The career map: success can be planned

Career mapping is a visual representation of your professional plans for the coming years. Master this tool and it will become much easier for you to achieve your goals.

How do you see yourself in one year? Five years? Maybe you will start a business? Or, maybe you will want to work abroad? These are the questions that are hard to answer right away, but the ones employers like to ask at a job interview, trying to find out about your life plans. To give the right answer, you need to weigh the pros and cons, recall your goals, and evaluate your current professional level. However, this still doesn’t guarantee that you can outline your plans for the next several years with ease and confidence. You may even realize that they are not thought through...

If the above sounds familiar, then creating a career map will help to avoid embarrassment. After all, you will always know and remember what you want to achieve with your career, and you can prove yourself as an ambitious and competitive specialist. However, for the start, you need to understand what a career map is, what you should pay attention to when making it, and how it helps to manage professional plans.

What is a career map

A career map is a career advancement plan for an employee. It is like a roadmap, for example, of a project, where you mark three key points:

  •  where you are now;
  • where you want to be after a certain period of time (selected individually);
  • how to achieve your goal.

Besides the map, they also write an employee profile and a work profile. The employee profile is based on your experience, and the work profile is based on a set of skills that you must acquire for future career transitions.

Why make a career map

Unfortunately, not all professionals can say with certainty what they want to achieve in their career. For example, about 50% of Americans, according to a Linkedln study, see only roughly their career path in the coming years. Such employees don’t have clear goals and envision their future very vaguely, which can lead to numerous mistakes, feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, hopelessness, and, as a result, to a serious career crisis. After all, no matter what you do, no matter how many times you change jobs, the situation remains the same.

In these situations, you will find a career strategy very handy – it will help you to avoid being like this 50% of American professionals. Using a career strategy, you can:

Articulate your goals clearly.

  • Evaluate your professional level.
  •  Find out your current, as well as a potential place in the job market.
  • Find out your value as an employee.
  • Define what you lack to achieve more.

If you are going to change your career radically, a career development map will also help you build a path from scratch, determine what past skills and knowledge you can use in your future work and transfer, what achievements you have now to hook an employer’s interest, as well as other important and valuable components of a successful second career.

Who should make a career map

A young specialist, with the guidance of their supervisor, should be responsible for their own promotion, in particular within a large company. The chance that an employee will stay in the company and will be motivated to work better increases if the employee is aware of their prospects. Besides, paying attention to the growth of your workers helps to handle professional routine and employee turnover, which usually happens when employees don’t see their growth opportunities in the company and work without initiative. As a result, they become more open to other more attractive offers and eventually leave the company, while managers have to spend time over and over again to find someone for the open job position.

That’s why creating a career map falls on the shoulders of managers who, first, strive for personnel stability, and second, are interested in the quality work of their department and in the professional growth of each employee.

Keeping in mind the career expectations, goals, and wishes of the specialist, with the management involvement, it becomes possible to make a plan on how to work in the company further. However, you can do all this on your own, with no connection to a specific company and its terms. At the beginning of a career path, it may be hard to get a job in a company, which offers additional education, some training, and courses for your vertical growth within the company. This is not a big deal – the purpose of an entry company and an entry position is for you to gain sufficient experience so you could move on to another company where you more likely to grow and make a career map there.

For example, now you are a sales manager, but your ultimate goal is the position of a top manager. To move up your career ladder in this direction, you need to acquire new skills and knowledge, the list of which you will use to create your career map. Next to each new skill, you should put the information about how you will learn it and how long it will take to master the skill to the level you need. You can use a list of your potential employers, courses, schools, training, as well as lists of professional literature. Naturally, it’s not enough just to write that down and put the map away – to advance towards your goal, you will have to follow the plan and learn.

Thanks to your career map, you will always know and remember what you are striving for in your career and how you can achieve this. Therefore, your career path will be much easier than if you just went with the flow and did not think about the existing opportunities for your professional development.

Three tips for building a career map

To avoid mistakes when making a career map, follow these several simple rules.

  1. Determine your current position

You can take 2 legal-size sheets of paper and at the very bottom write your current career position, the point where you are at the present moment. Your current position is on the bottom for now, because the goal of a career map is to help you move up. You should evaluate yourself not from the point of view of the title of your position, but considering the skills and professional knowledge you already have.

  1. Conduct a field study

Social networks, personal blogs of experts, publications in the media, professional literature... There are more than enough sources of information to create career paths. Study the history of how leaders in your profession built their careers. How did they manage to get where they are now? What can they do, what are they striving for? They probably gave interviews or maybe published a book where they shared their experiences, make sure to read them! It will be especially good to find real stories of how people changed companies, or even better, career fields. That way you will have more motivation for career growth.

One more tip: communicate as often as possible with experts in your profession, who are at a higher level, for example, at conferences. They are an excellent role model, have a lot of experience, may understand you better, and know the profession from the inside, and that means they can give you valuable information about its pros and cons, and even help with career growth.

  1. Make a growth map

You needed the previous stage to explore the field better from the inside, as it’s the only way to understand which position (or positions) you can start with to reach the needed result. As a rule, there are several ways - write each path, and every step on that sheet of paper from the first section. Make a diagram of absolutely all possible options as any career growth opportunities will be useful to you.

One more tip: enter information about both vertical and horizontal career growth. After all, there is always a possibility that there is no need for certain jobs within a company, or there are just some circumstances beyond your control, which prevent you from taking the job (that happens!). In such cases, it is enough to switch to another job position in the horizontal plane and discover many new perspectives that will lead you to your goal.

How to help employees grow: tips for managers

As mentioned above, a career map is useful not just for a professional who is striving for career growth, but also for managers. With the help of the career map, you can create a growth path for each of your employees, while improving the overall performance of the department and the work results. Indeed, the higher the level of professionalism, the more employees are interested in personal growth, the better for the company.

Therefore, creating a career map is for everyone who wants to be a true leader and cares about the future of their team. Not all employees see themselves in the management in the future and dream of personal offices, but practically everyone wants to climb the career ladder to a certain level, earn more, boost their leadership qualities, be in charge and be useful.

Thus, it is important to understand that making career maps for employees is not wasting time. As you invest in the future while assessing the current value of each specialist, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities for growth or horizontal transition will become clear. What should you remember when making a career map for your employees?

  • Transparency. An employee works better if he knows his value and the possibilities for the development of his vertical career.
  • Describe the positions and skills as detailed as possible. When workers are aware of their job requirements, they can evaluate their current situation, as well as to compare reality with the set goals.
  • Talk. You need feedback to implement a career strategy. Discuss regularly the results, requirements, success, or mistakes – that will promote growth.
  • Remember that growth can be horizontal. A career path is more than one way to get from point A to point B, so horizontal career transitions are professional development too.
  • Remember about the material incentive. People often want to become managers to make more money, even though this position is not for everyone. So, stimulate the work of your employees, regardless of their position. Introduce a bonus system or pay interest on profits – that will increase the value of each position, and not just the management one.

Remember that business is not just a story about how to attract customers and sell some goods or services. Within the company, it is important to provide your team with everything they need – it makes the business keep functioning. The more employees are focused on personal and professional growth, the more the company will grow.


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