Climbing the ladder when there’s no ladder to climb

02Jul09

SLA 2009 Conference Round-up

How do you get more responsibility, more money, more respect, when there’s nowhere for you to go in your organization? This title alone intrigued me, and made me stay even though technical difficulties at the beginning made for a rocky start. Three librarians shared their professional stories to explain how they climbed the corporate ladder.

There are a number of ways to measure your status: job title; reporting structure; influence within your organization; salary; and satisfaction. All three presenters reinforced that it’s important that you think long and hard about what is most important to you. That will influence how you go about climbing the ladder. For one person, it was money. She was in a unionized workplace, so she looked at the criteria for particular job classifications, and the educational requirements, and figured out how to fit into the one she wanted that paid a rate she felt she was worth. For another, it was who she reported to. Over time, she went from reporting to a director, to reporting to a vice-president. This gave her more influence within the organization. Another went from being a solo to managing 10 people.

Some of the tips they gave:

  • Keep your eye on the big picture – know where your organization is going so you can provide value to the leadership as a whole
  • Take risks – try something new – you learn more from mistakes than from anything that works
  • Make your professional development a priority – you can’t bring change if you’re not taking charge of your own education
  • Articulate a desire to “be at the table” – where does your job fit within your organization?
  • How do you advance? Define the next level; expand the scope of your role
  • Fill an unmet need – where are the unmet gaps?

The first thing I’m going to do is rewrite my job description. Currently my job description is focused on tasks, although I actually do more managing or “thinking” work. I have made my position fit me, and my firm is happy with that. While I don’t really want to take on a supervisory role, I recognize that I need to delegate some of the lower level tasks I do (looseleaf filing, anyone!) in order to get more of the higher level work done. I already report to a member of the executive committee, and I have access to the managing partner when I want it. I need more action plans though, so I will be looking at going to executive with an action I would like to take, and how I will follow-through.

Job satisfaction is my most important criteria. Although I’d love to make more money (who wouldn’t!), I know I’m paid well for my job market. And I’ve worked in enough organizations to know how important it is to fit with my corporate culture, and I do fit here. I have the respect of my peers and my colleagues, and that’s something no money can buy.

~ Karen

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One Response to “Climbing the ladder when there’s no ladder to climb”

  1. 1 Brenda Wong

    During these tough times, it pays to think strategically and “fulfill an unmet need” as you say. I also liked the part about how your role fits within the greater organization. Great post!



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