Are you familiar with the term “career mapping”? If not, you should be. From an applicant or employee perspective, career mapping is a means for developing the skills you need to achieve your near-term and long-term career goals while adding value to an organization at the same time. This creates a win/win situation for you and your employer that is sure to make you both very happy. With this in mind, consider career mapping to be like laying the foundation of your future success with a well-designed plan.
One Simple Question
Peter Roper is the Head of Mobile Brand Strategy at Google and knows a thing or two about planning for future success. Before taking on his current career title in 2014, he decided that his best bet was to deprioritize new job opportunities not by compensation or geographic convenience but rather by the skills he hoped to develop.
Having worked in a range of industries spanning from advertising to sales to technology, Roper held many jobs before landing at Google. And even though his experience wasn’t super specialized for his current role, the fact that he had a unique combination of skills made him a perfect candidate for his dream job.
In this recent-ish video interview with CNBC from March, he suggests that tech career hopefuls ask themselves the following question:
“What skill set can I develop to enhance my career?” – Peter Roper, Google Executive
Why Ask This Question?
Like it or not, most millennials are job jumpers. But this isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, many experts believe that a certain amount of job-hopping early in one’s career path can help a young professional earn a higher salary, find a more desirable geographic location, and determine a better cultural fit for their personality and career needs.
As a savvy tech executive, Roper is keenly aware of employment trends within his industry. “The reality is we’re all going to switch jobs a lot of times during our life, and you have to have a longer term plan,” he says. While having a perfectly formed idea of how you want your career trajectory to look isn’t necessary, he maintains that it’s helpful to have a general lay of the land regarding skills you hope to acquire. His advice?
“[Think about] it in terms of chunks of expertise and specialty that you’d like to obtain along the way is a great way to make sure that your moves are building on each other.” – Peter Roper
So before you accept that cushy-sounding job in the Silicon Valley, try to visualize what that role will look like for you in the next two to three years. Determine some skills you don’t have yet and would like to have when that time comes and ask yourself where you’d like those skills to take you next. For some that may mean an internal promotion to a different role, for others that may mean seeking greener pastures elsewhere. Either way, you can use Paysa to help you negotiate your salary and determine what skills you need for maximum success.
How to Map Your Career
While some people prefer things in a visible format, a career map doesn’t need to be a tangible document. An interview on the topic with career coach and thought leader, John Addison, by Fast Company emphasizes that for best results, a career map should be about taking small, actionable steps every day to help you reach your goals.
In a nutshell, Addison’s advice is as follows:
- Spend as much time working on yourself as on your job. Even when work is discouraging, and you’re struggling to stay engaged on the job, don’t let cynism get the best of you. Working on yourself and your skills can empower and energize you to keep going.
- Don’t get stuck on long-term plans. When we’re heads-down on the job, the idea of planning for the future can seem daunting. We may ask ourselves, “If I feel like I can’t even get through this app launch how can I plan the next decade of my career?” Career mapping is about finding the middle ground between remaining effective in our day-to-day responsibilities and being strategic about the near future (two to three years for our purposes). For example, if you want to develop your leadership skills for a potential managerial role, start finding ways you can take on these responsibilities at work. This may include mentoring a junior colleague, reading materials on the topic of leadership outside of work, or even attending classes and conferences relating to it whenever you can.
- Remember you can’t go it alone. Strong relationships are an asset to anyone looking to develop a successful career map. Reach out to your network and identify people who can help you build the skills you want. Think about mentors you can turn to for advice. Perhaps someone whose life or career you admire and would like to emulate in some way? These are the people you should get to know and build relationships with — not to use them for the purpose of getting ahead, but to determine what steps should be on your unique career map to get from Point A to Point B and so forth.
- Take actionable steps — every single day. If you’d like to build better organizational habits, take steps every day to make that happen. Start using a day planner or software to manage your tasks better and increase your productivity and soon you’ll be a stand-out amongst your peers come promotion or raise time. It’s important to brainstorm specific actions you can take to make the improvements you’d like to see. Is there a book or resource you can read? Is there someone you can talk to or solicit feedback from?
Of course, for those of us who do enjoy a little visual aide, this handy format from former Google Career Coach, Jenny Blake can be helpful for kickstarting an excellent career map.
Applying Career Mapping to the Tech Sector
For techies looking to make career mapping work for them, there may be a few quirks and nuances to consider. A great example of a tech-centric brand that has adopted career mapping for the internal development and coaching of its tech professionals is Spotify. Spotify’s model clearly lays out what it expects regarding career mapping and development from all of its employees. If you are considering a job with this company, you may want to read it and then re-read it frequently to help you prep.
Tech professionals tend to be vision-oriented and data-driven. So knowing this, it’s especially important to have an idea of where you want to go and what steps you can start taking now to get there. Unfortunately, most managers are not yet equipped to answer these questions for you, so you’ll need to take the initiative to make the most out of your career potential. Much like salary and skills research, career mapping can increase your earning potential by helping you develop the most in-demand skills for your field and learn to be a self-advocate along the way. Career mapping can also be an opportunity to see if the role you want in the future is even available at your current company or if you’ll need to change employers to get there.
If you’re lucky enough to have multiple options on the table, now is the perfect time to think about your own career map to decide what’s best for you and your future. Remember that while many employers have embraced internal career maps to develop their talent, it is you who ultimately owns your personal career map. Nobody will go out and find you a mentor or develop the skills you need to make your next move. The truth is that nobody will ever care about your success as much as you do, so get started today.
Interested in learning more about required skills for top tech positions? Visit paysa.com to get started.