“As long as you keep your focus on your destination, you won’t get off track,” says Laura Lopez, career coach and author of The Connected and Committed Leader ($19, laura-lopez.com). Here, are Lopez shares some tips for creating your own map. So take notes and get ready to blaze your own path!
Step 1: Look in the Mirror
It’s hard to know where you’re going if you’re not clear on where you are now. “Gain a good understanding of your current position,” Lopez advises. Take a hard look at the skills necessary to do your job and the skills you actually have. This is harder to do than you think; be an unbiased as possible, and examine what you bring to the table from the standpoint of a human resources rep or a recruiter.
Step 2: Set Goals
Now you can pick where you want to be. It’s important to set your sights high from the beginning. “Pick a lofty end goal,” Lopez suggests; it will motivate you to work harder. Next, describe that goal in as much detail as possible, so you can visualize yourself in that role. If your destination is likely to take 10-plus years to attain, develop interim destinations that will serve as milestones along the way, so you won’t get discouraged as you strive for the big stuff.
Step 3: Be Honest
Here’s the super hard part: Step back and do another self assessment, this time looking for weaknesses. “This step tells you what it will take to go from your current position to your destination,” Lopez says. You need to uncover the gaps in your experience and background to determine your course. But don’t get worried if you don’t have the skill set you need just yet—there are two more steps to go!
Step 4: Write It Down
Using the vision you’ve created and the areas for improvement you’ve detected, it’s time to commit your action plan to paper (or computer screen, whatever). Maybe it’s as simple as looking for a new job, but even then, there are multiple steps involved. For example: update your résumé, call mentors, update your profile on LinkedIn, tell your friends you’re looking, scour job placement sites and classifies…. Whatever your next move, now’s the time to create a detailed plan to get you there.
Step 5: Get Going
You’ve got your map, so what are you waiting for? “Nothing can derail you faster from getting to your goal than a lack of execution,” Lopez reminds us. So hop to it!
—Kenrya M. Rankin