Power Point: Get used to the jungle gym

August 7, 2009, 4:35 AM UTC

“The most successful people I know don’t think of their career as a ladder. But rather, a jungle gym.”

– I’m posting my own quote tonight. I’m here late, trying to clear my deck before a vacation day tomorrow. Cathy Benko, the Vice Chairman and Chief Talent Officer at Deloitte emailed me, recalling this “jungle gym” analogy that I love to use to describe the career paths of many of the most successful people I’ve met during my 25 years at Fortune. She’s finishing up the manuscript for the sequel to Mass Career Customization, and she asked me if she could mention my “jungle gym” idea in her new book.

I said, “Sure.” And I figure it’s worth sharing the rest of what I wrote to Cathy…

People who view their careers as jungle gyms, rather than ladders, make sure that their vision is always peripheral so that they can see opportunities that come along—and swing to them. Many women on our Fortune Most Powerful Women in Business list have taken lateral moves, and some even downward moves–to broaden their experience base.

I’ve found that women tend to view power more horizontally than men tend to–less about rank and status and size. More about influence, and spreading it broadly. So women might more likely entertain the jungle gym concept than men would. Or so I think, if stereotypes hold!

Today, as the world changes so fast and we have no clue what tomorrow brings, it’s even more important to get off that career ladder and think of your career as a jungle gym or a lattice, don’t you think?