How to Use Career Mapping to Advance Your Career

When navigating a new career, taking the time to step back and practice career mapping can do wonders for helping you make sure you’re on the right path.

At a recent Map Your Success workshop presented by media executives and longtime NYWICI board members Kristine Welker and Susan Schulz, the two gave an engaging presentation to a group of young professional women on what exactly career mapping is and how it can improve your career. If you’re interested in giving career mapping a shot, here are some useful tips to get started:

Figure Out Your VET

Fleshing out your VET—values, experiences and talents—can help you narrow down the type of work you’re most interested in, based on what matters to you most, and in turn, the types of careers you’d excel at. First, list 3-5 values that are most important to you. For experience, make a list of 3-5 achievements, actions or experiences that were major life highlights of yours. For talent, Susan and Kristine recommend using a free app called Thinking Talents by Levo, in which you can take a quick personality quiz that will help you understand what you’re best at.

Create Your Personal Summary

Crafting your personal summary can be tough because you want to be sure to get across the most relevant and impressive information about yourself in minimal words. Instead of thinking of how you’d normally write a professional summary, try using the information you learned from the VET exercise, because including this extra info can help people learn more about who you really are and what type of career would be best for you. Susan and Kristine also recommend using the following building blocks as prompts:

  • I’m currently a/an (job title/company)…
  • My degree is in….
  • I have experience in….
  • My special talents, expertise or skills include….
  • I’m seeking opportunities that will allow me to….

And don’t forget to use action words in your summary, rather than a passive voice. This can also be great to put in your LinkedIn summary.

Find Your Network of You

Many times, our professional network is actually bigger than we think it is. Instead of only thinking of current and past colleagues as connections, consider everyone in your life, no matter how you know them. Susan and Kristine recommend creating a “Network of You” with 6 different sections, all related to you in some way, identifying different groups of people in your life. For example, your sections could be: Family, Organizations, Social, Communities, Work and Education. Then, within each section, list a few people from that part of your life that may be relevant to your career goals in some way. You may end up finding a helpful career connection where you never even thought to look.

Create an Interest Graph

To hone in on what exactly you’re interested in pursuing, you can create your own interest graph. First, choose 6 general topics/types of careers that you are interested in or are considering. Under each general interest, list a few companies that specialize in that type of work. Then, under the related companies for each interest, revisit your Network of You and list anyone that may have a connection to any of the companies.

Make an Opportunity Action Plan

Using all the information you’ve gathered so far, specifically your Network of You and Interest Graph, create an opportunity action plan by making a list with three columns: name, company and action. Then, list the name of anyone you’d like to have a conversation with, their company, and an action plan of how to do so. This could include sending an email, arranging a quick phone call, asking a mutual friend to connect you, or sending a LinkedIn invitation. The more people you think of that you’d like to connect with, the longer your list will get!

Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Kristine and Susan stressed the importance of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable throughout your career journey. As two highly successful women who both made career shifts, they know that the only way to progress in your industry or jump into a new one is by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’re looking to make a change, realize that change is uncomfortable, so you’ll have to get used to that feeling. And above all, stay calm through the process.

Remember: The Path Is Not Linear

“You can call your career a map, because there is no wrong turn,” Kristine and Susan stressed in their presentation. Remember that your career path is not linear—instead, it’ll be messy and uneven. But there are no “wrong turns,” because no matter which way you go, as long as you are learning and growing, you are still going on an upward trajectory. You can also think of your career as a narrative that tells a story about who you are. What story do you want it to tell?

Chelsey Hamilton


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