Is that classic career ladder the right step for you?

Is that classic career ladder the right step for you?

👋 Hello, this is Eli. I write a blog post every Sunday. In it, I usually explore recruitment and career growth topics, drawing insights from the frontlines. If you enjoy this type of content, consider subscribing to my newsletter here.I appreciate your readership 🙏.

This week, the topic is the career path less travelled. If you find this post helpful, please feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues. Enjoy!

Ever noticed how when folks talk about someone being "really successful," there's this unspoken consensus on what that looks like? It's like society handed us this blueprint: ace your exams, land a job at a big-name company, climb that career ladder, and hey presto, you've made it! But what if this cookie-cutter version of success feels a bit... off?

The traditional path: not one size fits all

Ah, the classic success roadmap. It's so clear-cut, right? From student life chasing top grades and prestigious colleges to the working world's pursuit of promotions and recognition. It's like a game with well-defined levels, and each level up is supposed to feel like a win. But here's the thing—what if leveling up doesn't quite give you that winner's buzz anymore?

More and more, I hear people saying the career ladder climb just isn't doing it for them. The choice between gunning for a senior role at the same place or jumping ship to a "bigger and better" company starts feeling like a stale menu. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

And then, stepping off this well-marked trail? Gosh, it's like deciding to wander off into the woods without a map. Scary, yes, but also kind of thrilling, right? 

Is this daydreaming ?

Especially in tech, it's not uncommon to daydream about ditching it all to craft beautiful furniture, run a cozy bookstore, or maybe even farm your own food. And then there are those less drastic shifts—thinking about consulting, dipping your toes into the non-profit world, or taking time off to travel or be with family.

If the thought of continuing to climb the tech career ladder feels as appealing as stale bread, but you're not quite sure what's next, you're not alone. The big question is, how do you start figuring out what your own path looks like?

You'll need to define success on your own terms.

Digging deep 

First off, let's talk values. When you're just going through the motions on the default path, it's easy to adopt society's favorite success markers as your own. But take a moment. What really matters to you? Maybe it's not the size of your paycheck or the prestige of your job title but things like integrity, community, or authenticity. Understanding your own values is like finding your North Star, guiding you through decisions big and small.


Next up, let's rethink the role of work in your life. For so many of us, especially those who've always been high achievers, the idea of not constantly striving for the next big thing feels alien and perhaps even wrong. But here's a thought: what if work was just one part of a fulfilling life, not the whole pie? Maybe for you, right now, work is about providing so you can focus on what truly lights you up outside the office.


Keep an eye out for what catches your interest and gives you energy. Maybe it's a job posting at a non-profit that aligns with your passions, or a friend's tales of freelance life that gives them the freedom to explore. These little sparks of interest can light the way to a path that feels more you and in line with what gives you energy rather than takes it day in and day out.


Choosing a path less traveled might raise some eyebrows and push-back. Expect a mix of skepticism and concern from those around you, especially from folks who are knee-deep in the traditional success narrative. Remember, their reactions are more about their own fears and insecurities than about your choices.

Your path, your rules

Embarking on this journey of defining success on your own terms is both daunting and liberating.

It's about embracing the unknown, trusting your instincts, and understanding that the most fulfilling success is the kind you define for yourself.

So, as you ponder your next steps, remember: it's your path, your rules. Success is personal, and the true joy comes from finding and following your own version of it. 

Questions to ponder

A client recently shared that they felt that I was able to bring out something that they couldn't access before. How? Through questions I asked, similar to the ones below. 

These questions are designed to encourage a holistic view of your career and personal aspirations, by facilitating a deeper understanding of what truly matters and how you can defining success on your own terms:

1. Digging into what matters: So, what's really important to you? I mean, when you strip everything back, what values do you absolutely not want to compromise on, and why do they light you up inside?

2. Weighing the gold vs the glow: Money's great and all, but apart from a comfy bank balance, what makes you feel rich in life? How do you juggle chasing the bigger pay-check with chasing those feel-good moments?

3. The work-life balance: Picture your life as a big, beautiful mosaic. Where does work fit in? Is it the centerpiece, or more like those little accent tiles that bring everything else into focus? How do you see this evolving as you flip through life's chapters? Does your work define you and who you are?

4. Growth or glow-up: Are you on the hunt for new mountains to climb at work, or are you more about shining bright with the skills you've already got? How does this choice shape the path you're carving out for yourself?

5. Increasing your awareness muscle: Have you stumbled upon any career paths or people lately that made you think, "Hmm, that's interesting"? What was it about them that caught your eye or got your heart racing a bit?

6. Your idea bouncing friend(s): Who are your go-to folks when you need to throw around ideas or untangle your thoughts? What makes their perspective so valuable to you?

7. Defining your personal success story: Fast forward to the future—you're looking back at your career. What moments or achievements will make you puff out your chest and say, "Yeah, I did that"? How does this vision guide your steps now?

8. Merging passions with paychecks: How can you tweak your career so it hugs closer to the things you're passionate about? What's one step you could take to start blending your work with what sets your soul on fire?

9. Facing down the fear monsters: What scares you spitless about stepping off the beaten path? How can we turn on the lights and show those fear monsters they're not so big after all?

10. Harmony in the hustle: How do you dream of blending your personal joys with your professional journey? What's your ideal recipe for a life that's not just productive but also downright happy?

     I hope you enjoyed this week's blog. See you next Sunday. 

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