How to build a career path in 3 steps

Whether you are looking for a job for the first time or seeking to make a move in the middle of your career, having a plan is the surest way to find fulfillment and happiness in your professional life. It is better to build a career path than let yourself get too comfortable and complacent where you are. Being able to grow in your career as both a professional and as a person is a goal that you should aim for in life.

Here are 3 ways professionals suggest to help you find a career you want or change into a path that you are passionate about.

1. Identify your core values and job skills.

Do some self-discovery. Identifying your nonnegotiable core values is one of three categories to build their career paths. Write down answers to these questions before you start:

  • What are your values? Identify what is most important to your lifestyle, such as income, faith, the ability to go on vacation or meeting new people.
  • What are your attributes? Think about the personality traits, professionally and personally, that have stayed constant throughout your life. Are you a team player? Do you prefer to work alone? Are you a fast learner?
  • What are your skills? This section is a list of what you have “learned and earned”. Write down what expertise you have developed over the course of your academic and professional life. These could range from using specific software to interpersonal skills.

Starting by identifying your core values is a foundational step, but people tend to skip it – which will give you a hard time trying to advance your career later on.

2. Seek advice from people you admire.

It can be difficult to be objective about our own situations, which is why it can be helpful to get external opinions. Talk to a boss, mentor, professor or friend you trust and have good rapport with. This person should understand your professional and personal strengths. Ask them for introductions, guidance and recommendations based on their expertise that will allow you to build a career path wisely.

Three things you should ask:

  • How did you get where you are today? What you learn may surprise you. A successful person may have changed roles many times or stayed at one company for 30 years. They may have several degrees or might have skipped college altogether. Asking other people what their career paths were can help you form your own.
  • Can you recommend programs or training? Big companies might offer internal mentoring programs, formal career-development training, rotational programs and even tuition reimbursement. If you are unemployed, working gig jobs or a student, consider applying for fellowships and grants that align with the kind of training you are looking for.
  • How can I better contribute? Some employers may not have the budget for training programs, but there could be other opportunities. A small company may offer a more direct path to senior management, for example. Ask for a meeting with a senior manager and let them know you are ready to take on more challenges and responsibilities.

If you are concerned about discussing your career path with a manager or HR representative, remember that you have more power than you think. If you have been in a role for some time, it is unlikely your boss will view it as a betrayal that you are interested in exploring opportunities. Having a clear idea of your career goals demonstrates ambition. If you are a good worker, your employer will probably want to keep you around. The cost of hiring and training a new employee to replace you greatly outweighs the cost of keeping an existing one.

3. Determine the key skills to progress your career development.

The ability to identify and articulate your skills and knowledge may help you to build a career path that suits you. You might be surprised to learn that a skill you acquired in one industry can be applied in another. Learning to frame your experience as an asset to potential employers can help you to map out your options and advance your career.

If you aren’t sure where to start:

Try sending a message to five people in your life asking: “What are my three biggest strengths?” It helps if your five recipients know you from different parts of your life, for example, a roommate, a romantic partner, a former boss, a current colleague and a family member.

A lot of people based their whole personality on their career, but we believe it should be the other way around. Build a career that you can truly invest in and feel happy about. Whether you are a recent graduate, a mid-level manager or even a senior executive, it is never too late to discover your career path and follow what is right for you.

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The JobHopin team