Unlock the potential of
a career map
By Nurys Harrigan, PHR, CSP
All of us are on a professional journey. We
started in one place and are, hopefully, on
our way someplace else. What happens in
between — what we do while we are on
the path — can make all the difference.
Ido not define success according to conventional benchmarks, such as reaching a certain title or position, or even
earning a particular income. Real success comes from
finding meaning and fulfillment in your work. Success is
enjoying what you do so much, it never feels like work. A
career map can provide essential guidance to help you reach
this type of lasting and meaningful success.
A career map is a guide to your professional life. When
properly created and frequently revisited, it can help the recent
graduate or seasoned professional navigate the twists and turns
of a career in today’s troubling economy so that they can reach
their vocational destination.
A career map is as unique as each personal journey and
should be crafted according to an honest evaluation of where
you find yourself and an optimistic perspective of where you’d
like to be. Both subjective and objective thinking is required
to create an effective career map. It should incorporate facts
about what you’ve done mixed with a wish list of where you’d
like to be.
THE FIRST STEP
A good career map should reflect the answers to three important questions:
• Where have I been?
• Where am I now?
• Where am I going?
Finding the answers to these questions requires a ruthless
personal inventory of skills — both acquired and innate. This
inventory provides the foundation for your entire map, so as
hard as it may be, you must be as honest with yourself as pos-
sible. This is not a time to think about what skills you should
have, or what skills you would like to have — it is absolutely
essential you objectively evaluate exactly where you are in
terms of skill development and acquisition. Brutal honesty is
Once you have completed the inventory, it’s time to
start dreaming. Think about where you’d like to be in two
years … five years … 10 years. This is the time to determine what is in your best interest and really hone in on
what you want. It is important to filter out others’ expectations and to focus on the desires of your heart. What are
Don’t be afraid to be creative and original. It’s OK if your
goal is something that has never been accomplished. Be open
to your creativity.
Once you understand where you are and figure out your
destination, you must assess the gap, i.e., what new skills, if
any, could help you achieve your goal. Once you identify those
missing skills, it’s time to get to work and develop those skills.
This may mean taking on new responsibilities in your current
position, seeking out a different professional opportunity or
volunteering in a role that helps you develop what you need
to reach your destination.
While this step can be daunting, especially in the current
economic climate, consider the alternative: spending two,
five or 10 years in a position that either is not fulfilling or is
not helping you develop the skills you need. Imagine discovering you have been wasting your time and undermining your
potential. Think about how lost you would feel if you discovered you’d been traveling — but walking down the wrong road.