I really like the concept of climbing the "career lattice" that this HR exec from Deloitte discusses in this recent Times article Up the Ladder? How dated. How literal.
If only it were true. In PR...you step to the side and you're toast. You want to leave for a few years and come back...good luck. Not one of my clients tolerate a background that is anything but straight as an arrow linear. Maybe HR folks and hiring managers are harder on headhunters than they are when reviewing resumes that come in from job boards or through a referral. But what I see is that clients want people who don't stray off the path, and if they do, there better be a good explanation for taking the risk. And it you're too long on the path without upward mobility, that is sorely noted as well.
Maybe it's just a lot of HR babble to make them look good. I don't buy it.