How to Create a Meaningful Career Map

We all want it. We dream about it from an early age. We spend years preparing for it. And it often turns out nothing like we expected. “It” is your career.

There are actions, mindsets and resources that you can employ at any point in your career to keep you focused on the impact you want to make. Prepare for your career journey (whether it be a walk in the park or a major mountain climb) with these strategies.

Know yourself

You must know your innate strengths and values and be able to leverage the skills you’ve learned along the way.

If you haven’t done so already, consider your overall skill set. Take time to list out your skills. Ask others for input. Don’t be shy. If you need a list to start with, there are many online. Then, define what each skill looks like in you and flesh out the benefits of each skill you identify.

Knowledge, skills and abilities are the tools that you leverage every day to create success. They can and should be continuously developed, based on situations and your ultimate “summit.” Plan accordingly. As you are navigating your career, return regularly to these well-worn and valuable assets for clarification, application and validation.

Know where you want to go

You can’t start mapping your route if you don’t know the destination. For your first step in planning out your career path, create a detailed personal vision statement of where you would like to be at various points in the coming years. Before you can chase that dream job, you need to articulate what success means to you, including the aspects of your life outside of the job. Only once you have a clear vision of where you want to be in the next one, five and 20 years can you construct a roadmap to get there.

If you’re making a career change and trying to plan a path to your new goals, think about why you want to switch directions before you take that first step.

Be willing to stretch

When it comes to career planning and growth, don’t be afraid to take on the potential challenge assignments. (In fact, ask for them.) Clarify and define the support structures provided you in this assignment. Knowing the risks and the benefits, put your all into the stretch assignment. Practice positive self-talk, leverage the skills of a mentor or coach, and have regular progress checks.

Leverage and learn from others

Our career hike cannot happen alone. We need to learn both from experts and from those who have failed. To leverage the expertise and knowledge of others, you must be humble, curious and open. You must want to learn.

Own it

Ultimately, only you can define the route you take in your career. This does not mean that you stick to that defined route, but that you are the one who determines the path and reroutes when necessary (and understands that it is okay to do so). Having a clear, emotionally engaging and meaningful purpose is what will drive and sustain you on your journey.

Be open to changing your route

You might hit some detours along the way, or your destination may change completely. In any case, your path isn’t set in stone. You’ll need to be able to adapt to any roadblocks you may encounter along the way.

Planning out a career path will not necessarily lead you to your dream job. Your ideals about that dream job will probably change. Being flexible, adaptable, open to learning new skills and a creator of something, whether it be an idea or tangible object, are some of the most important pieces to being successful in any career.

Even if you take a wrong turn on your map, it is never too late to adjust and learn from the experience.