A framework for creating your own work journey.
By Kate Shipley Richey
Creating a career path plan (or career pathing) is a process best done with optimism. So why are so many of us only turning to this tool when we feel stuck, lost, or unhappy in our career placement? It seems obvious for college students or recent graduates to set a desired path for their professional development, but employees and organizations should also consider the benefits of charting a course for an employee’s future. Even if this isn’t a formal process your company offers, you can easily implement it for your own personal development.
If you’re unfamiliar, career pathing is a process in which you identify your ideal career objectives, the skills and milestones needed to achieve those objectives, and a path to obtaining those skills. It’s like a board game for your professional career, but you get to choose the endpoint and sometimes even the path. Career pathing within a company is an effective way of mapping out your future within said company. Imagine your end point, arm yourself with the company organizational chart and job responsibilities, and cross-reference which skills you need in order to earn the jobs that will lead you to your end goal. This process is even better if it’s done with your supervisor, work mentor, or other stakeholders who can help you along the way.
If you don’t have access to the resources or answers that can help you fill out your path, you can still get started on a skeleton framework, like the one below:
Identify Your Overarching Objective
- Where do you want to be in 5, 10, or 15 years?
- What title, responsibilities, or corresponding salary will you be looking for?
- What major accomplishments do you want to have achieved?
Acknowledge Skills Gaps
- Consider what skills you currently possess that will help you along the way.
- What skills do you still need to gain in order to progress toward your goal?
- What responsibilities or milestones do you need to have mastered to get where you want to go?
Look for a Logical Progression
- How will you gain the skills needed to achieve your objective?
- In what order can or should you gain those skills or responsibilities?
- What career moves (either laterally or through promotions) can or should you make to position yourself?
Use Resources Along the Way
- Make a timeline and a list of contacts who can help you on your path.
- Take advantage of networking or personal development opportunities that can help you gain skills.
- Allot time to develop your skills, network, and work towards advancing your goal.
Once you’ve considered your path and created the beginnings of a framework, write it down. Don’t underestimate the power of putting pen to paper and making it real—more than just a thought in your head. Plus, once you’ve written it down, it will be easier to refer back to. Creating weekly or monthly deadlines for yourself to achieve can also ensure that your plan is top-of-mind.
It’s not always comfortable to plan for events and opportunities years in advance. If you’re not someone to whom this comes naturally, try making the goal more short-term and tangible. Ultimately, this is an exercise in identifying what you want out of your career and creating a plan to get it. Let’s stop waiting until we feel like we don’t have a choice in our next career move. Let’s take the dice and give them a roll on the path we created for ourselves.