Career maps have three useful purposes. Firstly, they can help you to identify suitable future pathways. Sometimes that pathway is clear and straight. At other times, and indeed for many of us, they can be anything but. Secondly, mapping out more precisely what you’re after and want to do will offer clearer direction and motion for your career. Thirdly, maps are important for knowing what to do next. Taking the next step is achieved best within a plan of where you’re heading in the medium to long term.
Below are my nine key elements for a robust career map.
- Have a lifeboat plan in case you hit the rocks
Thanks to the COVID19 pandemic and the resulting global economic crisis, the world of work has become more uncertain than ever before as employers across most sectors try to tackle the endless list of challenges being thrown at them. When a storm hits your workplace, even if it’s impact isn’t as significant as the one we’re all currently witnessing, there’s potential for unexpected collateral damage in our personal lives. So, it’s really important to have a plan in place just in case that happens. That plan can influence your bank balance, i.e. a safety net, or it can relate to the kind of work you know you can walk into. It does not really matter what your plan involves if it is what you need.
- Look out for possibilities that may exist with your current employer
Quite often, there are opportunities for progression and growth within your present organisations meaning there may be no immediate need to look at external opportunities. Many of us get so bogged down focussing on our current jobs that we get caught up in everyday frustrations and difficult relationships around us instead of thinking about what else we could be doing within our existing organisations.
- Recognise the importance of your boss
Understand their influence and their power over you. When you recognise this, you can then make the choice to nurture that relationship differently.
- Trim your existing network
Take a closer look at who you’re currently connected to and of those individuals who is just sitting dormant in your address book. Then have a good weeding out session. This may mean looking at how valuable each person is to you and whether the relationship you have is reciprocal. Do not be afraid to drop connections who are past their sell-by dates. Once completed, identify who out of your remaining contacts you should start investing more time on. Look at who you’ve had contact with recently or people who you know are going to be more important to you in the next two months or so.
- Find new connections
This is an additional element of step 4. Look at who you need to know better and build quality connections with, where you get to know them really well. Good connections are those you get to know over a period of years and years. You have old friends that you have known for ages, but even those relationships had to start somewhere.
- Personal branding
This is a big subject and it has been growing bigger and bigger in recent years. It helps to link us to opportunities that are well suited to us. To build your personal brand effectively, review and update it on a regular basis to ensure that it’s always fresh, current, relevant and consistent.
- Look at your short, medium- and long-term plan
Your career map should cover the short, medium and long term. Set appropriate goals and milestones that are realistic. Be aware that the further you look ahead, the less definite you can be about the milestones you set. Therefore, you may want to set milestones just within the next 12 months to 2 years.
What are you reading now? These days quite a lot of people are reading more and demonstrating their knowledge to the market by discussing what new things they have learned recently. Learning is non-negotiable if we want to be increasing our value as professionals. Even if what we learn or study is not directly beneficial to our specific job, we’re still in the process of being better tomorrow than we were today.
- Identify and nurture professional contacts
They have an important place on our career map. They are professional but they have the skills that make them approachable and useful for us in our pursuit of our career goals. We need to recognise who these people are in our world and nurture our relationships with them.