If there's one truth in life, it's that you can't map everything. No matter how carefully you plan, you will find yourself on some detours. This is especially true for your career path. With so many unexpected and, often, unwanted changes, it can be tempting to throw away the roadmap and just go where the wind blows.
I would like to encourage you to fight that urge. There is still something to be said for strategic career mapping. As an entrepreneur with over 20 years under my belt, I believe that thoughtful planning is fundamental to creating a fulfilling and successful career. And as it turns out, the 2017 "MRINetwork Millennial Hiring Trends Study" found that 53% of millennials also wanted to chart their careers.
There's no denying that traditional employment has turned into something short-term, part-time, gig-specific – in other words, dynamic. Yet this economic evolution can co-exist with an “old-fashioned” method of forging career path decisions. It just requires a different, more adaptable mindset.
21st Century Career Mapping
The idea of creating a career map originally meant figuring out how to cleverly navigate the career ladder. the company. In other words, it was a straight hit with very few deviations:work long enough in Department X, become Supervisor of Department X, move to Department Y – and so on until you retire.
Today's map is less linear. It's full of twists and turns as people seize opportunities and develop abilities that lead to their next roles, even if they're not part of the same company. About 35 percent of the self-employed, according to a report by Freelancers Union and Upwork, and even more gig work as needed. This means that they have the primary responsibility for having the skills to progress.
Essentially, we have become a nation (and perhaps a world) of individualists. We are dreamers but with the understanding that those dreams will never come true if we are not flexible and mindful.
However, unpredictability can be a hard pill to swallow – at least it is. was for me.
Avoiding Obstacles in Career Mapping
“Focus on what only you can do. Give the rest. ”
I made it my mantra during a crucial period of growth within my company – when I needed to give more authority to our leaders. But I didn't know how difficult it would be. Accepting and acknowledging that you hold firmly to the responsibilities you enjoy is one thing; doing something about it is another. For me, giving the final say to the clients, programs and initiatives I had built and loved was almost heartbreaking. But I knew growth would be stunted if I didn't share all the best things with my most trusted leaders.
Once I did that, I realized how they were able to improve what I started through their new perspectives and focus. Plus, there were other things I needed to focus on to move forward. Unsurprisingly, I saw my own professional development take off when I took on new challenges. If I hadn't freed myself from these bonds, I'd be stuck, the human equivalent of landing in a ditch with a flat tire and no spare in sight.
Of course, all career mapping isn't difficult, which is why more than half of millennials are into it. If you're one of them, try a few strategies to get around your preferred route.
1. Focus on improving your “good”.
Each of us has areas where we excel without trying too hard. Maybe you are a professional networker or a closer ninja. Identify your “good” skills and turn them into great skills by working your tail. Don't waste time trying to get great at what you don't do well or worse, hate doing. Instead, passionately and enthusiastically become the best you can be where you are naturally gifted.
2. Take a step forward every day.
Half an hour is all it takes a day to keep moving forward in your career journey. Spend your 30 minutes thinking about the things you can do to build your abilities and recharge your optimism. Could you read a specific book? Having coffee with a mentor or industry influencer? Rather than overthinking the big picture, focus on the road, step by step.
3. Find out what success looks like.
Each person has a different measure of “success”. What is yours? Do you want to start a business? Have an impact on people in need? Write a book and hit the public speaking circuit? Spend a few moments thinking about what success means to you; then figure out how you might reach that destination from where you are today.
While the distance may be great, you should not quit your current job immediately, if at all. You might be able to reach your destination through other routes (like volunteering or a side hustle) that still allow you to have a reliable income. At the same time, if you finally have to say goodbye to your workplace, you'll feel better about doing so, thanks to your purpose.
4. Build a robust and authentic support system.
Focus on your relationships in your work and personal life. Humans rely on connections; the more honest and trustworthy cheerleaders you have, the richer your career path will be. Plus, when you hit a rough spot in the road or need to back up, they'll be right by your side. Who knows? They might even happily drive for a few miles until you get your second wind.
If there's one thing you shouldn't do, it's a passive participant in your professional journey. You have a destination in mind, and even if it seems far away, it is reachable as long as you chart a course and stubbornly and happily keep moving forward.