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The Lattice Career & Culture; The Demise Of The Corporate Ladder

The Lattice Career Path

Making strides in your professional career is always perceived as slowly moving up the corporate ladder. Although this is still the case in some organisations the dynamics of business have ultimately changed as have the aspirations of the people who work within it.

I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of ‘Share or Die’ a book about the millennial generation. An absolutely inspiring read however one chapter which really struck a chord with me was ‘Get on the Lattice’ by Astri Von Arbin Ahlander & Yelizavetta Kofman who look at implementing a Lattice approach to your career.

What is a Lattice Career?

The traditional corporate ladder works in an upward climb. You either make strides in business, move downwards or stay the same level. A lattice however can take you in all directions. As the Lattice Group state on their blog: ‘You can climb the lattice without having to go up on a pre determined track; climb up, climb right, climb left, but always keep climbing.’ Essentially the Lattice promotes a more flexible career progression and not one which is one dimensional.

An example of this would be a traditional offline designer who retrained in online graphics design and then branched out further to web design. They might not be moving up the corporate ladder but they are always progressing, learning and improving their skills set.

The Lattice also matches the current demands of business and the inflexibility the corporate ladder. As mentioned in the book Share or Die ‘Our globalised, competitive world demands flexibility. Employers want to be fluid, hiring and firing with the markets increasingly fickle whim. For all the benefits of the ladder career in terms of stability and institutionalised knowledge, it’s just not flexible. So in the long run, it’s out’

The problem with business today:

The issue lies with the legacy ideal of business. Life and the development of a great lifestyle are becoming as important as a successful career path. Traditionally the approach was to work to eat to earn your keep whereas now an integration of family and work life is required.

The ultimate issue with this however is that businesses are not prepared for this change. The Lattice group state that ‘A success at work requires full investment, as does personal and family life. It’s unrealistic to expect you will be remarkably successful in both facets at all times’.

But businesses choose to group those who are primary caregivers to children, sick family members as undeserving of career development and advancement. There’s a negative mind set within the corporate world that if you’re not full time, fingers to bone working then you’re not committed to the organisation.

But here lies the problem. This attitude and approach by businesses can be excused in some circumstances. In certain professions the full time worker will be preferred for the career advancement. It’s merely dependant on the industry. This is where career choice comes into play.

How lattice works for career choice:

The lattice approach often involves a compromise or choice of career based on the family aspirations. Difficult choices need to be made where you choose between family or a high level working career. This may sound dramatic but this choice should ultimately be made as early as possible. If family is a priority for you in life or you envisage it will be then a career in investment banking is probably not the right choice.

The lattice approach involves realistic priorities. If your personal fulfillment requires that you live up to your potential at work, you should minimise your family and personal obligations. Sure there are careers where an integration can be achieved however these are usually slim.

Careers in digital are continuing to be the optimum career choice for those looking for a lattice approach. The ability to tailor working hours and schedule around family life means it’s more plausible that you can achieve such balance. There are however services industries and other careers where this is not possible. You may choose to divert your career path to find something which does meet your goals while learning and developing. This is the lattice approach.

Share or die states that if you want to be the CEO of Coca Cola by the time you are 35 and have the lattice lifestyle then it’s just not going to happen. Stop reading now.

How to get the lattice?:

1: Research careers and industries and put that side by side with your life aspirations. Do they fit? Is there a match? If the hours far outweigh the time you want for personal achievements then it’s probably not the career which fits the lattice.

2: Be realistic with your goals. Lattice is about finding the sweet spot for your life. Write down EXACTLY what you want from your life. If becoming a parent who is involved in every step of their childs life is a priority then you probably won’t be the 70 hour a week CEO of a large organisation. If flexibility is the key then don’t expect to have huge managerial responsibilities at work.

3: If you’re in a relationship then this needs to be a joint decision. The lifestyle has to meet for you both. If one individual wants to be the 70 hour a week work person whereas the partner wants to a hands on family lifestyle then it may be a poor match. The conversation can be tough but it’s about working as a team. You may want to sit down and talk about expectations from one another. Who is going to earn what % of the family income, who is going to do what % of the day to day chores.

I loathe the notion that the man ‘earns the bread’ and the women should be thankful. It’s a combined, interwoven combination who contribute equally to one another. Not everything comes down to financial achievements; there’s far more in the lattice approach than that.

4: Ask for change. If you’re in a career which you feel the approach may work then you can ask for the change. I’ve written documents on how to ask your manager if you can work from home or the four day work week. If you make your case and research accordingly then balance can be achieved at work. Sometimes it may take some sort of cultural change but ultimately it can be achieved.

The lattice career and culture involves knowing what you want to achieve. You need to realistically make this clear as soon as possible and it involves you and your partner. What sort of lifestyle do I want to lead? What standard of living? How hands on with my children? How much free time would I prefer? Add all these up and make career decisions and life decisions based on your preferences. It’s absolutely tough but it’s a question we all try and gloss over. We stumble and fumble our way through a life; complaining about the hours we work, the job we have and the lack of quality time. You can make a change

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Stranded with sugar

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.


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