Career growth might not be linear. If it isn’t, what other shape can it take?

Illustration of people holding visual design elements. The middle element is a spiral form.
Illustration of people holding visual design elements. The middle element is a spiral form.

When we think about growth, we usually think of it as a linear process, like Silicon Valley’s favorite hockey stick curve — upwards and to the right, exponentially increasing. We get better and better at what we do, accumulate more and more skills and experience, and then level up.

Thinking in this way focuses on “getting ahead” and “leveling up,” and we end up feeling dissatisfied if we’re not tracking on this upward trajectory. It’s also a fundamentally competitive mindset: grow faster than others or…

Austin Chang

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