Career Mapping 101: Taking the Reins of Your Future

By Jeff Herzog, President, FPC National

Too often, people take a passive approach to their careers. They spend years working hard at their jobs, hoping to be recognized and given the opportunity to advance. And while this strategy does work for some in the long run, more often it results in being passed over for promotion after promotion.

The mistake people make is focusing too much on past achievements and not enough on future preparation. While accomplishments are a strong indication of your value, they do not necessarily mean that you are qualified for the next level up.

If you have been stagnant in your career, then this approach to “career mapping” will help you break out of your rut and position yourself as a strong candidate for future promotions. While some companies provide support in helping you progress along your career path, the best way to achieve success is to grab the reins yourself.

Here are the three steps you need to take to actively create the future career you want:

Identify Goals

The first step in career mapping is to identify your ultimate goal and research the path that will get you there. And it’s never too early to create this plan. Let’s say that your ultimate goal is to be in the C-suite of a growing mid-sized tech company. Begin by developing the logical sequence of roles you will need to have to reach your objective.

For the sake of our example, let’s assume you are currently a Marketing Manager, and you aspire to be Chief Marketing Officer. How might your career map might progress?

Ultimate goal:  Chief Marketing Officer

Vice President of Marketing

Director of Marketing

 You are here:  Marketing Manager

Of course, the path to your ultimate goal may not match the above list exactly, but it gives you a good indication of the stages you will likely encounter along your way. Sometimes you are able to skip a step and other times there may be additional roles you will need to fill before advancing.

Identify Requirements and Gaps

Next, for each rung on your career ladder, identify the necessary requirements. O*Net OnLine is a terrific resource for researching job titles, requirements, and responsibilities. Once you uncover the requirements for the position, you can then begin the preparation to reach your goal.

Start by identifying the experience, education, and abilities needed for the next destination on your career path. If that role is Director of Marketing, the requirements may look something like this:

  • Five years of marketing experience
  • Proven record of achievement in digital marketing
  • Leadership ability with a background in managing small teams
  • Thorough understanding of marketing analytics
  • Ability to execute marketing strategies while coordinating with multiple business units
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher

Are you prepared for the next step? Do you have the requisite skills and experience to be considered a strong candidate for this role? Whether you are looking internally or externally for your next move, it’s never a wise strategy to hope that your employer will let some of the requirements slide and take the time to train you for the position. The better approach is to identify the gaps in your experience and abilities, and then take the steps needed to bolster your qualifications.

You can fill the gaps by completing self-study or company training programs, seeking opportunities to lead projects or campaigns, volunteering to expand your responsibilities, and shadowing those who currently have the role you are seeking.

In the case of Chief Marketing Officer, the requirements may look something like this:

  • Ten years of marketing experience
  • Experience leading large cross-functional teams
  • Track record of building marketing foundations
  • Ability to develop long-range strategic plans
  • Background in digital transformation
  • Master’s degree

While the CMO role may not be your current target, it’s good to keep it on your radar so you know what kind of experience and training you will need to reach your final career destination. If you lack a substantial credential for this role such as a master’s degree, then put yourself on a path to achieve this milestone by the time you are ready to apply for this position.

Identify Contacts

Building and managing your network should always be a top priority throughout your career, not only when you are actively seeking a new opportunity. Identify and pursue the contacts who could be instrumental in making decisions about your professional advancement. LinkedIn is a terrific tool you can use to connect and cultivate relationships with key decision makers.

Whether you are seeking advancement inside or outside of your company, look for people with job titles that are one or two levels above the position you are seeking now. It’s never too early to begin networking with those who you may be reporting to one day. Also, connect with those who have the same job title that you are seeking. They are often the first to know about an upcoming vacancy within their organizations.

Identify Recruiters

To help you reach your career goals faster, it’s important to cultivate a relationship with the right recruiter. With an extensive network of contacts with hiring managers, professional recruiters are tuned in to the job market and can tap into opportunities that job seekers never know about. But – not all recruiters are the same. Each recruiter has a particular specialization, so if you are seeking a position as a CMO, it is unlikely that a finance recruiter will be able to help you progress in your career.

With more than 60 offices and hundreds of recruiters across the nation, FPC National has a roster of experienced recruiters covering every major career specialization. And through our unique “Exchange Program,” each of our recruiters has access to our nationwide resources, so when you work with one recruiter, you are able to leverage our entire network of contacts across the country.

Career mapping is not a one-time activity; it’s an ongoing process that will facilitate your progression along your desired path and help you reach your career destination quicker. And if your goals shift throughout your journey, you can always adjust your career map to align with your new direction.

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Steve Margalit

Steve Margalit