Mapping your career journey

© Australianrider | Dreamstime.com

© Australianrider | Dreamstime.com

“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” (Tom Landry)

My childhood was full of car trips.  We were a family of five on a single-income, so driving vacations were the most economical (and driving vacations where we stayed with relatives were the norm.) Many of my best vacations were thanks to my Aunt Violet, who lived in the Detroit suburbs and would plunk us all in the car and take us on an adventure in almost any direction. Thanks to her, I’ve been all over Michigan; spent time in Chicago; explored Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland; and even had a few jaunts into Canada.

It’s important to note that all of these trips were before GPS or the Internet.  Yep, it’s true.  Every one of these adventures was planned and executed using a road atlas and a AAA Tourbook.  Picking hotels and attractions in the Tourbook, then laying out the route in the atlas to hit them all — it was a process that taught me many important skills, including how to set a goal, plot a course and read a map.  At the time, I didn’t realize how those skills were going to help me throughout my life.

I’ve met a lot of people with big career goals — goals they really want. They can see them, feel them, imagine themselves achieving them, but that’s where they seem to get stuck. You see, no matter how well you know your destination, you aren’t going to reach it if you don’t know how to actually start your journey.

So to help all those people out there who didn’t have an Aunt Violet, here are the steps to mapping your personal career journey:

1. Select a specific destination and declare it. 
A Tourbook or a travel agent can’t help you much if you can’t describe where you want to go.  The same is true for career journeys — people out there are willing to help if they understand where you want to go.  Consider: Does your resume (or your LinkedIn profile) speak to what you want? Who have you told about your goal?  Do you know people in the field, and have you described your journey to them?

2. Decide what kind of trip you are taking (scenic vs. direct).
Only you know how much time you have to take this journey and what you want to see and do along the way.  How urgent is this change? What knowledge and skills do you need to gather in order to reach your destination? If you have everything you need, then full speed ahead!  If not, then you need to plan some scenic stops along the way.

3. Plot out the interim destinations.
If you need education, find the courses; if you need experience, find volunteer positions; if you need more information about the field, find places to widen your network. The number of stops will be influenced by your patience, available resources and creativity (because there are always shortcuts to discover if you know where to look).

4. Pick your first destination and hit the road. 
On a road trip, the first destination is usually based on geography; but on your career journey, you get to decide the order of your stops.  Which one is closest/easiest to accomplish? Which ones require more research or help? What can you afford? You’ve plotted the course, so trust your navigation, pick a direction and move.

Now it’s my turn to teach my kids the wonders of planning a family road trip (and the other journeys in life).  Perhaps I should pick up an atlas, disconnect the wifi and see what kind of journey they can plan…

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