your values must be evident in any organisation that you choose to work with next?

Where do you want to be?

In other words, which organisations do you want to work for and why? It’s worth remembering that you are choosing them as much as they are choosing you and such a mindset is especially useful during an interview.

Other considerations relative to the organisation include: location, sector, size, culture, flexibility, diversity and opportunities for professional development.

Concurrently, what might be the ideal role for you within your preferred organisation? What are your skills and where are the gaps? The skills that have served you so well to this point may be inadequate for the role you now seek. How might you plug those gaps? Would you benefit from a technical module, a leadership course, an additional qualification, a mentor or a coach?

Place your ladder against the correct wall by aligning your values with 'like-minded' organisations and matching your skills and aspirations against potential roles. Being able to genuinely articulate what you really want is a powerful way of achieving it.


Russell Borland is an Executive Coach and Partner with consultancy Leading Figures and one of the coaches delivering the ICAS Masterminds Executive Coaching Programme.

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