Mapping Your Career Path
Would you embark on a 40-year journey without an end in sight, or a map to get you to your destination? Unless you enjoy wandering the wilderness its best to travel, map and destination, firmly in hand. Bring that same planning and forethought to guiding your career path.
Plotting the Path
First, decide where you’re heading. We’re talking big picture: what do you want to be doing in 10, 20, 30 years? How would you be spending your days if money weren’t an issue? Keep in mind that the picture may change over the years, what seems appealing at twenty may be less so in your forties, but pick a desired target and start moving towards it.
Next, assess your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes. Ideally, you should be spending your days doing work that you enjoy, that is meaningful and at which you excel. Life isn’t high school: there are no required classes. True most of us have to earn a paycheck, but since we’re happily well past the days of indentured servitude, exercise your freedom of choice selecting work which holds meaning for you and is a stepping stone towards your goals.
About those Stepping Stones…
Map your career to date against the goals you’ve set for yourself; have you been adding skills and experiences to your resume that are positioning you well? Not sure of the steps you need to take? Seek guidance from a mentor or colleagues or model others who have succeeded in the arena(s) to which you aspire.
Scrutinize your resume to see where you are strong and where you need to add skills or experiences. For example, if you wish to become a manager, begin developing your leadership skills by overseeing first individuals, working up to smaller teams, then whole business areas within your company, slowly growing your responsibilities. Look for opportunities to mentor subordinates and demonstrate you can steward increasingly larger projects to completion.
Or perhaps your long-term goal is to run your own business or to work as a self-employed freelancer. If so, spend time developing the leadership and sales skills required to run a business and to build the rolodex needed to attract customers or investment dollars.
Periodically assess your progress. Schedule time, once a year, every five years, and so on, to take a step back and survey your career development. Is it advancing? Can you enhance your current skills and better leverage yourself? Do you need to tweak your path? How have your personal or economic circumstances changed and what impact, if any, does that have on your next steps? Make time to take time: all important relationships require nurturing; your relationship with work needs attention too.
Make the Journey Meaningful
Finally, as you move along in your career, perhaps sticking to a straight, focused path, or taking a meandering, many branched road, remember that while you should constantly be moving towards a desired end, it is smart to make the most of whatever role you are presently in-to learn, grow and relish-the work you are currently doing.