Still Wanted: Career Leverage

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Written by Beverly Kaye, Founder, Career Systems International

The concept of ‘career leverage’ was formed in 1982 to capture the idea of the six different ways an individual could move in an organization.  The words have seemed to have stood the test of time.  The concept is easily remembered by reminding managers and employees that the choices spell the word LEVERR.

Here are the choices exactly as they were defined in 1982 (word for word).

  • Lateral – These moves that involve a change in function and responsibility, but not necessarily a change in status or remuneration. Once considered a way of shelving “dead wood,” lateral moves are fast becoming a way for employees to broaden existing skills, learn about other areas or the organization, develop new talents, demonstrate versatility, and prepare for future vertical moves.
  • Enrichment – Career goals do not always mean moving to a greener pasture, but also involve growth in current jobs. Indeed, the actions that are easiest and quickest to show results are those directed at an employee’s present environment.  Many employees who recognize opportunities available in their current jobs decide to remain in them for some time.  The job enrichment option, clearly presented as a viable option, can win over supervisors who fear that career development means losing valuable employees.
  • Vertical – Traditionally considered the only acceptable and rewarding way to develop in a career. Vertical mobility meant that one climbed the hierarchical ladder, gaining more status, responsibility, remuneration, and authority long the way.  Movement up meant success; all other movement did not count – or counted against the individual.  Much of the literature on career mobility of the last two decades concerned itself with moving vertically within the organization.  Several major factors should be considered when setting a vertical career goal.  The larger the organization, the greater will be the competition for the increasing limited positions available as one moves upward in an organization.  If everyone in the hierarchy wants to move upward, the competition for those limited jobs can be fierce.  Too often employees see only the desirable status, authority, and money enjoyed by those at higher levels.  They fail to realize that a price is attached to those benefits.
  • Exploratory – What lies beyond the horizon of the employee’s current job? What exciting new worlds lie out there to be explored and charted?  How can employees’ jobs and lives be expanded and enriched by their discoveries?  While vertical mobility is the most traditional career goal, practitioners who also encourage the consideration of lateral and downward transfers, relocation, job enrichment, and exploratory research will greatly increase the options available to employees.
  • Realignment – These moves involve downward shifts in the hierarchy, often from a managerial position back to one as an individual contributor. Although a downward transfer is not a common career development option, practitioners who recognize it as a viable alternative will be able to help employees expand their range of choices.  It is not unusual that some employees find themselves selected for job levels that do not suit them and need assistance in making a career move back down the hierarchy.  An employee might choose to realign due to a desire to facilitate personal growth and development, or to change from one field of endeavor into another.
  • Relocation – There are times and situations in which the person-to-organization mismatch is so great that it would be to the decided advantage of both if the employee were to seek growth opportunities elsewhere. When individuals feel they are at a dead end in the organization, when entrepreneurial ventures attract employees, or when personal and organizational goals are in conflict.  While career development interventions in organizations should be aimed at keeping the employee satisfied, fulfilled, and challenged within the organization, it is naïve to assume that this will always be possible.  After serious introspection some individuals may find their present occupation, industry, profession, or fir5m does not meet their needs and may opt to relocate.

As we think of today’s career patterns, these choices, while probably worded differently, still exist.

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