According to Adam Sharp, President and CEO of The Emmys, “The notion of a career ladder is seductive.” He explains that a career ladder is like playing Donkey Kong, an old video game where the floors are uneven, the ladders vary in height and are hidden at random places, and you have to deal with various obstacles while climbing.
So, how essential is a career ladder in present times, when the work environment is undergoing a major transformation and linearity in career growth isn’t as coveted as it used to be? Instead, the focus needs to be on goals and ambition instead of trying to achieve the traditional notion of success. That’s where a career portfolio comes into play as a showcase of your achievements and aspirations. This blog discusses the relative importance of the career ladder vs career portfolio in detail and why professionals should focus on the portfolio and not the ladder.
Career Ladder vs. Career Portfolio: What is the Difference?
What is a Career Ladder?
A career ladder is an imaginary ladder whose each rung represents a different level or position in the industry. As you gain experience and expertise, you can climb higher on the ladder every few years until you reach the top.
For example, you start as an entry-level employee at the bottom rung of the ladder. After a few years, you might climb up to a manager level. Subsequently, you become a director and eventually a CEO. Each step up the ladder usually comes with more responsibility, higher pay, and more growth opportunities.
What is a Career Portfolio?
Think of a career portfolio as a scrapbook or a photo album but for your work life. It is a collection of the most notable accomplishments and experiences in your career. You can add the following things to your career portfolio:
- Examples of your best work projects for which you received acknowledgments
- Letters of recommendation from colleagues or supervisors
- Certifications or degrees you earned
- Awards you received
- Articles or presentations that you have worked on
- Skills you developed over time
A career portfolio serves two essential purposes in your career growth. First, it is an interesting way to showcase your skills, experience, and accomplishments to potential employers. Second, it gives them a better understanding of what you have done so far and what responsibilities you might be able to take up.
In other words, creating a career portfolio allows you to reflect on your past experiences and recognize your career progress over time.
Difference between Career Ladder and Career Portfolio
Your career portfolio gives a holistic view of your career and how it has evolved over the years. It shows potential employers your accomplishments in your current and previous roles, the skills you’ve developed, and the impact you’ve made on your organization. It can be a powerful tool to help you stand out from other candidates and demonstrate your value. On the other hand, a career ladder is a path you take to advance in your professional journey.
Career Ladder vs. Career Portfolio: Which is More Relevant?
You might still wonder whether you should focus on your career portfolio or a career ladder. To help you, let’s delve deeper into the career ladder vs career portfolio debate.
A McKinsey report on hiring trends shows that “the Great Attrition has become the Great Renegotiation”. It suggests that an increasing number of people are quitting their jobs, switching industries, jumping from traditional to non-traditional roles, stepping up to start their ventures, and going on sabbaticals. Several industries and companies are at a high risk of losing human resources, primarily because employees focus more on benefits, a sense of recognition, and feeling valued at the workplace.
As this trend continues, traditional career paths will add little value to your career growth. Hence, the notion of a career ladder seems to be dwindling as people are concerned about their overall growth and want to balance their personal and professional lives.
Different Aspects of Career Ladder and Career Portfolio
Job roles are evolving in the era of rapid technological advancements. New jobs are emerging, whereas many others are at high risk of irrelevance. Focusing solely on moving up the career ladder can be detrimental to your growth as companies require people with diverse skill sets. Thus when it comes to the career ladder vs career portfolio tussle, following a career portfolio approach can help you focus on your career goals in a constantly changing work environment. You can get better opportunities and consistent career growth in the following ways:
- Showcases skills and experience: Your portfolio is a visual representation of your skills and experiences, making it easy for employers to see what you can bring to the table
- Shows your achievements: Instead of just telling potential employers what you’ve accomplished, your portfolio provides concrete examples of your past successes
- Enables self-reflection: Building a career portfolio requires you to reflect on your career goals and accomplishments, which can help you identify areas for growth and improvement
- Demonstrates holistic professional development: By including training certificates and other professional development materials in your portfolio, you can show employers that you’re committed to continued learning and growth
- Highlights personality and creativity: Your portfolio is an opportunity to showcase your personality and creativity, which can make a positive impression on potential employers
How to Prepare a Career Portfolio?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build a career portfolio:
Step 1: Self-Reflection
Before you build your portfolio, analyze your career trajectory and gather all data like skills, experiences, projects, awards, and certificates you need to add. Tailor the content as per the industry.
Step 2: Organize the Content
Determine how you want to organize the content in your portfolio. You can use tabs or dividers to separate different sections and make it easy to read.
Step 3: Choose the Format
Decide on the format of your portfolio. It can be a physical binder, a digital file, or a website. Make sure it’s easily accessible and professional looking.
Step 4: Focus on Quality
Highlight only notable pieces to showcase in each section of your portfolio. Avoid cluttering it with too much information; focus on presenting high-quality work demonstrating your skills and achievements.
Step 5: Keep it Updated
Make sure to update your portfolio regularly with new accomplishments and professional development activities. For this, you must constantly upskill yourself.
Career Portfolio Template
Your career portfolio can be around 8-10 pages. Here is a list of things you can add to the portfolio:
- Focus on your skills and strengths
- Education and professional qualifications
- Letters of recommendation
- Your projects or sample work
- A short statement of purpose
Here is an example of a career portfolio template on Canva that you can easily customize.
Hope this helps ease the career ladder vs career portfolio conundrum.
Career progression has taken a new dimension in the last couple of years. People are no longer aimlessly running behind titles or promotions. They want flexibility, freedom, and the option to work remotely. In these evolving times, it is recommended to have a broad outlook toward your career and focus on learning interdisciplinary skills. Emeritus’ wide array of online courses can help you break the mold if you are stuck in your career and want to move ahead. Remember, these courses are designed with a skill-oriented approach that will help you design your career portfolio better.
By Sneha Chugh
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