While an employer can help you grow in your current role, it’s up to you to plan your long-term career goals and develop a map that outlines where you are, where you want to go, and how exactly you can go about getting there.

A career map is a tool we encourage all of our candidates to use in an effort to help guide the short-term and long-term steps needed for professional development. This “map” should be unique to your goals and will improve your output, make potential opportunities clearer, and allow you to measure your individual progress and achievements.

Below are the steps to building an effective career map to help secure your future:

Determine Your Starting Point

To start creating your map, it’s important to take an honest evaluation of where you are at in your career right now in order to understand what direction you want to go. Start by considering both your hard and soft skills in terms of strengths and weaknesses, as well as identifying any skills gaps you have. You should also make note of what you’re passionate about and what you dislike about your current role. The more detailed review that you take, the easier it will be to determine what needs to be done to achieve your career goals.

Know Your End Point

Just like determining your starting point, you’ll need to be just as detailed with outlining your end point or ideal destination. Rather than identifying a vague goal, such as just a salary range or industry, try making your goal both clear-cut and measurable so you’ll know when you’ve reached it. If your goal is a specific position, outline what the job description would be in addition to the education and skills needed to succeed. Also identify whether you’d want to remain at your same company or move to a competitor. If your goal is to own a business, you may want to outline the experience, funds and contacts needed in order to start it. Regardless of which direction you go, make sure to research what attributes are needed to succeed in that particular field, as well as networking with individuals in similar roles to gain a better understanding of what they do exactly.

Identify How to Connect the Two Points

Once you know where you are and where you want to go, you’ll need to set short and long-term goals to connect the two points. Now that you’ve established the skills you have in your current role and the competencies you need to achieve your career goal, it should be easier to establish what you’ll need to work on to get to where you want to be.

Setting smaller short-term goals that you can check-off along the way will show you the progress you’re making and also make achieving your end result seem less daunting. Your short-term goals should be realistic and could include taking on additional responsibilities in your current role to broaden your experience or working on improving some of your soft skills. Having said that, it is still okay to have some long-term goals as well. An example of how both will play into your career map is that if a long-term goal is to be promoted to a manager position, your short-term goal may be to take leadership training or obtain an additional degree. Setting deadlines for all your goals is crucial in moving forward towards your end point. Nonetheless, whether it’s a small or large objective you’ve achieved, it’s important to celebrate each milestone to keep you motivated.

Ask for Input

Wanting to achieve your goals shouldn’t be a secret, it’s important to foster relationships that will help advance where you are in your career journey. If you want to progress at your current company, it’s important to let your manager know. They may be able to offer you training or new projects to develop your skills that you weren’t previously aware of to help you in your path to being promoted. Also, they may not have been previously aware of your goals, so by confiding in them it shows your dedication and commitment to the company which hopefully they view as an asset.

You’ll also want to find a network of like-minded professionals to help you navigate your career path whether or not your plan is to stay at your current company or find something new. This could include joining professional associations, attending conferences or networking events, and most importantly, finding someone to mentor you. An ideal mentor would be someone who has a similar position to the one you are aspiring to so that they can tell you how to achieve your goals from a personal perspective. Whether your connections are internal or external from your company, the ongoing feedback and support will be invaluable throughout your career.

Continually Reevaluate Your Map

All this said, career maps are not set in stone and should remain fluid throughout the course of your career. While your goals are specific, it’s okay if they change over time. The important thing is to be flexible and continually update your plan. Set aside time, whether it’s quarterly or yearly, to identify how you are progressing in your career map and evaluate if any changes are needed. There will no doubt be bumps along the way that alter your trajectory, but by staying driven and disciplined you will have a much better understanding of what’s required to get where you need to go. 

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