Here are all the basics you need to know to start your career map today and achieve your big career goals!
Have you thought about developing a career plan but weren’t quite sure where to start? If the answer is yes, then a career map will help!
One of the difficult parts about choosing the right career is having too many ideas or options. It can be tough to know which path is the right one and how to position yourself for success.
A career map helps you to collect and organise your career ideas. This is useful for developing a career plan where you articulate your vision for your career and turn it into reality.
This post is about guidance for completing a career map.
What is a career map?
A career map is a mind mapping tool used to visualise ideas about your career. It’s often done at the start of career planning and provides a guide to help you reach your career goal.
A career map can be used in various ways in career planning including:
- Exploring different careers
- Finding a niche or specialisation
- Articulating your career capabilities
- Creating a resume
- Visualising a career path
When articulating your career capabilities, it might include your aspirations, knowledge, interests, opportunities, achievements, barriers, personality, motivations, training and education, and skills.
Organisations sometimes use career maps to help their employees plan and advance their careers at said organisation. This benefits both the organisation and the employee. The organisation has a tool to help with employee retention and succession planning, and the employee has a perceived level of reassurance about their long-term future at their workplace.
If you want to know more about the usage of career maps from an organisational perspective, check out this Indeed article. Keep in mind this won’t work for career exploration!
What’s the difference between a career map and a career plan?
A career plan involves mapping the key steps and milestones of your career to provide strategic direction to achieve your career goals. It’s a roadmap, not a set-and-forget statement or goal. It can start at the beginning of your career or can be developed at any point in time.
A career map is a mind map (or another tool) that’s sometimes included in a career plan.
Why do I need a career map?
A career mapping tool is great for anyone who is feeling stuck and needs to organise their thoughts.
A career map can help you:
- Gain clarity on your ideal career (wherever you are in your career journey).
- Organise and prioritise your career ideas and thoughts, especially if you’re prone to having many at once!
- Get started on the career planning process, even if you have no idea about the direction of your career.
- Brainstorm new career pathways, particularly if you’re looking for a career change or a specialisation.
- Articulate your unique set of skills, knowledge and experiences for your job documentation.
- Know EXACTLY what steps to take to achieve your career goals so you can get there more quickly.
Who should have a career map?
Anyone who is starting the career planning process, including those who are:
- getting started in the workforce
- recent graduates
- looking for a new job
- looking to change careers
- wanting to become self-employed
If you’re unsure about which direction you would like to take your career, now is the perfect time to do a career map. Quite often the answers will come once you start putting pen to paper 😊
Career mapping template
Below is a career mapping template suitable for career exploration, including those looking to start or change their careers. Each item of the career map is explained below.
- Career values – what you view as most important in life, relative to your career.
- Aspirations – what do you hope to do/be the most?
- Career interests – what interests you the most; what are you curious about, relative to your career.
- Motivations – what gives you energy and motivates you to peruse something further.
- Achievements – what tasks have you completed or action taken that you would be rewarded for or proud of.
- Transferable skills – sometimes called core skills, skills that aren’t unique to certain roles e.g. communication skills.
- Technical skills – job-specific skills that require certain training, skills unique to a certain vocation e.g. dentistry
- Job-specific knowledge – unique knowledge gained from working in an industry or role.
- Traits – personality traits that shine when undertaking certain work tasks e.g. ‘friendly’ during client conferences.
- Education – formal qualifications or certifications.
- Other training – informal training or micro-credentials, often undertaken on the job.
- Professional associations – membership to professional organisations required to undertake a role
You can download my career mapping template for FREE.
Career mapping exercise
If you’ve downloaded your free career mapping template and are ready to try the career mapping exercise for yourself, here’s an example you can use to guide you.
This exercise can be approached two ways:
- as a stocktake of your current capabilities to determine any gaps required for career development, or
- to collate research you’ve done on capabilities required for your new career e.g. from an informational interview.
Having said this, there’s no right or wrong way to do this career mapping exercise! Use it for whatever career planning purposes you like 😊
How to complete a career mapping template
The career map concept is simple:
- Choose an element to start on (I recommend Career Values, but you can start on something easier like Education) and write down the first 4 items that come to mind. If you can think of a couple more, great, include them as well.
- Then move on to the next elements until you have completed the entire map.
Tip: If you can’t think of an answer quickly, just move on and revisit it later. If you can’t think of 4 items for each element, no worries!
If you’re exploring multiple new careers, you can complete this career map multiple times if needed.
Here’s a look at a completed career mapping template.
Developing a career map can assist with career planning by organising and visualising your career ideas.
These tools can help you to achieve your big career goals by providing you with a roadmap that articulates your vision for your career and turns it into reality.
A career map can be used for various parts of career planning, including resume development.
There’s no right or wrong way to complete a career mapping template – make it work for you 😊
This post was about guidance for completing a career map
Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward
Your go-to career development and human resource practitioner, guiding your career towards true north.