Creating a career map can be highly beneficial and it doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting your career or you feel as though your career is beginning to idle. Think of your career map just as you would a road trip. Now, you wouldn’t go on a road trip without first planning your route, so why wouldn’t you apply the same thoughtful approach and logic to charting your professional advancement?
What is a career map? Just like any other map, your career map plans out a course to get you from point A to point B. That course is influenced by your own personal preferences. For example, if you want to rise to the top of your profession quickly, then your career map should show you the fastest way to do it. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in having a variety of life-enriching experiences along the way, then your career map should reflect this goal.
Here are a few directions to put you on the path toward meaningful professional progression:
Step Number One
You must first define your career goal. Be introspective and detailed when defining your ambitions. Sure, “I want to advance my career in the financial industry and earn more money” is technically a goal, however, it’s far too vague. Do you want to move into a C-level role? Would you prefer to become a recognized expert in your field of study? Regardless of your goal, make it specific and measurable.
Once you’ve defined a clear and measurable goal, evaluate whether your strengths support your goal. If your strengths aren’t relevant to your goal, it’s advisable to regroup and look for an objective that allows you to use your strengths.
Step Number Two
Understand exactly where you stand before you can decide how you’re going to get where you want to go. Now, determine what you need to achieve between now and your final goal. What positions will you need to fill between now and your desired job position? What skills and/or qualifications are necessary? Now that you know what you need for you to achieve your goal, do a candid assessment of your skills. In what areas do you excel? Which aspects of your job excite you the most?
And while it may be a less enjoyable exercise, put your weaknesses under the microscope. Are skills gaps or bad habits hampering your effectiveness? Could the lack of in-demand industry certifications hold you back? Be honest about your strengths and shortcomings. This self-review can help you with your long-term goal and give you important insights into the specific steps you’ll need to take to achieve it.
The final point of consideration for this step would be to decide if any of your life goals could have a negative or positive impact on your career path. Do you want to raise a family? Do you want to work overseas? Consider these types of personal life goals and how they relate to your objective.
Step Number Three
Never be afraid to ask for help or guidance. Make your interests known to your manager and ask for input and guidance. Do your career goals align with where your boss thinks your trajectory lies? Can your management further encourage you to take the extra step by pointing you towards training opportunities or assign higher-profile accounts that will prime you for the role you seek?
Perhaps you might consider trying to find a mentor. A mentor will be able to provide you with ongoing support, feedback, real-world insights, and tips on who to network with. If for whatever reason your company can’t provide a mentor then don’t fret, ask a member of your professional network whose opinions you trust if they would be willing to work with you.
It’s very beneficial to work for an employer or work with a mentor, who communicates potential career paths and helps you reach that next level, but you’re the one who must take control of the wheel.
Step Number Four
Sometimes when you set yourself a long-term goal it can appear to be overwhelming and unattainable, so break it down into a series of small milestones. Establishing clear objectives and actionable items - and set deadlines for accomplishing these interim goals.
And more importantly, whenever you do reach a milestone, take some time to reflect on it and savor the achievement. Acknowledging your successes along the way helps you maintain momentum as you get that much closer to your final goal.
Step Number Five
Any trip you take in life comes with its fair share of bumps wrong decisions along the way. Abraham Lincoln once said: “It’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up.” So, don’t allow these inevitable disappointments diminish your determination. When you run into a roadblock, get back up, regroup and find a way beyond it.
A great and meaningful career map is nothing without drive and discipline. Focus on the lessons learned from your setback and then put your foot right back on the pedal.
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