Up is not the only way. Career success can often happen right where a person is. Too often, organizations seek to promote top performers from individual contributors into managers. And the role just isn’t the right fit for them. The skills and behaviors that may make someone excel at the individual contributor level are not the same skills that will make them a great manager of other people. Even more important, an individual contributor may not aspire to take on a management role.
Individual contributors may feel pressure that is either self-generated or brought on by others around them. That pressure comes in the form of success being defined as “moving up the ladder.” For those who do not desire the role of a manager, be assured that you are completely successful being in a role where you are working at your best. Others may imply that you are not ambitious if you are not on the fast track to promotion. Remember that it is their definition of success, not yours.
I have witnessed many occasions where a person has gotten promoted into a role that was completely wrong for them. They were not happy. They did not perform well. Their direct reports were not happy. Fortunately, in most of those cases, the individual realized early on that what they truly desired to do was be their best self in an individual contributor role.
Before you take a step into a management path, take time to first understand how different a management role is from an individual contributor role. Assess whether you aspire to move into a management role, understanding that the role is much more about managing people than managing the work. If you are truly happy doing what you’re doing. Do not let others pressure you into thinking that you are less successful. You are possibly one of the top performers and by working at your best, you will be more fulfilled and therefore more successful in your career.