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10 May 2021 Austin Belcak

How To Create A Realistic Career Map In 4 Easy Steps

You probably have some vague idea of where you want your career to go. But, if you don’t take the time to thoughtfully plan each step, you might not get there. Luckily, the planning part doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need to create a good career map!

In this post, I'll show you exactly how to do that. We’ll start by looking at what a career map is and why it’s so useful. Then, I’ll show you how to create your own in 4 easy steps.

By the end, you’ll know how to use it to get from wherever your career is now to exactly where you want it to be. Let’s jump in!

What Is A Career Map?

A career map is a resource that shows you all of the requirements and steps you’ll need to advance on your career path.

Your employer may have made their own career map. If followed, it explains what’s necessary to take an employee from an entry-level position to more senior-level roles.

Typically, employer’s will use a career map template that includes:

  • A job description for each level of the career
  • The required skills and knowledge to perform the job
  • An ideal personality profile for the person in the role
  • Any additional training needed to continue progressing

You can also find some sample career maps online. For example, the Ahima career map can show you how to progress in careers related to health information management.

These already made templates and tools sound pretty useful, right? So you may be wondering: if someone else has already made this kind of document, why create your own? Because you’re an individual with your own career goals! And the reality is that you may not stay in your current company forever.

In fact, if you left a company after working for around 4 years, you’d be a typical employee according to a 2020 study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On top of that, you may find yourself wanting to change careers entirely one day. And your employer’s career map definitely isn’t going to guide you through that!

So, you’ve got to create one for yourself. And you have to make sure that, when you do, you’re creating realistic milestones. Let me show you how!

How To Create A Career Map

By following these 4 steps, you’ll be able to create your own career map tool that you can use as a guide to advance in your career.

Step #1: Get clear on where you are in your career right now.

Before you can begin creating a map, you need to know your starting point. For example, do you have any degrees or certifications relevant to your desired career? What kind of professional experience do you have? Go into detail about your responsibilities and achievements.

Next comes your skills. Which of your hard and soft skills are you best at? If you’re hoping to get a job in a new industry, be sure to also make special note of your transferable skills. Write it all down to begin creating your own professional profile.

Step #2: Determine where you want your career to go.

Now that you know where you’re at today, it’s time to visualize yourself in the future. Do you know exactly what you want to do with your life and career?

If so, then get descriptive about what that looks like as if you were creating the ideal job description. What kind of company will you work for? What would be your core responsibilities? How much money do you hope to make? What type of lifestyle does your job let you have?

If you’re not sure, you probably need to do a bit of brainstorming using those same questions. You may also want to consider taking a career aptitude test to point you in the right direction.

Step #3: Find people who already have the career you want.

Once you have an idea of the dream career, don’t waste time guessing what you need to do to make it happen. Your time is better spent finding the people who’ve already explored and succeeded in similar career paths.

Often, these people are easy to find on LinkedIn. For example, let’s say you find someone working in a role you’d enjoy doing 5-10 years from now.

Study that person’s profile and try to deconstruct the path that got them to where they are now. What skills and certificates do they have? When and how did they apply those skills? What were some of their key achievements at each stage of their career? If you’re changing careers, look for people who made the jump from the industry you’re currently in to the one you want to be.

For best results, shoot the people you find a cold email. Then, try to get them on a call for an informational interview! This is where you’ll get the clearest advice on everything you need for the career you want.

Step #4: Break down big steps into small, achievable goals.

To really benefit from your career map, you’ve got to make sure each step is realistic. Because the last thing you want to do is get overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once!

For example, what’s the one skill you can start learning today? And then once you’re proficient in that skill, how can you apply it? Similarly, who’s one person you can start building connections with that might help you advance more quickly?

Ideally, all of the goals you make here should be SMART goals. That means their specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. And, if you make them specific enough, you can more easily reach and recognize every checkpoint on the path towards your dream career!

Final Thoughts

The career of your dreams isn’t going to happen by accident. Yes, it will take some hard work. But, it will take some thoughtful planning to make sure that hard work sets you up for success. That’s why, if you’re serious about your career, creating a personalized career map should be a top priority!

Use the 4 steps I’ve shared in this post to make yours realistic and achievable. Then get to work! Your dream job is waiting for you.

And, if you want more tips on how to best advance your career, check out my guide on how to get a job without applying online!

Austin Belcak

Austin is the founder of Cultivated Culture where he helps people land jobs without connections, without traditional experience, and without applying online. His strategies have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, & Fast Company and has helped people just like you land jobs at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, & more.

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