Your technical chops may not give you the edge when you’re new to the workforce, but your network might.
It used to be that the only way to climb a career ladder was to pick up more skills. Learn how to do X, get paid more for it, and earn job-title Y. Up you went. Each new capability you mastered got you to that “next level,” either inside your current company or at a different one. Today, many of those ladders have fallen and shattered, with just a few left standing. Lately there have been efforts to hammer together some new ones, with new skills—usually tech-based—like cybersecurity or coding expertise held up as the new keys to staying competitive in the future job market.
[The common] advice [to develop technical skills] still reflects a “ladder climbing” mind-set in a world that’s looking a lot more like a lattice.
That isn’t exactly wrong. Some skill sets really are in higher demand than others, so it makes sense to counsel undergrads and entry-level workers to brush up in certain subject areas in order to gain an edge. But this kind of advice still reflects a “ladder-climbing” mind-set in a world that’s looking a lot more like a lattice, where talent—and people’s entire careers—are much more fluid.