You're ready and raring to climb the corporate ladder, but what if you can't see a clear career progression? Sometimes there are no programs in the organization to help you get to the next level. You wish there was a structured path that you could just follow in order to progress. Or perhaps there aren't many opportunities to move up in the company, as is often the case in flatter organizational structures. What do you do?

While many companies have developed career ladders, competency matrices, career progression programs, and similar tools to assist employees in identifying career paths and options, this is not the case everywhere. Far more often, the company has no structures or models to guide employees in their development and job choices. A high-achieving, motivated professional is not likely to give up in this situation, nor should you.

Here are five tips to help you keep your career on track:

  1. Don't despair! Just because a career path isn't immediately obvious, or planned out by the company, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Sometimes career paths simply aren't well communicated, and sometimes new ones can be forged with a little perseverance. Consider finding a mentor who knows you and the organization and who may be able to guide you in the process.
  2. Look around. Pay attention to the factors that lead to success in the company. Who gets promoted? What skills are valued? Are people with strong technical skills in the top roles, or people with strong relational and communication skills? Does the company tend to reward star performers in one area, or those with a breadth of knowledge across the organization?
  3. Take initiative. No one will just hand you your next opportunity or promotion. The more involved you are, the more opportunities that will arise. Volunteer for projects. Sit on committees. Interact with other departments, business units, or areas of the organization.
  4. Be flexible. The road to the top is not always straight up. Think of a road up a mountain - it doesn't go straight up, but winds around and can be more horizontal than vertical for most of the way. Think about whether a sideways or diagonal move might help gain valuable skills and experience to get you where you want to go.
  5. Know what makes you happy. That promotion to manager might sound good at first, but what if you don't actually like supervising people and not getting to do any of the work yourself? Plan your career moves based on what you enjoy, what you're good at, and where you need and want to grow skills, not just on the "obvious" next move.

In today's work world, it is beneficial to think a bit wider than just pursuing the ladder with rungs that only go up. There are times in life when an upward direction works fine, but at other times, sideways, diversions, or even backwards steps can work too. You don't need the company to clearly define your next career move for you - with a little awareness and planning, you might even find a meaningful path no one else knew was there!

Author's Bio: 

If you liked this article, Lauren invites you to visit for additional resources and advice to assist you in strategically managing your career and team. Sign up for the biweekly newsletter containing valuable articles and tips, and receive the special report "Top 10 Ways to Rock Your Role!" as her gift to you.

Lauren's passion and talent for helping people connect the dots between their current job situations and their ideal outcomes led to her specialization in the field of strategic career coaching. She has dedicated the rest of her professional life to showing people how work can be enjoyable, meaningful, values-based and balanced. Careerevolution Group was formed to transform people's experiences of work so they can enjoy their success!