How to create a career map (with steps and examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Having a clear idea of your long-term professional goals is important when choosing or developing your career. A career map is a written plan that leads you through your own professional development and highlights the steps that can take you to where you want to go in your career. Understanding how to create an effective career map can help you pursue a fulfilling and successful career. In this article, we discuss how to create a career map, give you steps to make an effective one, consider how career ambitions can change and give you examples of maps for different fields.

Related: How to choose a career path

How to create a career map that can help you

Understanding how to create a career map can help you utilise one to its fullest potential. Careers mapping is one of the most important tools for identifying opportunities in your field. It helps you see what skills you already have, which ones you can develop and which ones you may want to acquire. Planning helps you see where you want to go and what skills need developing. Here's how to create one:

1. Know where you are in your career currently

To create an effective map, think of where you're starting. For instance, if you want to be an accountant, perhaps you currently have a degree or certification related to accounting. Consider what other type of professional experience you possess, then describe your duties and accomplishments.

After that, examine your skills and consider which ones you excel in. Make sure to include any relevant experience from previous jobs that can transfer to future positions. Start writing everything down, as you can use this information in the following steps. Include your skills, education and experience.

Related: 9 professional business certifications for a career boost

2. Establish your career ambitions and goals

Now you can clarify the industry in which you'd like to work and what you want from your career. Consider what field you prefer and if you like mid-level positions or managerial roles. Also, think about your preferences for working, such as whether you enjoy working with machinery, working at a desk with a computer or travelling from place to place. This requires thinking about what you enjoy doing now and what you want to do in the future, which may take some time to figure out.

Once you have a general idea of what you want, you can start mapping out opportunities that lead you towards your objective. The goal of any career map is to define the steps to take to reach your dream job. This means determining where you want to be in five, 10 or 20 years.

Related: How to create a five-year plan

3. Profile job positions in your industry

You can look through the job listings in your chosen industry to see what the requirements or expectations are in your chosen field. Canvasing positions helps define the hard and soft skills that the roles require. Once you specify the position that interests you, search only for that role and take note of what's required for it. These particulars are helpful when you're establishing the milestones in your career map.

Perhaps the organisation for which you'd like to work requires candidates to have a particular degree or certification. These take time to obtain, so before you set your goals, try talking to someone who holds your dream job there or in another company. The detailed information you gain can encourage you as you set long-term goals or tell you whether the position is actually appropriate for you.

4. Start setting career goals

Setting goals helps you focus on what you want to achieve and can help you quickly judge where you are at any point in time and what you can do next. Consider what each of your goals entails, how long they take to accomplish and what the result might be. If you set small, easily attainable goals along with more challenging ones, you can see tangible results with the small ones on the way to attaining larger ones.

For instance, if your goal is to be a data engineer, you can take certifications in data analytics and how to build databases while at university. In this manner, you're overlapping short-term goals you can use immediately while working on the long-term goal of a degree. It's fine to aim high, just be realistic and consider other responsibilities you might have in your life.

Related: A step-by-step guide to development goals for work

5. Set milestones for your career map

Career maps use timelines. Once you've written down your goals, set the milestones for you to reach along the way. You can include dates, but you can make your career map more flexible without them. You can use your list of hard and soft skills to add milestones to your career map, based on the training opportunities that are available. For example, if you want to be a commercial mediator in the legal industry, you could take certification that teaches you the necessary negotiation skills.

6. Do a self-assessment before starting your career path

Take a moment to look at your timeline to ensure it's realistic and attainable. Make sure this is the career path you would like to take before starting. Envision yourself in the role to make sure it's worth the sacrifices of time and money to achieve it.

7. Request feedback on your career path

Try gathering feedback from your current supervisors or from university professors. It helps them understand what you're trying to achieve and gives them a chance to offer valuable suggestions. If you're seeking advancement within your current company, management might suggest resources that would benefit you or direct you to assignments that would move you closer to your goals.

8. Include lifestyle goals in your career map

One way to make sure your career map is successful is to include lifestyle goals. These might differ from your career prospects but could affect them. For instance, if you want to travel or live abroad, it's probably a good idea to include your plans within your career map to see how well they complement everything else.

Examples of career maps

Once you've gathered all the information needed for making your career map, you can look at examples of how to list the data. Personal stories can help provide examples as well. For instance, if you want to become a lawyer, you might first read the biography of a successful lawyer to understand what their career map looked like in the beginning.

For some people, career choices change at different times in their lives. This might happen to you too, so it's a good idea to remain flexible. Allow yourself to adjust your current career map as needed or create a new one entirely. The following are some examples of career maps in different industries:

Education career map

Like any career map, the milestones might overlap as you continue to pursue different goals. The following is an example of goals and steps in an education career map:

  • Dream job: headteacher

  • Starting point: bachelor's degree in education

  • Current skills: leadership, communication, child advocate, behavioural management

  • Character traits: motivated, adaptable, professional

  • Milestone 1: become a personal assistant to a headteacher

  • Milestone 2: undertake teacher training

  • *Milestone 3: work for three or more years as a teacher*

  • Milestone 4: earn a master's degree in business management

  • Milestone 5: establish an education blog

  • Milestone 6: get promoted to deputy headteacher

  • Milestone 7: marry and buy a house

  • Milestone 8: establish an educational website and mobile application

  • Milestone 9: network at teacher conferences

  • Milestone 10: attain a position as senior deputy head at the same or a different school

  • Milestone 11: have children

  • Milestone 12: build strong social media presence

  • Milestone 13: get a promotion or move to position as headteacher

Technology career map

The following is an example of the steps in a technological career that can give you an idea of how to move forward:

  • Dream job: user experience (UX) designer (financial technology)

  • Starting point: bachelor's degree in computer programming

  • Current skills: computer programming, mobile game application design, money management

  • Character traits: organised, thoughtful, creative

  • Milestone 1: gain certification for UX research

  • Milestone 2: work as a junior web application developer

  • Milestone 3: pursue a master's degree in finance

  • Milestone 4: work as a UX designer remotely

  • Milestone 5: travel mainland Europe while working and pursuing a master's

  • Milestone 6: work as a UX designer in fintech

Entrepreneur career map

The most successful entrepreneurs know what they want to accomplish and then map out a plan to achieve it. The following example highlights some possible steps:

  • Dream job: owning a retail business

  • Starting point: assistant manager in retail business

  • Current skills: social media management, customer data analysis, buying, scheduling

  • Character traits: outgoing, communicative, organised

  • Milestone 1: gain certificates in business management and data analysis

  • Milestone 2: become a manager at a retail outlet

  • Milestone 3: become a shareholder in the same company

  • Milestone 4: model a business plan after the same company

  • Milestone 5: gain a certificate in social media marketing

  • Milestone 6: do crowdfunding online

  • Milestone 7: purchase one property for home and business

  • Milestone 8: open a retail business as sole trader

  • Milestone 9: hire a marketer and manager

  • Milestone 10: take a month-long working vacation to the U.S. and Caribbean to source retail items


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