A career map is like a roadmap of your professional life – it allows you to visualize where you are, where you want to go, and possible routes to get there. A good career map will provide you flexibility, tools to assess opportunities as they surface, and ideas for planning your career management and personal development.
Without such a map, your career will be built by default rather than by design. When you have an intentional direction, you can move towards your destination. If you don’t know where you’re going, then you just might find yourself wandering in circles!
Planning your career path is much like planning a road trip: in order for the map to be useful, you need to first know where you are, and decide where you are going. And with any good road trip, you’ll want to have some things along that make your trip more enjoyable. In this case:
- Your strengths and innate talents
- Your interests and motivators
- Your skills, experience, and credentials
- Your values and what is meaningful to you
- A good idea of how you got where you are today
- An understanding of which development paths fit for you(E.g., management track, or individual contributor/expert?)
- A vision of your ideal career and life
Now it’s time to create your own career map. You can create a literal map or just jot down notes, depending on what works best for you:
- Map out all the skills that have compounded over the course of your career or education to date. How do they build upon one another? This is your starting point.
- Consider your “personal brand.” What are you known for? How are you perceived ? How do you want to be perceived? This is your engine.
- Your vision of your ideal career and life in 10 years time (or whatever time period is appropriate) is your destination.
- Picture your destination on one side of the map, and your current situation on the other side, with an open space between them.
- What are the hurdles or barriers to you getting to your visualized destination? These are the rivers and mountains in the way.
- Identify multiple ways that you can go over, around, or through each of those obstacles. These are your highways and roads as well as any bridges to build/cross or toll stations to pass through.
- You now have several potential career paths. Assess which ones would be faster, which more direct, which more scenic (interesting), and which have more service stations (support) along the way.
- Once your map is complete, select some actions you can take immediately to start moving you closer to your destination.
You’re on your way!