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Are You There, Yet?

Titles like vice president and those starting with “C”, like chief financial officer or chief operational officer, have long held great appeal. Many people aspire to earn a promotion or establish a career path leading to the highest level in an organization.

What if you get there, wherever it is you are aiming, and it is not what you expected?

The common phenomenon known as the “letdown effect” occurs in careers as well. Just like the post-event blues you feel after a wedding or other big event, career let down can be experienced. The time leading up to a big event might be months, yet energies spent planning for a career milestone, like a promotion to the C-suite, might extend over many years.

While a career pinnacle might be reached, the arrival also could be filled with disappointment or disenchantment.

Conflict, organizational politics, and disrespect, in fact, fill some boardrooms and executive teams. Somehow, a misperception exists of advancing to a higher role where these common workplace challenges do not exist. Top the realities of the board room and the C-suite with the let down of arriving at the destination—the main event—and the disillusionment may be great.

Stephen Covey writes: “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” There are many proactive strategies you can employ to be sure you are on the right ladder, such as working with a career coach and being purposeful in your goal-setting. Even when you have been intentional and believe your ladder is leaning on the right wall, the expectations of reaching the top of the ladder can be shattered.

While no plan is foolproof, building a career scaffolding, instead of a ladder, is the best strategy, which includes leading where you are.

It is important to enjoy the journey and make an impact now, no matter your title. So, when you arrive at your career destination, you will bring others and your accomplishments with you. You will be able to look back and be pleased with the results. You will also savor in the journey, instead of focusing on each carefully calculated step on the ladder or the destination itself. Think of the people around you that you are inspiring, the projects you are working on, and the clients you are serving. These can all lead to amazing career impact and accomplishments, adding to your scaffolding.

If you arrive and you find what you expected, celebrate! If you arrive and are disappointed, your let down might not be as great, as all of your energies and focus were not lost on the one big destination. When you build a scaffolding, you can move over to the side, jump down for a while, rely on your network or tap into other opportunities. Unlike the ladder you have built that only went to one place, career scaffolding is stronger, wider, and more reliable.

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