It’s estimated that 90 percent of our daily lives are spent doing routine tasks. But a habit can be a bad thing, because “if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to keep on getting what you’ve always got.”
One of the most important things you can do is to take the time to plan your career roadmap. Whether you want to change jobs — or careers —or simply get more out of your current job, a career plan is essential to helping you reach your goals.
This exercise may take you 20 minutes, or you might devote a few hours to planning where you want to go. If you want your life to be different in the next 12 months, especially your career, take the time to work on your career roadmap.
Action Step One: Take Stock
The first step is to assess where you are. To figure out where you’re going, you must first look at where you’ve been.
Here are some questions to help you assess where you are:
- What are you most proud of this past year — personally, and professionally?
- What went right this year?
- Did you receive any awards or recognition this year?
- Did you take on any additional responsibility this year? If so, what?
- How did you take the initiative in your job this year?
- Have you learned any new skills?
- Did you earn any certifications or licenses?
Record this information in a success journal. A Microsoft Word file on your computer, Evernote, a series of emails you send to yourself or even a physical notebook will work. And in the coming year, take the time to record your accomplishments as you go through the year instead of waiting until the end of the year.
Next, look for opportunities for improvement in your career. How does your salary stack up against your peers? Is your current position in alignment with your priorities and your core values? Where is the change needed?
Action Step 2: Articulate Your Goal
Decide what you want and visualize it. Get specific: What does it look like; what does it feel like? You have to really want it to invest the time and energy to follow your dream. Describe your ideal job:
What is your ideal employer? (size, industry, culture, location, structure)
How much would your dream job pay? (Realistically)
What are the most important benefits — other than salary — that would prompt you to go to work for a new company?
Describe your ideal job — the position you would most like to have. What is the job title, responsibilities, who you would report to, who would report to you? Would it involve travel? Do you want to work independently, as part of a team or both? Do you like short-term projects or long-term projects?
What do you want your next job to do for you that your last job didn’t do? In other words, what will be different about your next job? Is there anything that you do in your current job that you don’t want to do in your next job?
Think about the person that you want to be, and imagine the possibilities. Then, identify 2-3 goals you want to tackle. Use the S.M.A.R.T. goal system to articulate your goals — goals should be “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Oriented.”
For example, let’s imagine you have worked as an accountant for the past three years, but you really want to work in marketing. Your goal might be: “By Jan. 1, 2016, I will be working as a Marketing Assistant in a Fortune 1000 company.”
You should also write down why you are interested in making the change. In other words, what is your motivation for taking this path? Another good question to ask is, “How will I know when I’ve achieved my goal(s)?”
Action Step 3: Make a Plan
Part three of Building Your Career Roadmap. Take the time to prepare a game plan for how you will reach your goal. But don’t use planning as an excuse to procrastinate. You want to get to Step Four as quickly as possible because actions create momentum.
Take each of your goals and write down the list of steps under each of them that you will need to take to make the goal happen. The more individual steps you can map out, the easier it will be for you to reach your goals. The steps should be practical tasks that will lead you to achieve the goal.
For example, with our goal of making a career change from accounting to marketing, here are some sample steps:
- Research job postings for entry-level marketing jobs. What are the skills, education, and experience required?
- Join the American Marketing Association and attend one virtual event or in-person boot camp in the next 90-120 days.
- Enroll in semester-long online marketing course focusing on marketing principles.
- Identify a volunteer opportunity to put marketing skills into practice — either in current job or with a community organization.
- Assess transferable skills from accounting that would be useful in a marketing role (project management, analysis, financial management, client relations).
- Work with a professional résumé writer to create a targeted marketing résumé.
- Join three marketing-related groups on LinkedIn, and follow 5-6 Fortune 1000companies in the area that have company profiles on LinkedIn.
- Assemble people in a network to act as references for marketing interview.
- Connect with 2-3 contacts at Fortune 1000 companies in the area.
- Identify possible employers and submit résumés.
Give yourself milestones so that you can measure your progress. How will you know when you’re on the right track? Include specific dates and numbers in your milestones.
Action Step 4: Building A Career Road Map
With the tasks you’ve outlined in Step Three, this gives you a checklist of items to use to take action. If you are working through the steps and discover you need to add additional items, update your task list. You may also discover additional projects that need to be completed to make the next step — and the overall goal — easier to accomplish. You may also find that you need to make adjustments to your timeline.
For example, if you discover that a six-month program to learn about social media would help you land your new marketing job, adjust your goal deadline. This would give you time to put some of the new skills into practice before you put them on your résumé.
As you work your way through your task list, focus on the actions you are taking, realizing that if you are taking the right actions, these should eventually lead to the results you seek. If you’re not getting the results you want, change the plan, not the goal. Re-examine your tasks and see if there is something you are missing.
It can also be helpful to get outside feedback. Enlisting the help of an accountability partner — a friend, family member, coach, résumé writer, or therapist — can provide valuable perspective on your progress. This individual can also keep you on track, making sure you are working through your task list. And if there are specific areas where you need help to cross the task off your list, make sure you ask for assistance.
For example, writing a résumé to support a career change can be difficult. Enlisting the help of a professional résumé writer can help you cross that task off your list.
Action Step 5: Building Your Career Road Map
When you’re on a journey, it can help to periodically assess where you are to make sure you’re on the right road. If you miss a step along the way or take a “wrong turn” — you can find yourself a long way from your intended destination. So plan periodic assessments of your progress along the way. This can be a monthly “check-up” where you review your plan and make any necessary changes, or a quarterly review.
Taking the time to think through and plan out your career roadmap is an important step in helping you create the career you want for yourself. If you don’t, you may find your career stuck or stalled. Or you may wake up five years from now and wonder, “How did I get here?” If you want to achieve more in your professional life, invest the time and effort in completing the Career Roadmap Worksheet.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Author Lewis Carroll
STEP ONE: TAKE STOCK
- Current Job Title:
- Start Date of Current Job (month/year):
- Current Salary:
- What I Like Most About My Current Job:
- What I Would Want to Change About My Current Job:
STEP TWO: ARTICULATE YOUR GOAL
- What Is Your Goal?
STEP THREE: MAKE A PLAN
- What Are the Specific Steps (Tasks) You Need to Take To Achieve?
- Your Goal?
STEP FOUR: TAKE ACTION
- What Help (Outside Assistance) Do You Need to Reach Your Goal?
- Who Is Your Accountability Partner?
STEP FIVE: MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS
- How Close — or How Far Away — Are You To Reaching Your Goal At This Moment?
- Do You Need to Make Any Adjustments in the Goal, Tasks, or Deadline?