In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg writes: “A jungle gym scramble is the best description of my career. I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.” My experience of coaching, working in recruitment and interviewing people for my books is that this is much more common that we ever talk about.
When we speak about careers, the career ladder is the first descriptor most of us hear. It sounds like our careers will be linear, each role building neatly on the past and that it will be a steady, controlled and natural progression. I am sure that does happen for a few people but for most of us, our careers have a much less ordered and obvious route to them. We may take a sideways step to deepen our experience, we may go through a redundancy or career break which slows our trajectory down, we may decide that our chosen career is no longer what we want to do so we go retrain and start all over again.
I wish we talked about this more so that those who are joining the career jungle gym or find themselves heading in a direction that is unexpected, an initial disappointment or is contrary to expectations knew that there were not alone, that what they are doing is entirely normal and that as long as we are learning, working towards being happier, more fulfilled, more experienced or heading in the right direction, we are doing it right!