Although we’d often like to believe we’re in control of our destinies, the facts of life can sometimes say otherwise. We can plot and plan until the sun goes down, but sometimes the temptation to go with the flow and wash up wherever the tides of fate land us professionally can be hard to resist.
However, this is not a habit that ought to be encouraged. Those of us who are willing to actively map out a career path and stick to the plan can enjoy a much more dynamic professional trajectory – that puts us where we know we should be – when we refuse to sit anywhere else but the driver’s seat.
For anyone looking to take their career to the next level: don’t worry, you’re not alone. With the emergence of short-haul labor situations typified by modern developments in employment, many people find themselves stuck in an employment situation that’s less than ideal.
Nevertheless, it’s still possible to reap the benefits of an organised career plan that can provide a roadmap to your ambitions and redirect the narrative of your employment path on your own terms.
Career Mapping in the 21st Century
Previously, creating a career map meant preparing a route through the winding maze that is the corporate ladder: setting a path from one department to another, whilst aiming for the appropriate promotions along the way, right up until retirement becomes a feasible proposition. However, these days things are a little less clear cut.
Freelancing is on the rise, especially in the realms of ICT and startup entrepreneurship. People’s professional habits have taken on a much more individualised nature as more and more of the workforce migrates to the freelancing format.
Whilst this affords more flexibility, it also makes it a lot easier to fall into a myopic cycle of gig work that doesn’t provide a great deal of constituent opportunities to develop a coherent blueprint to career development. Nor does it necessarily leave one’s CV with many achievements that will make you stand out when it comes to applying to competitive positions.
With that in mind, it is still possible to weave through this unpredictable employment landscape and stick to a progressive career map that can get you to where you want to be.
One of the key factors to focus on in developing a practical career map is the ability to prioritise the right work in terms of one’s ability. If you’re working within a commercial undertaking and the opportunity presents itself to employ cooperation to get a task completed more efficiently, don’t be afraid to put your work in more capable hands.
The aim is to avoid roadblocks at both a micro and macro level, to enable you to reach a level where you can engage with work professionally that better caters to your strengths. By releasing yourself from tasks that don’t suit your skillset you can expedite your career progression much faster.
Not all career mapping will be a challenging affair, but it pays off to take a more lateral approach to handling your workload.
With that in mind, here are four rules to play by when coming up with a practicable career map for your professional development.
1. Make Your “Good” Great
Many of us have areas where we can excel without overexerting ourselves. Find out what you’re good at and build upon that foundation to become great.
By playing to your strengths, you will find that it’s possible to develop yourself professionally with passion and enthusiasm, instead of banging your head on the wall trying to accommodate responsibilities that don’t suit your talents.
You’ll be able to do more with less effort and put yourself in a position where it’ll be easier to excel professionally.
In addition, if you’re finding work easy, you’ll probably be making it look easy, which will make a better impression of assured confidence on others, especially when the time comes to take your career to the next level.
2. Keep Moving Forward
By pledging to develop yourself incrementally over a sustained period of time, you’ll find that you can generate tangible improvements in your professional situation without your efforts plateauing.
Try and spend at least half an hour everyday broadening your outlook, whether it means arranging to network with a superior over coffee, or reading a book that’s relevant to your area.
By maintaining constant pressure on yourself to keep developing personally and professionally, you’ll improve in these areas over time, and won’t be so likely to plateau your development by trying to reach for the stars all at once.
Slow and steady wins the race, so be sure to keep at it, and you may be surprised with the progress you’ll see eventually manifest itself.
3. Visualize Success
It’s important to establish your own personal criteria for what you view as success. Are you interested in starting a business? Making a positive impact in people’s live? Assume leadership positions?
Clarifying these in your own mind will focus your ambition and help you better work towards a more tangible end goal. Bear in mind that you don’t necessarily have to sprint towards your professional destiny all at once.
Volunteering, moonlighting and otherwise pursuing your goals on the side can still be achievable alongside your current employment, and means that when you’re ready to make the next leap forward, you’ll be doing so from a position of strength and stability.
4. Nurture Your Own Support System
As humans we rely on professional and personal relationships to help bridge the gaps between what we have and what it’s possible to accomplish. Simply put, the broader the reach of a trusted social circle you have access to, the more options you’ll have to execute on.
Cultivate your interpersonal situation, and you’ll find you will get out much more than you put in with the help of a robust and positive support network. These relationships can often make the difference when it comes time to reach your full potential.
The thing to avoid is becoming a passive observer of your own career arc. Keep the destination in mind at all time, regardless of how far off it seems, and the journey will fall into place much more easily.
When it comes to mapping your career, determination, patience and vision will see everything eventually fall into place.