What Does "Career Ladder" Mean?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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The term "career ladder" refers to an employee's ability to move up within a company or industry over time as new skills are acquired and new qualifications are earned. The benefits of climbing the career ladder include more responsibility, better pay, more power within a company or industry, more job satisfaction, and much more. The job candidate will often start with an entry-level position at the "bottom rung" of the ladder, and work his or her way up through a series of better positions until he or she reaches the "top rung" where the most satisfaction can be gained.

Not all entry-level positions will allow a candidate to climb the career ladder. Some positions only allow for lateral mobility, which means an employee may take another position within the company, but it will not be any higher or lower than the previous position. Climbing the career ladder implies that the employee will be improving his or her standing within the company or industry, receiving more incentives and better pay for the effort. The climb may take several months or several years, depending on the success of the employee, and there is no guarantee that the employee will rise to his or her desired position.


The ways in which a person climbs the career ladder can vary. Some people take part in specific training sessions offered by the company that allow that employee to improve his or her skills or even develop new ones. Formal training and professional development opportunities are certainly one way to climb the career ladder, but they are by no means the only options. A person can improve his or her job situation simply by working hard and showing managers he or she is ready for a promotion. Networking is especially important: candidates who have strong interpersonal skills are more likely to improve job standing by developing solid relationships with managers or other superiors.

Of course, if an employee gets fired or leaves a company, there is a possibility that he or she will need to start over again at the bottom rung. Some people are fortunate enough to make a lateral move between companies or even move up the career ladder, but in other cases, if an employee chooses to leave a company, he or she may have to take many of the same steps over again to earn good standing within the company and climb the ladder.


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Post 3

I recently realized that if I was going to climb the career ladder I was going to need an MBA. No matter how well I did or what kind of numbers I put up, I am not going to get into management without the little piece of paper that says I deserve to be there.

Post 2

I feel like my company has forced me into what are essentially lateral moves. I get a new title, a new work space, and maybe a little more money, but these are not real promotions. I am still basically on the same rung of the ladder.

Can anyone give me any tips for breaking into the next level? I have a good performance record, am well liked and pretty well known. But I seem to get overlooked when it really matters. How do I show them that I can handle more responsibility?

Post 1

I heard a great piece of advice once. It went something like this, "It is better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than halfway up one that you don't." The lesson is that success is relative. If you hate your job or company than a promotion is nothing to be excited about. But if you are on a career path you want to be on but just starting out you have something to strive for and look forward to.

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