The steps to take on any career path are not set in stone. In fact, there are countless ways that you might go about arriving at your particular career destination for your industry, and your journey is not likely to match anyone else’s exactly.
That said, you can consider some best practices that can help you avoid wasting time on blind alleys and dead ends as you navigate the career path that’s right for you. These three tips can get you started.
Think in Terms of Milestones
It can feel overwhelming to look ahead and try to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B in a particular career. No matter what field you’re in, there are always going to be multiple steps to take to reach certain goals along your career path, and a sensible way to think about these steps is in terms of targeting milestones to reach along the way.
For example, if you’re working in the tech industry in a junior-level role and aspire to become a manager, you might consider framing the next steps on your career path around these three milestones:
- First, take a management class to show your boss you are interested in this form of career development.
- Next, you might mention to your boss during your review that you’d like to be considered for opportunities in your department that would test-drive your management skills, such as being a project lead.
- Finally, you might apply for an open management position, noting during your interview and on your application the steps you’ve taken to prepare yourself for a management role.
Weigh Opportunities With Your Career Path in Mind
As you plan your career path and identify appropriate milestones, keep in mind that avoiding certain opportunities—and taking care not to focus on developing the wrong skills—can also steer you in the right direction.
While you may be tempted to apply for interesting-sounding jobs or might be offered a position that seems exciting, if it doesn’t help move you closer to your actual career goals, then going in this new direction may end up being a detour that temporarily derails you.
Similarly, while you can learn many professional and technical skills that are useful in a general sense, it’s important to use your time wisely if you want to reach your career goals sooner. Instead of taking an online course that’s unrelated to your industry, figure out what types of skills and industry-specific knowledge will move you closer to your goals.
Raise Your Hand and Network
Regardless of your industry, you can help leapfrog your career by taking on more of the right kind of responsibilities. This can help you gain needed skills and prove your competency in your areas of interest. Extra opportunities may not come to you at work if you don’t proactively seek them, so an important part of career pathing involves letting your manager know what responsibilities you would like to add in order to gain experience for the role you are interested in.
Networking also can help expedite moving you to where you want to be on your career path. Simply knowing someone who can offer you the type of opportunity you want in your current industry or a different one can be all it takes to get a foot in the door. So, make time to network both inside your company and beyond it, and make your career goals known as you do so.
Choose Your Direction
By combining savvy networking with milestone planning, thoughtful selection of professional learning options, and asking for the appropriate additional responsibilities to augment your skill set, you’ll be well-positioned to map your career path in the true direction that you’d like to go.
Don't forget to share this article with friends!