What Is a Career Map?

What Is a Career Map?

What Is a Career Map?

What Is a Career Map?

A career map is a detailed written plan setting out where you are right now in your career, where you would like to end up and the specific steps you need to take to reach your ultimate objective.

Employers may create career maps for or with their employees, explaining how individuals can advance through the organization and the requirements they need to fulfill at each stage.

Your own career map, however, will be very personal to you and is a document you create for yourself. It may involve determining a route for progression within your current organization, or you may be aiming for a position with a rival firm, to start your own business or even to move into another industry.

Why Create a Career Map?

While you may have a vague idea of your career goal in your head, if you haven’t pinned this down and made a clear plan of how you are going to get there, you are leaving a lot to chance.

Creating a career map will give you more control over ensuring that you make the right moves and decisions in your career to reach your chosen destination. It also provides an opportunity to examine the skills and strengths you already have and any weaknesses or gaps in your knowledge you may need to address.

The format of a career map encourages you to think about both short-term goals and long-term goals, and to define the steps you will need to take to move towards your final goal.

Spending some time thinking about all these different aspects will give you a much better insight into the career path you wish to follow and how to succeed.

By writing it down, you will have a document to refer back to, so you can make sure you stay on track while recognizing and celebrating the progress you have made as you achieve each step.

How to Make a Career Map

1. Identify Your Starting Point

The first step in creating your career map is to carry out an in-depth evaluation of where you are right now.

Spend some time considering your strengths, skills and passions as well as your weaknesses, skill gaps and anything else that may hold you back.

Think about where you excel and what excites you in your current job and what you dislike or struggle with.

Be very honest with yourself and write everything down. This detailed review of yourself and your current situation will help you develop a better idea of what your long-term goal is and how to get there.

2. Define Your Ultimate Goal

Again, you need to be detailed and specific when determining where you want your career map to take you.

If your objective is to move into a particular position, identify what this means in terms of the job description and person specification.

You might be able to find this information through your own employer or via the careers websites of companies you would like to work for, or you may need to interview people in similar roles to find out exactly what they do (our article on informational interviews will help with this).

Whatever your goal is, make sure it is measurable, so you will know when you have reached it.

3. Set Your Short and Longer-Term Goals

Once you know where you are right now and where you want to end up, it should be much easier to establish the skills, experience and competencies you already have, and those you still need to acquire to reach your goal. You can then break this down into a series of steps.

Setting yourself smaller goals that you can tick off as you go will make your ultimate objective seem much less overwhelming and help you feel as though you are making progress.

Be very clear about what each of your short-term goals entails. They could include gaining specific qualifications or experience, or taking on interim positions you may need to hold before being considered for your dream job. Don’t aim too low, but keep these goals realistic and set yourself deadlines for completing them.

When you have achieved one of your smaller goals, don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate your achievement. Recognizing the progress you have already made will help you to keep your end goal in sight and stay motivated.

See our articles on achievable career goals and career strategies for more advice on setting goals.

What Is a Career Map?
What Is a Career Map?

4. Ask for Input

If your goal involves progressing in your current company, letting your manager know about your ambitions can help to clarify your career map. You may want to discuss whether your plan fits with how they see you moving up in the company.

They might also be aware of paths for promotion or development that you weren’t aware of and can assist you by directing you towards training programs or by looking for opportunities to assign you projects that will move you closer to your goal.

Alternatively, consider finding a mentor outside of your company who can give you insight into the career you are aiming for, along with ongoing feedback and support as you work through your career map.

5. Include Lifestyle Goals

While your career map will be focused on your professional life, it is important to also consider your personal ambitions and objectives and to think about how these could impact your goal.

For example, if you want to live abroad, work remotely or start a family, this might affect decisions you make in your career, so be sure to take these into account when creating your map.

6. Keep Checking In

Once you have created your career map, make sure you keep coming back to it to see how you are doing.

If you have created a physical career map with pen and paper, put it up somewhere you will see it every day.

If it’s in digital format, set yourself regular reminders to look at it and evaluate your progress.

7. Be Flexible

While you want your career map to be detailed and specific, you should also be prepared to adapt your plan as needed.

External events may require you to reconsider some of your goals, industries will evolve and your own priorities could change, so keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to alter or update your career map.

Career Map Template

The career map you create will be unique to you and the industry you work in, and the format you follow will reflect this. Below we have provided a template that may serve as a useful starting point to begin thinking about your own career map.

For this sample career map, we have imagined someone who is currently working as a camp counselor, whose ultimate goal is to become an elementary school principal.

Starting Point

Outline where you are now, giving full details of your current job description, skills and experience.

For example,

Current Job

Summer camp counselor, working with children aged 8–14, including:

  • Leading a cabin group
  • Coordinating my cabin group’s daily schedule
  • Creating and leading camp activities
  • Assisting with camp activities
  • Monitoring mealtimes
  • Mediating in any conflicts that arise
  • Delegating chores where needed

Key Skills and Attributes

  • Good with children
  • Passionate about working in education
  • Strong leader
  • Good at multi-tasking
  • Fun-loving and enthusiastic
  • Determined
  • Able to work under my own initiative
  • Good at resolving conflict

Weaknesses and Skill Gaps

  • No teaching qualifications
  • No experience of teaching in a school
  • Limited experience of working with younger children
  • Limited experience of leading peers

Short-Term Goals and Objectives

Once you have established where you are now and created a detailed definition of your end point, work out what steps you will need to take to get from A to B.

Remember to make these specific and to set a timescale for completing each one.

For example,

  1. Secure work placement in a school, ideally working with children under eight years old to gain experience with younger children. (By end of current year)

  2. Obtain undergraduate bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Complete all necessary state licensing and certification. (Four years from beginning of course)

  3. Secure job as an elementary school teacherwhile working towards master’s degree in education leadership. Take advantage of all professional development and training opportunities available, as well as any opportunities to take on leadership responsibilities. (Two years)

  4. Move up to working as vice principal, taking on more responsibility and gaining further experience in areas such as planning for school improvements, handling student discipline and concerns from parents, training and observing staff. (Two years)

End Point

Give full details of the role you are ultimately aiming for, including job description and person specification.

For example,

Final Goal – Elementary school principal:

  • Leading a school’s administrative team and taking responsibility for overseeing daily operations
  • Coordinating staff training and development
  • Working directly with children, helping them to achieve their goals
  • Liaising with the school board and ensuring that the school adheres to its board’s protocols
  • Developing programs to improve school performance
  • Creating benchmarks to track progress
  • Upholding educational policies and responding to concerns from parents, teachers or students

Person Specification

  • Must be a licensed and experienced teacher
  • High standards and expectations
  • The ability to motivate, inspire and lead
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Highly organized
  • Evidence of contributing to raising standards in a school setting
  • Thorough understanding of curriculum development, classroom management and national educational policy
  • An innovative and creative approach

Final Thoughts

Whether you are just starting out in your career or are already some years into your chosen profession, you should always have a clear idea of where you are heading and why. Without defined goals and a strategy for progression, you are at risk of drifting off course and not making the most of opportunities as they arise.

A career map provides you with the framework to make a thorough analysis of what you want out of your career while creating a detailed plan that will keep you moving towards your desired destination.


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Or explore the Jobs & Careers / Career Planning sections.