Monday, 15 June 2015

What if your career ladder is against the wrong wall?

I was listening to a TEDx talk by Keith Weber recently, and I re-heard this quote from Stephen Covey: “I have climbed the ladder of success, and as I’m getting near the top rung, I realize that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall” (Covey, 1998, p. 177).

Wow: that must be a powerful moment for anyone to experience.

I think it also aligns with the experience of those who have completed their education or training, and, now that they know their field, they no longer want to be a part of it.

When working with people who are in this situation, what should we do?

I tend to like metaphors, to ask people how they see or feel their profession. Then to ask them how they see or feel themselves. They will usually find the gaps for themselves. There simply may not be a cultural fit (or, in the case of Keith Weber, may not have been a cultural fit for a while).

But, while I like metaphors, there are many, many different approaches. Kerr Inkson's new edition of "Understanding Careers" suggests that we can work on four areas to develop aspects of career agility to find a client solution:
  1. Identity: helping our client to develop clarity for their "needs, motivation, abilities, values and interests" (Inkson et al, 2015, p. 297)
  2. Values-driven: assisting our client to determine their personal values and establishing how they measure career success
  3. Adaptability: aiding our clients in being resilient, showing them how to develop their own competence and helping them develop a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006)
  4. Self-directedness: helping our clients see themselves as the major actor in their own careers, helping them discover their independence, so they can move towards their next interdependence role.
A very practical approach.


  • Covey, Stephen (1998). Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. USA: Franklin Covey Company
  • Dweck, Carol (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. USA:Random House
  • Inkson, Kerr; Dries, Nicky & Arnold, John (2015). Understanding Careers (second edition). UK: Sage
  • Weber, Keith (2012). TEDx CSU: Climbing Down the Career Ladder. Retrieved 26 May 2015 from


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