Do you still think of your career as one ladder, which must be vertical at all times?

Don’t limit yourself to that. Like a skilled mountaineer crossing a chasm, sometimes you need to turn the career ladder horizontally.

If you work in a declining industry, for example, your fastest career progress may come from making a lateral move into a new industry.

My friend George just made such a career move. (A note for the next time you sit down with your financial planner: Don’t assume your chosen field will offer you stable employment for the duration of your career. The economy has not worked that way in quite a while.)

George spent most of his career working in an increasingly volatile industry. And he defined himself by the industry in which he worked. A few times I asked him about considering other options. But he liked the work and was really good at it.

As an outsider, I could see the writing on the wall, but George was too busy working to look at the wall. To keep his focus, he methodically avoided reading any bad news about his industry. As Upton Sinclair observed, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

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