Larry Steinle

October 12, 2014

The Modern Pioneer

Filed under: Guides — Larry Steinle @ 6:40 pm
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An individual who is the first to explore or discover a concept, location or ideology is called a pioneer. Most likely you are a modern pioneer and don’t even realize it!

If you are like me you entered the business world with the idea that you work hard, grow in wisdom and knowledge and your effort will be rewarded with a promotion. Over time you will advance until your in that elusive, desirable management position. This career path, often referred to as, “climbing the ladder,” is based on the feudal system of old. Thanks to the march of democracy, industrialization and technology, the ladder career path is for the most part disappearing from the corporate world.

This article is for business professionals looking to advance their careers in this brave new world.

The Old World

The ladder career path is very predictable. The path has been well traveled; beaten down. There is no question of how to proceed or cause of failure. In the right corporate environment it can encourage positive maturity growth in both individuals and the company as a whole.

Still, the focus of the ladder career path is on attaining authority and riches. The reward system is that if you perform well and show potential then you will gain first a financial reward and, secondly, a power reward. The focus is on personal wealth…greed. It is the individual who is willing to succeed at any cost who wins this game. After all everything is fair in love and war!

As a result the traditional ladder career path ultimately leads to corporate stagnation. Office politics take precedence over what’s best for the company as a whole. If the action or decision fails to help me achieve my own personal goals then I must resist the idea or find a way to gain authority for the idea so it can catapult me up the next step on the ladder. Thus great ideas often endure a long, costly, painful passive-aggressive death.

The Brave New World

Colleges have done an excellent job of creating over-qualified candidates. College grads today leave with not only technical skills but also managerial skills. They graduate with more information than traditionally required to fill a beginning-level position.

Now, you will never hear this perspective on the news but how do you explain the new expectations in the corporate world? While businesses may complain about lack of training in colleges for the targeted technical knowledge, they are expecting more from grads in other ways.

The end result has been the collapse of the corporate ladder. Middle manager levels are fewer, and the ones that do exist are responsible for more roles and activities than ever before. In turn the technical workers have accepted responsibilities for activities that entry-level managers used to handle.

This collapse in the ladder has made the corporate environment more aggressive as there is more competition for fewer advancement opportunities. As a CIO once explained to his department, “Not everyone can be a manager. We need people in all levels and positions.”

The natural response to this climate is, “How can I live the American dream making a better life for my family if I can’t advance up the ladder?”

The Entrepreneurial Career Path

My wife and I started a business several years ago with the intent to help small businesses utilize technology to increase their sales. She worked with small businesses as a freelancer educating the owners and providing soft skills to help them grow. Our conversations on the special challenges these businesses faced gave me a fresh, new perspective on my own job.

The traditional ladder is for the most part dead. If you want to advance you must think like an entrepreneur creating your own opportunities. The entrepreneur recognizes a deficiency in the business model, a place for improvement or undiscovered opportunity. The entrepreneur finds the void seeking to fill it and become the answer the company needs.

In the entrepreneur career path the reward is growth, both personally and professionally. When you first do what you love with the intent of helping those around you, the financial and power rewards will follow in the correct moment. No longer the focus, promotions and pay raises become the unintended side-effect of being helpful.

Don’t worry about how you will get ahead. Instead, focus on how you can help the company get ahead. Don’t worry about the company taking care of you. First, take care of the company. If you truly have a good product to sell to the company, then even if they let you go you will always find a new place that will value your unique product.

Your security should be in your skills; in your ability to take care of yourself. That can never be taken away from you. But if you lean on the company to take care of you then you are more likely to fall when the crutch is removed from your side.

Qualities of an Entrepreneur

The entrepreneur stays sharp, focused, continually seeking improvement and opportunity. Anything less is unacceptable failure.

An entrepreneur brings a fresh new perspective to the table. They offer creative solutions to the challenges they face for the sake of the business; not for their own curiosity. The entrepreneur makes decisive decisions based upon business objectives. Above all the entrepreneur is disciplined. The entrepreneur understands that there are ways of thinking, a process to follow, that leads to the best solution.

The successful entrepreneur understands that success is achieved only after many failures. They are not scared to fall down. They understand that it is the lessons from the failures that provide the greatest opportunities for growth and success.

The entrepreneur builds their career upon a foundation of core qualities: originality, creativity, decisiveness, discipline and persistence.

Conclusion

The corporate ladder is a failing model. As company organizational charts flatten we are forced to recognize that from the very beginning advancement never originated from the business. Advancement came from the ingenious originality and hard work that created the world we now take for granted. Individuals who create, invent, improve upon and empower are the modern corporate pioneers. It is the qualities off the entrepreneur, both independent and in the corporate world, who truly own a promising and rewarding career!

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