Plotting a Career Path in Three Questions

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Plotting a Career Path in Three Questions

Plotting a Career Path in Three Questions

Written collaboratively by Matt Tripp, Alex Morris, and Josh Quist.

For employees, there are numerous ways to consider adding structure to career paths. There are consulting services, career coaches, online programs, books, and even TED talks. But maybe just asking a few simple questions can help direct an individual in how to move forward with their career.

Self-reflection is the key to ensuring that a person is on the career path that they want to be on and on their way to where they want to be. Nonetheless, some direction can provide a boost to planning.

We propose the following questions because, while simple and short, they invite intense thought and examination. Before setting out, it is important to note that while any effort is better than none, in most cases, the more time and thought put into such contemplations, the more valuable the information derived.

Where are you in your career path?

Regardless of where you are, you need to understand it in relation to the organization or your career as a whole. Maybe you’re just starting out at the organization. Maybe you stand at a crossroads between a managerial and technical track. Maybe you are thinking of switching careers altogether. In accounting for where you are, consider the knowledge, skills, and abilities which brought you to your current job.

This question is easily neglected in favor of focusing on the future- it is more fun and more interesting to think about a dream job than a current one. But without understanding current location, it is impossible to actually plot a path anywhere. You would never attempt a road trip without knowing where you’re starting- why put your entire career in the same situation?

Where do you want to be?

This question might be the most complicated and require the most introspection. A good place to start might just be thinking about what you enjoy doing in your current position. What activities would you enjoy doing more of? What would you love to never have to do again? Geographically, where do you want to be working?

Of course, answering this question in full may require you to do a bit of research. For instance, knowing the types of tasks typical of specific positions or even that those positions exist at all would help in determining where you want to be. Talking to a Human Resources representative or a manager might help to get a better understanding of organizational structure and potential career paths.

Matching your personal preferences to organizational opportunities should give some perspective of where it is you want to be, even if it’s not a perfect fit or not in your organization.

How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?

Simple, right?

Once you have an understanding of your current position and your target position, you can identify the positions and requirements in between: if you want to be a department head, you need to be a manager first. Before you become head engineer, you need to have received certain trainings.

Breaking down the positions and the requirements and hurdles between where you are and where you want to be might feel daunting, but using a structured approach, you will have drastically better chances of achieving that target position. This step will require a lot of thought and potentially a lot of research. Do not be afraid to ask others for help or information. If you know someone in the position you want to one day attain, ask them how they got there. Ask Human Resources. If your organization has a career paths map or tool, utilize it.

Career planning and career paths can be difficult to grasp, but these simple questions can put your immediate plan into perspective and help you to make the most of your opportunities.

Where are you? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there?

For more information on understanding how to achieve your career goals, check out our blog post
Peeking Over the Walls: From Career Maze to Career Path!

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