Have a Career Roadmap: Don’t Just Go Along for the Ride

Most career coaching clients come to me after flooding the job boards with resumes and coming up empty handed. What they don’t realize is that having a laser focus on what you want your next career step to be comes before doing your resume, updating your LinkedIn Profile, and applying to hundreds of postings on job boards. It’s not their fault. No one has shown them a career roadmap. Until now.

When my brother and I were little, my dad used to take us to Cape Cod for summer vacations. The night before he would sit at our kitchen table and unfold a big paper road map that he got for free at the Sinclair gas station. He took a yellow highlighter and traced the route we would take (this was pre-GPS!) and circle the places we would stop along the way, like Howard Johnson for lunch. Although he had a fixed time for arrival, he allowed for the impulsive souvenir store, rock collection shop, or amusement park. But, we always arrived at the Cape on time, well fed, and ready for fun.

Little did I know that watching my dad laid the roadwork for how I would conduct career coaching sessions decades later. He instilled in me invaluable lessons, such as planning your route (from work to leisure, from New Rochelle to Cape Cod ), what you want to do along the way, and why you want to do it. The “what” and the “why” were comparatively easier back then compared to navigating career paths today but the underlying logic is the same.

Here are your 10 steps for creating a successful new career map:

  1. What is the primary reason you want to make a career change? (If you don’t ask yourself this question the grass will look greener everywhere and in a few years you’ll be back to being unhappy).
  2. Here’s a 3 part question: What would you like to:
    1. Do more of and get even better at (These are your current transferable skills [your career currency] that you love doing and want to continue doing in your next iteration).
    2. Do less of but appreciate that it’s a necessary component of your ideal next career step.
    3. Stop doing altogether.
  3. Think long term goal but short-term steps.
  4. Define your career purpose before you send out a single resume or cover letter and before you tune-up your LinkedIn Profile. Know what the end game is. As Al Pacino (aka Ricky Roma) said in Glengarry Glen Ross: “You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is.” Once you identify and commit to your career purpose, each step auto-aligns with it. For my dad, having a map and not knowing the destination would never have gotten us to Cape Cod.
  5. Money should never be your career purpose. It has no intrinsic value and is not a component of a personal definition of success.
  6. Focus (a.) on the value you can provide your prospective employer with because of the work you can do and (b.) the personal and professional fulfillment you’ll receive by doing that work. The money will follow.
  7. Just like my dad used his map to connect us from New Rochelle to Cape Cod, build a career map of steps to take you to your career purpose.
  8. Become a student of job postings that align with your own career purpose. See what employers look for in the ideal candidate. Take stock of what areas of expertise you already have, which skills, education, certifications, etc. you need to acquire, and schedule stops along the road. Break the big goals into smaller ones and remain flexible to detours.
  9. Devote 100% of your time and effort to your ultimate career purpose. Remember the movie City Slickers:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [points index finger skyward] This.

Your finger?

One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean sh*t.

But, what is the “one thing?”

[smiles and points his finger at Mitch] That’s what you have to find out.

10. Identify and commit to writing your dream job, dream company, and dream industry and pursue it in perpetual forward motion. Be relentless and you’ll become audacious!


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