The Ladder vs. the Lattice: Which Career Path Should You Follow?

Chris Stappard

Chris Stappard Managing Director of Edward Reed Recruitment

Friday, January 10, 2020

People have long aimed to climb the corporate ladder. However, as millennials and Generation Z start to dominate the workforce, employees are starting to favor a more flexible career path known as the lattice. But which one is more suited to your goals?

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The corporate ladder is the most traditional way to find your route to success. However, there's a new form of staff promotion that's steadily making its way into the mainstream: the lattice. But what's the difference between the two? And which one is better if you want to reach a senior position?

Climbing the ladder

The corporate ladder is the most straightforward way of climbing your way to the top via promotions. Its simplicity means you've got a clear path to follow in order to reach your goals, as you can start at an entry level position and work your way up the ranks over time. Although it may require you to stay in the same role for years, if you do decide to move on to a new company, your new employer has a clear indication of the skills you've gained and the previous roles you've carried out.

This career path should reward hard work and dedication with extra responsibilities and a higher status. It also ensures that all staff are fully trained in their specific roles, as they've had to move up the ranks to get to where they are. So, it’s a good option to consider if you want to become an expert in your chosen role.

However, the ability to move up relies on the availability of higher roles. In smaller companies, the chance of progression is limited and, once you've reached the top, there are very few opportunities to progress further.

Pursuing the lattice

In response to an ever-changing world of work, a new career path has come into play. The corporate lattice is a more flexible way of progressing compared to the career ladder, giving individuals the chance to move, not only upwards, but sideways, too. Due to this quality, the lattice is also sometimes referred to as the horizontal or lateral career path.

The corporate lattice is perfect if you're looking to develop all your skills equally and learn more about different aspects of the company that your work for. It values enthusiasm and a fresh outlook, and gives you total freedom to build your own career path by removing the focus on titles and seniority.

This way of progression is perfect if you're looking for a change. It also means you can move diagonally to more senior roles in another department if any opportunities come up and it's ideal if you're still searching for your dream position. Then, once you find it, you've got a whole range of skills under your belt which can help make you a great leader.

It also makes you more valuable to your company, as you'll have experience in many roles and a wider range of skills compared to your average employee. So, you're more likely to gain job perks, promotions and raises this way, too.

However, the flexibility of the lattice career path means it's more difficult to set out long-term career goals for yourself. There is also the chance that you could end up taking a risk by moving departments, only to find that your new role isn't as fulfilling or enjoyable as the last.

Which one will get you that senior position?

If your focus is on moving up into a more senior position, then the ladder career pathway might be right for you. It'll give you a clear route to follow and you'll likely reach your long-term goals quicker than you would with a lattice career path. It also makes it easier to aim for a higher job title or promotion at another company, as your career path makes more sense to them, and you have more experience in the area they're recruiting for.

However, the ladder works most efficiently when used hand in hand with a horizontal career path. Due to the lack of flexibility the ladder offers, it might be worth looking into a lattice career path to find openings in senior roles at your current company and find the area you'd like to move up in. Then, once you've found your niche by working your way along the lattice, you can move up the ladder from there.

As the working landscape becomes more dynamic, so does our approach to careers. No matter what sector you work in, the tips in this guide should help you decide which career path is right for you.

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