Mapping your career path is an essential career exercise.
It helps you reset your long term focus, and make sure you’re doing work that aligns with your overall career vision.
It also ensures you’re keeping your hands on the wheel of your career. And not becoming too distracted or too comfortable in a position that’s not actually right for you.
In this article I’m going to break down my process of career mapping. It closely aligns with my ideas on building a career strategy, and it’s all super practical. Let’s dive in!
1. Find Out What You Really Want To Do
It’s okay to change your mind about what you want to do in your career. Changing and pivoting careers is becoming more and more common. Unlike our parents, who most likely worked the same job for their entire career, it’s normal for people to pivot not just the industry they work in – but the kind of work they do – SEVERAL times in their career.
So do a reality check. Are you enjoying the work you’re doing? Or are you bored, uninspired, and ready for a completely different adventure? Don’t let comfort and habit get in the way of your fulfillment. Where you go everyday to dedicate your labour, your mental effort, and your skills, is important.
I recently saw a clip from a James Carville pre-election speech. Carville is a political commentator, but at the time of the speech he was a political strategist working on Bill Clinton’s first campaign. In the video below he talks about labour, and how it’s sacred. This really resonated with me. It just goes to show that who and what you dedicate your daily labor to matters. Don’t be afraid to pursue your own path.
2. Skill Up Fast
I know I talk about this, a LOT. In fact, it’s probably the central philosophy of becoming a Career Master. It’s all about skills (and experience). Your provable skills, and your track record for executing on those skills is what determines the opportunities that come your way.
Skills and experience are what get you from A-B fast. And remember, you control your rate of learning. I’ll say that again. YOU control your rate of learning. Two people can be in the same job for the same amount of time. One goes to work every day, does a great job, and then goes home at night and relaxes…
The other goes to work every day, does a great job, and also reads books, takes courses, goes to seminars, seeks advice, and listens to podcast that nourishes and grows their knowledge, and skillset.
Whose career do you think will fare better in the long run? 100% it’s the person who puts in all of those little extra efforts. So when you map out your career path and your direction, it’s critical to map out the skills you need to acquire to get from A-B.
For example, to go from a content marketing specialist (which I currently am) to a Chief Marketing Officer, requires a different skillset.
Find out what those skills are, and start closing the gap.
3. Get In Front Of Some Influential People
While I do think that networking overall gets more emphasis than it deserves, there’s NO getting around the fact that it’s essential for moving forward.
Getting in front of influential people is important for a couple of reasons. It gets you on their radar, and once you’re on it, you want them to have a clear picture of you as a pro. You want them to think of you as someone who’s reliable, ready for a challenge, sharp, and who can get the job done.
Getting in front of these people also allows you to learn from them. Listen to the way they speak, and how it reflects on the way they think. That’s an important distinction. People in higher management and executive roles think differently. Why? Usually because they’re older, wiser, have sharpened skills, and a well of experience to pull from.
Don’t underestimate the power of this kind of connection. Their advice can shave years off your learning curve.
4. Take Into Account Your Life Stage
Are you single and in your twenties? Or are you 37, married, and with your second child on the way? Your life stage should always play a key role in how you map your career.
As you move from your twenties to your thirties, to your forties and beyond, it’s important to consider where you want to be in your career at these stages. And here’s the thing…I fully understand that stereotypical life stages won’t necessarily apply to you.
For example, while most people tend to have children in their late twenties and early thirties, you may have had children in your early twenties, or in you forties or beyond. So please don’t take what I’m saying here as gospel…
That said, I still think it’s important to think about mapping your career in conjunction with the stage of life you’re in, or entering. For example, I see myself making beyond six figures and managing either a team or a department by the time I have kids. I personally want that financial security for myself, as I feel it’ll be important for when I start having kids, and am assuming more financial risk.
Vice versa, if I was mapping my career in my twenties, I could assume more financial risk. Meaning, I’d take whatever job allowed me to expand my knowledge, skills, and experience, even if it paid peanuts.
5. Keep Your Eye On The Big Picture
The most common thing I noticed in my twenties is entitlement amongst graduates. I even noticed it in myself! I thought that just because I had an Arts Media degree that I was destined for a great job right away…
Reality check: the world doesn’t work like that. Not always, but in many cases, you have to work the “shit-kicker” jobs in the early days. It’s more important to build that foundation of skills and experience early than it is to make cash. So in all stages of your career, when you’re mapping things out, keep your eye on the long term.
Ask yourself, what do I need to sacrifice today to get where I want to be tomorrow? It’s a very revealing question. Maybe you have to sacrifice some downtime after work to read or go through a training program, instead of catching the latest Netflix special.
Bringing It All Together…
While mapping your career path is really important, and something that you definitely need to do every 6-12 months…
You need to be flexible. Your career map can and SHOULD change. As you develop new insights about yourself, and discover what you truly want to do with your life and career, you should let that guide your direction.
The map isn’t fixed. The terrain isn’t set in stone. Without sounding too cheesy, it’s yours to create. So I suggest you do so wisely.
You Might Also Like:
- Why You Need A Career Strategy If You Want To Be Successful
- 6 Signs It’s Time To Quit Your Job
- How To Land Your Dream Job Fast
Will Vaughan is the Founder & CEO of Your Career Mastery. He’s dedicated to helping young professionals discover and land the job of their dreams using a mix of proven strategies, tips, tools, and mindsets. He currently works as a Content & SEO manager for a 100 million dollar tech company in Melbourne, Australia.