Taking Your Power Back: A Changing Workplace in the Modern Landscape

In the early 20th century, career choices and advancement were often dictated by tradition, socio-economic status, family, and gender. For men, career choice—and status within those careers—was most often determined by what their fathers and other male family members had done before them. As I mentioned previously, in my family that meant being a preacher, barber, teacher, or soldier. For women, career choice options were even more limited by convention and social customs. 

After World War II, corporate organizations became the driving force in American business. Both employers and employees operated under an implied contract: employees would be loyal to the company, and, in turn, employers would provide employment until retirement, which often included a comfortable pension. 

Later in the 20th century, however, this traditional career trajectory of staying at one employer became a thing of the past. According to USA Today, the typical worker will have 12 different employers in his or her lifetime.1 

There were several factors for this shift, including the transition from manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy, that caused a decline in the implied contract of employee loyalty for lifetime employment. To get ahead or to make more money in today’s business climate, employees often have to look outside their current place of employment. 

My long-term employment with Kraft was actually something of an anomaly for the 1990s and 2000s, and certainly would be today. 

While traditional career ladders still exist in the 21st century, they operate within a different environment. For example, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, some of the new trends include…

Global staffing firm Randstad conducted a survey that showed 73 percent of employers said fostering employee development is important.3 That’s great, but the flip side is that only 49 percent of employees said leadership actually adheres to this practice.

In a traditional career ladder system, a person is hired, then through a combination of experience, education, and opportunity, he or she gets promoted to higher levels with additional responsibility and commensurate compensation. 

This progression within the same corporation continues until the individual retires, leaves the employer for another opportunity, reaches a level at which no further promotional opportunities exist, chooses to decline subsequent promotional opportunities, or is terminated.

But in reality, individuals are the CEOs of their own careers. They decide where they put their career ladders, how long they leave them in place, and how high they want to climb.

The question is: did you know you’re the CEO of your own career?

Check out my new book to see how to leverage this information to power your career success!


  1. Backman, Maurie. “Job Hopping: Why Millennials Resign Nearly Twice as Often as Older Workers.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 11 June 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/money/careers/employment-trends/2018/06/11/why-millennials-resign-more-than-older-workers/35921637/. 
  2. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/developingemployeecareerpathsandladders.aspx
  3. “Differences Between Employers and Workers Can Be Hurtful.” PLANSPONSOR, www.plansponsor.com/differences-between-employers-and-workers-can-be-hurtful/.