There is only one way careers can go: up!
Last week we looked at the way employee journeys are visualised. The next room in the Museum of HR (planned opening in 2022), will be dedicated to Career Paths. Career paths were particular fashionable in the period 1970 to 2010. Today we see them less, but they are certainly not extinct.
The primary visual people associate with a journey, is a road. If you ask designers to design a visual to illustrate a career path, their first choice is a ladder, or stairs. Hardly ever a real path, hardly ever escalators (a career is too easy, if you use escalators). There is only one way careers can go, and that is up. Sometimes there is more than one way to go up, but most of the time there is only one way. Even the way out (“up-or-out”) cannot be found in many visuals.
In this post, some examples out of our current collection (sources can be found by clicking on the picture. If you have more nice examples, contact the curator of the Museum of HR (Tom Haak).
Real Career Ladders
1. A simple career ladder. If you climb the ladder, you can go from Assistant Manager to VP. No alternatives, no way out. VP is the final level.
2. Another pure ladder. This ladder looks somewhat more stable than ladder number 1. How you are supposed to get from the ladder onto the different floors is not so clear.
3. A very classical picture, used by many. If I use Google Images to search for this picture, the list with results is endless. This is the iconic career picture: a man, in a suit with a briefcase climbing the career ladder (stairs). He is in the spotlight (look at the shadow), but he does not mind. He is a man with a mission.
4. A more modern version of the classical picture. Still a man with a briefcase (a present from LinkedIn). He is more in a hurry, and the sky is the limit.
5. Yes, there are female versions of the classical picture. She also has a briefcase, and she seems more careful than the men in pictures one and two. A bit hesitant. The stairway seems to be a bit more dangerous. Health & Safety seems to be less of an issue when is comes to career management, the stairways hardly ever have handrails. Where is the sky gone? The future looks grim…
Wow! It is fantastic at the top
6. From Manual Tester to Director in a period of 12-23 years, that is a bright prospect. As a manual tester you can wear T-shirt and jeans, but thereafter a suit is mandatory. If you reach the top after 12-23 years, it is time for a party, and you can post your flag on the top. Luckily there is room at the top in this organisation. The picture does not show what happened to the current Director…
7. The way to the top in this organisation is longer. Six layers between Associate and Managing Director. There seem to be some vacancies (at the Associate Manager and the Senior Manager level). No briefcases here. Teamwork is important, your journey to the top will not be lonely. And again, a big “hurray” when you have reached to top (less room here at the top, but the woman does not look as if she will leave soon).
8. Life is tough and lonely at Emperic. The route to the top seems to be marked, but both the man and the woman have chosen other routes. The man at the top has won a big prize, and proud he is.
9. The building blocks are also very popular in the world of career visualisation. The ladders are still necessary to move from plateau to plateau. The ultimate goal: the orange cube.
10. Where most visualisations picture a career that is one-way up, there are examples that are more flexible. Is this “Retail Career Roadmap” (why “Roadmap” and not “Map”?) you can make choices. Somewhat mechanical, but maybe more attractive than a one-way road.
11. A second example in the category “Do-It-Yourself”. You have to draw your own career ladder. This high potential is not very creative: he immediately starts drawing a traditional career: up the stairs, as quick as possible (although he could have drawn higher steps). We cannot see his other hand, but my guess is he carries a briefcase.
We travel by train
12. For some careers, you have to travel by train. Normally you would draw from left to right, but as careers have to go up, the railways in this picture go up as well. The railways have some strange elements. There is no central station. When you want to transfer from one line to the other, it looks like you have to walk. Why are the yellow, blue and green line curved? Why is COO an end-station, and CIO not?
13. In picture 13, a bit more clarity. There is a Central Station: RNJD. It is a bit unclear what is the best way to travel. The order of the stations is somewhat peculiar. Look for example at the yellow line, where the end station is “Bioethics Consultant”, a stop that comes after “Health Care Executive”.
14. We like colour. Two examples in the category :”Colourful Steps”. Nr 14: eight layers between Actuarial Intern and the SVP position.
15. This picture is from a more egalitarian organisation. In your career you do not go up, but from left to right, from read to blue. Everybody stays with both feet on the ground. The ceilings become higher (not at every step though), so you seem to have more headspace at the top.
A top-down approach
16. An atypical picture, from the casino. An upside down pyramid, that seems to tell us: Dealers are the most important in the organisation, and thereafter the only way you can go is down.
We offer variety
17. This organisation clearly offers variety. In your career you can make a detour, moving from Senior Consultant to Principle Consultant, instead of going directly to the Teamleader position.
A dual career path
18. In some organisations there is more than one way to the top. If I interpret the picture well, everybody has to start as a security officer, on the Client Site (I assume they mean Client Side…). After your first step, you can move from the Client side to an Area or Branch Office. You seem to be better off in the office than on the client side. But how do you move from the first level in the office to Branch Manager? No ladder here, the only way seems to be to go down to the blue client side.
19. Another organisation with dual careers. Clearly an equal opportunity organisation. Your possible career in management seems a bit more clear than the career on the sales site (side). Interesting: from Level 4 we are more formal, please wear your jackets.
Careers are simple
20. Efficio likes to keep it simple. From Business Analyst to Vice President, just follow a straight line. No climbing required. What is the meaning of the length of the poles that carry the pictures? Salary? Distance to the real people? The positions are equally divided between men and women, but the top job is for a man.
21. Sun Hung Ki Properties likes to be very clear: “Upon completion of the programme, management trainees will embark on their journey to a successful career along this career ladder”. The management trainees must be happy that they know their career will be successful, and that they will be Director after 13 years.
22. I like this one. No hands, no shoes, but very eager to jump to the next step.
23. The message is clear: don’t expect your career to follow a straight line, there might be some (small) diversions. Unfortunately we cannot see where the dotted line ends.
Careers are complicated
24. Interesting representation of the career paths for web designers. The bottom flow is clear. Only a few Web Designers become User Experience Designers, and for the UE Designers the most common next step is Senior UE Designer. A couple will become Senior UE Architect. The top flow is a mystery. Let’s say 10% of the Web Designers become Web Developer. The group of Web Developers suddenly becomes a lot larger. Where do these people come from?
25. “Create your own career at TP Mechanical”. Success!
26. This career path is a bit confusing. What is blue and what is green?
27. I assume that in this call centre they had some issues with staff turnover. One of the aspects leavers were unhappy about, was the unclear career prospects. HR, with help of IT, made a fantastic overview of the career paths in the call centre.
28. A clear overview from the The Marine Engineering Department. What is the fastest way to “International Voyage”?
29. You can have a fantastic career in IT at Shell!
30. We are here to help you, but be careful, it is very easy to withdraw our supporting hand.
31. A fun representation of the career paths for Marine Biologist. Probably made to discourage students to choose this study. In any case, it is difficult not to end up in the cruel “Real World” (the black box).
What can go up, can go down…
32. The last one in this series. If, in the end, you find your dream job, there is no time to enjoy. The slide to retirement goes very fast.
Updated on February 24, 2020