Career Growth Mountain for Personal Development
Career Growth Mountain
If you are involved in professional coaching and development, I’d like to invite you to imagine the people you coach in an organization as taking a journey on a Career Growth Mountain.
Think of how most of us get started on our professional journey. When we start out in our career, it’s like we start off in the field at the foot of the Mountain. This Early Career Field has gorgeous wildflowers, cute animals, curiosities, and lots to explore.
There are also dangers. Sinkholes we don’t know are there until we walk into them and fall. Dangerous coyotes that are on the prowl for naive prey.
As we move through our careers, we often want to continue to amplify our visibility and competence. We yearn to see sights other than the fields. We start to climb and move into more of a wooded, forested area near the base of the Mountain. As anyone who has ever explored the forest knows well, the experience can vary and will look different for different people.
In these woods, we find new things to explore that couldn’t exist in the fields—gorgeous waterfalls and streams, new varieties of trees, and verdant landscapes.
We find new dangers here, too. We might come upon a cave with a family of bears inside. We might see plentiful and gorgeous red berries, but only after we eat them do we discover they are poisonous.
Some people may happily choose to spend their entire career in this forest area, what I would refer to as Mid-Career Woods. Some folks try their hand at managing others and leave the life of an individual contributor behind, building campfires of connection and teaching new recruits how to live off the land.
Others build and develop breadth and depth of expertise with the wildlife in the pine cove or become a subject matter expert in their passion area by focusing on a disease spreading amongst the willows by the eastern stream.
Still, others feel the tug to keep climbing and start moving up into the rocky, craggy area above the treetops. There, the vegetation is scarce. On any given day, they may meet a friendly old mountain goat or a clever mountain lion lying in wait for dinner.
Because there are fewer people at this height on the Mountain, it can start to feel lonelier, a feeling compounded by the fact that they may be more exposed than ever before. The wind whips constantly. The sun burns. But it is only at this level that they can see the unparalleled beauty of the breathtaking vistas.
Depending on the size of the organization, we might think of this area near the top of the Career Growth Mountain as the domain of the VPs and Officers of a company.
Just below where the vegetation wanes would be the Managing Directors (MD) whose role is to manage everyone in the Mid-Career Woods—who, in turn, lead the individual SMEs and early career individual contributors who are often newer to the Mountain.
Meanwhile, all the way at the top of the Mountain sits the CEO. At that altitude, there are dangers folks on the rest of the Mountain haven’t even imagined, but the view is unparalleled.
But the CEO is always alone. They no longer have peers inside the organization. Their peers sit atop their own Mountains many miles away. The CEO can still benefit from their experiences but can’t exactly walk down the trail to make meaningful connections like those that take place in the forest.
Connecting the Dots for Career Growth
I have tested and refined the PEER Framework in Fortune 500 companies with people at every level of the Career Growth Mountain, creating peer groups in the Early Career Field, in the rocky, craggy area of MDs, officers, and VPs, and most definitely in the Mid-Career Woods.
Within group coaching, I’ve found that the Growth Mountain concept helps connect dots most of us didn’t even know were there, making the invisible visible. It’s what an organization doesn’t even know it needs because, until now, there simply hasn’t been a consistent way to leverage knowledge transfer amongst peers.
Inside a Mid-Career group coaching cohort, for example, everyone may be in the woods together, but likely they’re all on different parts of the Mountain. They can learn lessons that are critical to their advancement, safety, fulfillment, or growth from one another.
Don’t touch the berry bushes on the southern-facing side because they will make you sick for days. Those who have lived here longer can tell you that the bears that used to live in that cave by the waterfall have moved out. Now it is a good space to wait out a storm. This horizontal knowledge transfer is a game-changer.
But so is the vertical knowledge transfer that can take place between Mountain levels as a result of the PEER Framework.
As a coach, you naturally want to find out where people are on their Mountain trek and what developmental space they are in, so you can help create the space for the connections that matter most to them right now.
Wherever they are, the questions you, the coach, should ask are the same:
Do they want to climb higher, or are they content for now where they are?
Where are they feeling inadequate?
What do they need to move them forward?
Do they want to stay on this Mountain or explore another?
The answers to those questions will affect how a productive, safe space for growth gets created within the PEER Group Coaching Framework.