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Why Climbing the Corporate Ladder Is No Longer The Ultimate Goal

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

June 7, 2017
|4 min read

In the Baby Boomers' generation, “climbing the corporate ladder” was often the definition of success —  the idea of starting in the mailroom and working your way up to being president seemed to be their American dream.

But what if that's not something that everyone wants?

The fact is, this goal is not on everyone's agenda. If you are a recruiter, HR professional, or simply manage people on any level, it’s important to take the time to understand each person’s unique career goals. They may not dream of the six-figure salary and corner office, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be an integral part of your team or have a role in the success of your company.

So before you automatically put your star employees on the fast-track to corporate advancement, consider the following.

Not All Workers Aspire to Leadership Roles

Each individual has a different idea of what their career path looks like. Some people simply want to go work their 9-5, head home, and not think about work until the next day. Some don't want to take on the responsibility of leadership roles, and instead of running a team, would rather produce and do the work they love. Others may make family a larger priority in their life and don't want to put in the 60+ hours per week or the potential travel that may be required of a manager level or higher position.

According to a study done by CareerBuilder, only one third (34 percent) of workers aspire to leadership positions, with just 7 percent aiming for senior or C-level management. Though some managers and leaders may not understand that mindset, especially when it’s performance review time, it’s important to adjust your way of looking at employees’ different aspirations. This career path diversity in your workforce is important. If you only have one promotion to give, sometimes it's good that not every person on your team is vying for it.

Employees can contribute and add value to your organization in so many ways beyond just advancement. Great leaders can greatly benefit from the skilled workers that are happy staying right where they are.

The High-Demand Blue Collar Workers

Because of the “corporate ladder” mentality being ingrained in the younger generations’ heads, some people think it’s important to follow the formula of obtaining a college degree, landing an office job, and working your way to the top. But perhaps because of this, there is a shortage of skilled blue collar workers. And these jobs are in more demand than ever. In fact, between 2013 and 2015, the economy added 2.3 million middle-wage jobs, blowing past the growth in high-paying and low-income sectors.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in 2016, around 13.7 percent of the nation’s jobs were blue collar. And currently, there has been a bigger push than ever to bring these jobs back to the forefront. Experts predict that middle-wage jobs could be ready for a renaissance.

Blue collar jobs often get a reputation they don’t deserve. A lot of blue collar workers are happy doing these highly-skilled jobs. They require specialized courses or training and not a four-year degree, so these individuals aren’t bogged down paying back student loans. Also, according to Fox Business, some of these jobs have incredible benefits and have an average salary expectation that is $15,000 dollars higher than the national average. Many of these highly-skilled workers are interested in doing their specific skill and doing it well, and then hanging their hat at the end of the day and going home.

The New, Flexible Workforce

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2006 and 2016, the average job tenure for employees aged twenty-five and over was only five years. Also, more than more than one-third of Americans are freelancers (some 53 million Americans), and by 2020, that number could be as high as 60 million.

These two key indicators prove that instead of working their way up in a company to get the corner office, the new workforce is jumping from job to job to look for meaning in their work. They have a more creative and entrepreneurial mindset than previous generations. They don’t mind working gig to gig, and technology is allowing them to do that now more than ever. The traditional corporate ladder doesn’t apply to them, because they aren’t even at a company long enough to make a dent in it.

As you can see, the workforce is diverse and ever-evolving. So before you automatically consider a promotion into a leadership position as the ultimate reward for your employees, take a step back. You may need to shake up your mindset of what professional success means to each individual and work with them according to their unique career goals. Those goals may not be what you expect, but it doesn’t make them any less important.

Amy Williams is a Marketing Specialist at Yoh and alumni from the University of Pittsburgh, having earned her degree in Media Communications. In her spare time you will find Amy singing with her operetta company as well as enjoying all things pop culture, food, and Philadelphia.

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