Image Credit: Flickr- Extra Medium (CC License)
If you take car trips to new or unfamiliar places, a map is an essential travel accessory. Whether it comes in the form of an atlas, a fold-out map, or a smartphone app, we need a map to plan our journey. What are the different routes that can be taken? Which route is the shortest distance? Is there a route that will be more memorable than others because of scenery or attractions along the way? If you are driving from Dallas to Denver, you probably would not just hop in the car and start driving in a northwesterly direction. You need a plan to get where you are going or you will likely never get there.
Career Maps: A Rarity
The map analogy came to mind as I read an article on Careerealism in which results of a reader survey about career development plans. It was a simple, one-question survey in which readers were asked “Do you have a career development plan in place?” with the obvious answer choices of “yes” or “no.” Results of the survey may surprise you (or they may not):
Two-thirds of workers do not have a career development plan, a map that outlines a route to their destination. Reflecting on this statistic, I identified three reasons why such a large number of professionals do not have a plan: 1) No destination, 2) no chosen route, and 3) no mapping skills.
A map is not as useful if a destination is not known. Simply put, where are you wanting to go? One reason for not having a destination is the inability to answer the question of where do you want to go. Setting goals or objectives is crucial to managing a professional career like a brand. You need milestones to reach, or you will remain where you are. In today’s dynamic business environment, five-year goals may be more challenging to set and attain, but they still serve a purpose of orienting you toward where you should be going. Complement long-range destinations with intermediate milestones such as two-year and one-year goals that are intended to move you closer to the five-year destination.
Some people may have a destination in mind for their career, but they have not laid out the route needed to take in order to get there. This scenario sounds more like a dream than a plan. The idea of setting a route to reach a five-year, two-year, or even one-year destination can be intimidating, particularly if your destination is a great distance from where you are now. But, remember the answer to the question “What is the best way to eat an elephant?” The answer is “one bite at a time.” Applying the concept of the 3Ms of personal branding (Meaning, Makeup, and Message), think about how focusing on each of these areas can contribute to advancing your career and moving you toward your destination.
No Mapping Skills
One characteristic of a map that we take for granted is that someone has already done the hard work for us by creating and publishing the maps. All we have to do is figure out how to read it and decide on the route to take. When it comes to your professional career, the same luxury does not exist. No one has designed your career map… because no one other than you can and should do it. You must be willing to determine a destination and plot a route to get there.
Even those commitments are not enough- sharpening your mapping skills is a must or your career journey will inevitably encounter dead ends and wrong turns. One of the most effective techniques for becoming more proficient at mapping is to learn from others. Whether you seek out a mentor, network with other professionals, or commit to a daily discipline to learn, you can have significant impact on career management by becoming more confident and experienced in mapping your journey.
Be Weird and Plan
Financial planning expert Dave Ramsey says when it comes to personal finances, normal is being broke. In professional career management, normal is not having a plan. Be weird and set a plan for where you want to go, how you will get there, and what fuel and supplies will be needed for the journey.