Once you understand what's important to you and what you have to offer, learn the different paths available to you.
- Career paths today are more like jungle gyms than ladders. Just like children play on a jungle gym, we can swing to the side, go up, or even down to move us closer to our long-term career vision. As the pace of life evolves and companies adapt, the idea of a concrete and predictable path is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Today, we often make more frequent moves to achieve shorter-term objectives, whether that be learning new skills, gaining new experiences, or simply conducting career experiments.
But without a defined path, it's easy to become confused or even overwhelmed when thinking about where you should go next. Instead of being overwhelmed, you can focus on how this shift has also brought about new opportunity, the opportunity to create your own path, one that's unique to you. Of course, taking a path that no one has forged before requires a different approach. It requires new skills and a new way of identifying opportunities that aren't always spelled out for you.
It requires more risk, confidence, flexibility, and patience. Knowing this upfront can take a lot of frustration out of the process. Let's start by defining different types of career moves so you can begin to understand your options. You can use part four of the Career Map Worksheet available in the exercise files to begin to identify paths that might be good options for you. Of course, there's the traditional career path. This is where you progress upward in the organization or in your field from one specific job to the next.
Then there's a lateral path. This is where you can move within an organization or field to different roles at the same job level. These can be good for you if your goal is to find new challenges and learn new skills. A demotion, oftentimes associated with failure, can actually be an intentional career move. This might be a good choice if you determine that you want to change fields altogether. This often means taking a step backwards so you can learn something that might potentially accelerate you at a later date.
The expert path might be a good fit if you recognize that your passion is your technical specialty and want to grow your career without having to become a manager. Last is a value path. This is another way to recognize that you're not tied to a specific technical area of expertise. Instead, you want to develop a plan that enables you to continually add value to your field or an organization. This path requires you to anticipate what tools will be needed in the future and get training and development that helps you obtain these skills.
This is a good path for those who like variety and get energy from continually adding to their toolbox of skills. I have yet to meet anyone who didn't tell me they wanted to grow their career. It really comes down to identifying how you want to grow it. Remember, growth can happen by taking a variety of paths. It's just a matter of identifying the one that makes the most sense for you.
- How the workplace has changed
- Creating a career vision
- Creating short- and long-term goals
- Mobilizing: Identifying resources, mentors, and your online brand