Successful people start their lives with a career map. You can start one if you are mid-career, but the process might be more difficult, especially if you need additional education. However, it is much better than muddling through different jobs without ever getting promoted.
What is a Career Map?
A career map includes your goals along with a strategy for attaining them. The strategy is very detailed with a step-by-step plan to implement it. Each goal has its own strategy. All career maps share some common goals and strategies in addition to career-specific ones.
Common goals are education, transferable skills, networking, and salary. Career-specific goals and strategies start at the end point with your final desired position, such as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Go backwards with the positions you must work to achieve this goal, until you reach the starting point.
Choosing Your Goals
Each goal must be as specific as possible if you are to genuinely achieve it. Additionally, it’s much easier to plan a strategy and timeline when you know exactly what you want rather than a hazy idea.
For example, you are in business school and want a career in sales and marketing. Make this general goal as specific as possible, such as working in pharmaceutical sales for an international conglomerate. This more specific goal leads to other things you must accomplish, such as taking pharmaceutical courses (or working your way through school as a pharmacy technician) so you fully understand the products you will sell. Moreover, since you desire to work for an international conglomerate, you should attain fluency in the most crucial foreign language that will advance your career. A career map helps you to select the best courses in college to prepare for the job of your dreams.
If you are already in the workforce, then you most likely have some transferable technical skills to change careers. Make a detailed list of the education and skills required in your desired position. Note which skills you already have or can easily acquire.
Then think beyond the technical aspects of the job. Referencing the CEO and the pharmaceutical sales rep examples above, both of these jobs require people who are outgoing, friendly, articulate, well-educated, excellent at networking, and can think quickly on their feet. If you lack any of these qualities, add them to your list of goals.
Research the major players in your field. While it might be easier to get a job with a start-up, they are notorious for going out of business during their first three years. Their failure could hurt your job prospects just as your career is launching. Have a backup plan if you decide to go with a new company.
After narrowing your list to two or three companies, learn who is in management and their vision for the company’s future. Study their products so you can converse about them confidently in a job interview. Track the company’s financial news to make sure it has a healthy balance sheet. If possible, sign up for their investor newsletter to keep abreast of major projects. Career maps include researching potential employers as one of their goals.
Networking is one of the most important talents you will ever learn. The best jobs are never advertised. They are obtained through networking. So where do you begin?
Break down this career goal into two parts: career networking and social networking. They are equally important. Improve your opportunities at career networking by reading trade publications, joining trade organizations, and working on important projects that upper management endorses.
Social networking is a little more complicated. Look at where the leaders in your field congregate, specifically the country clubs, restaurants, and social organizations where they are active. What sports and other forms of entertainment do they enjoy?
It’s a well-known fact that executives promote people with similar qualities and interests. Moreover, they hire or promote people they trust. Trust is built through interaction in a social setting. Everyone has seen the dedicated and hard worker in the office get passed over for promotion while the person who networked socially moved into the prized corner office.
Start looking for a mentor while in college. A mentor should be someone already accomplished in your field. They should have contacts within the industry to assist you in getting a job with a top employer.
If you are already working, then look for a mentor in upper management. That person has obviously learned the ropes and succeeded so learn everything possible to emulate that success. If your company does not have a mentor program, study the top executives and their qualities. What did they do differently that got them noticed and promoted?
All career maps need a timeline. After you break down each goal into steps, assign a date for finishing each step. This is your timeline. Timelines keep you on the path toward success as you work through the goals on your career map.
Expect to invest several days when first creating your career map. Feel free to revise it as you progress through your career. Job requirements change and new careers are born as technology advances. Revisit your career map once a year and update it, if necessary.