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A map provides you with all sorts of directions of where to go. There are roads marked out, cities named, and you can either choose to take the highway or the backroads to get you where you’re going. There may even be some bumps, tolls or construction delays along the way, and you might have to take a detour, but eventually, you’ll get to where you want to go as long as you keep driving.
Not many people still use a physical map for long-distance journeys — technology has provided GPS systems, and even the most basic smartphone will have a map application. You don’t even need to look where you’re going as an automated voice will tell you exactly where to go.
That isn’t always the case in a career map, though. Career maps are much like your physical, paper map. You have to research how to get to your destination, and there will likely be unexpected delays or detours.
What Is a Career Plan Map?
A career plan map helps you figure out your goals for the future. It lists both short- and long-term career goals, whether that be for the rest of your education and a job or if you’re searching for just a job. Additionally, it lays out specific goals and actions that you can achieve over a period of time.
The map helps you outline where you are now and where you eventually want to go. During this journey, you want each step to be meaningful. Here’s how to create your own meaningful career plan map to set you up for success on your path of professional progression.
1. Know Where You Are Now
Before you can begin planning where you want to go in your career, you have to establish where you are now, just like the first part of any journey. This may involve taking personal assessments.
Everyone has a skill set that includes hard and soft skills. These have likely changed for you over the past couple of years, so taking some sort of online assessment or writing out your skills will help you determine your capabilities now. Plus, if there’s a particular job you’re looking for that requires additional skills, you can begin working on those. Also, this is an excellent time to update your resume.
Writing out where you are in your career now, and being honest about it, will help you make your goals clearer and achievable. This will set you up for success in your journey.
2. Figure Out Where You Want to Go
The next step is determining where you want to go. So many people hope rather than actually mapping out their career path. Hoping is going to get you nowhere, so you need to set an action plan.
Start by identifying your primary goal. This might be something like attaining a CEO position, becoming a doctor or teaching at a university. Whatever this end goal is, get it on paper so you can begin mapping out how you’re going to get there.
Also, make this end goal specific. The more detailed it is, the better you can set specific goals to get there.
3. Set Achievable Goals Within the Greater Goal
Now that you know where you’re starting and where you want to end up, you can create short-term goals. A great way to do this is by setting SMART goals. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. This helps you create goals that are clear and attainable:
- Specific: Your goal needs to be focused and simple. If it’s too complex, you will lack the motivation to achieve it.
- Measurable: Having measurable goals helps you track your progress and makes you feel accomplished. Things to ask are “how much?” or “how many?”
- Achievable: Your goals need to be realistic in order to be successful. Setting an impossible goal will never get you to your destination.
- Relevant: Is your goal worthwhile? Is it applicable to the end goal? Your goals should matter to you and your success.
- Timely: Set a date for when you want to achieve each of your goals. This will keep you on task to reaching your long-term goal!
Following the SMART path will get you closer to achieving your career objective.
4. Ask for Advice and Help Along the Way
Just because this is your career path doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help along the way. Whether you’re attending a university or in a short-term job right now, you can ask your professors or boss for advice.
They’ve seen your work and can give you an outside perspective of your skills, strengths, weaknesses and if you can realistically achieve your desires. You can ask peers for help as well.
Another great resource is having a mentor to help you through your career path. They provide support, feedback and can give you networking advice for your career path map.
5. Remember That Your Path May Change
Of course, you’ll set a ton of goals to get to your goal. However, something might come up in your life that changes your plan. Maybe you discover a new interest, and you realize that’s the career you want to pursue.
That’s okay! People’s interests change all the time. You can adjust your goals along the way to fit your objectives. Just make sure they’re still reachable and that you update your skills.
If you have bumps in the road, don’t let them stop your motivation. Learn from any drawbacks and keep pushing forward to reach your career plan.
Start Your Career Plan Map
Now that you know how to create your own career plan map, you can get started! Work on your skills, stay motivated and cross off those stepping stones in between to reach your goal.
Looking to learn more about career mapping? Check out these top picks from our reading list!
You Majored in What? Designing Your Path from College to Career (Amazon) by Katharine Brooks
What Color Is Your Parachute? (Amazon) by Richard N. Bolles with Katharine Brooks
Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type (Amazon) by Paul Tieger, Barbara Barron and Kelly Tieger