How to Map Out Your Career Path

Published on 08 April 2021

Reading time 7 minutes

Far too many people spend their lives coasting along doing jobs they dislike. Before they know it years - or even decades - have elapsed. In this article, we’re going to look at how to map out your career path so that this doesn’t happen to you. By making the right choices, you needn’t just live for the weekends - you can enjoy every day!

I’m very fortunate to have a career I love. I work as an SEO Manager for Semrush. I also sell an online link-building course that brings me passive income from something I truly own. I have a job with a company I’ve long respected, multiple streams of income, and the freedom to travel and work wherever I like.

But none of this happened by accident or good fortune. I made a plan and executed it - and this article will help you do the same.

Why Mapping Out Your Career is Important

You’re much more likely to advance in your chosen field if you plot a clear course for your progression. The key thing to realize is that nobody else is going to do this for you.

You need to resolve to be a driver and not a passenger when it comes to your career. This doesn’t come naturally to some, but having this mindset will ensure you have to make fewer compromises as you progress through your working life.

The first and most crucial step is working out what you actually want to do.

Know Yourself

At the start of my working life, I had a job I hated. I’m very thankful for that job because it taught me exactly what I didn’t want.

I’d moved to the UK from my home country of Bulgaria, taking a job picking peas on a farm. The pay was low, the hours were long and fixed, the work was hard and monotonous, and - as is often the case in England - the weather was ghastly.  

I quickly began to create a vision of what I did want: work I cared about, work I could do anywhere, and a flexible schedule. In fact, 32% of people citе flexibility as the number one benefit of working from home.

The good news is that you do have a blank canvas for your working life. However, you must also be honest about where you are right now.

In my case, I knew that - at that point - I didn’t have the skills and experience I needed for the life I had in mind.

Know Where You Want to Be

Once you know where you are, you need to know where you WANT to be. Better yet, you should work out who you want to be.

For many people, starting a career involves scrolling through job ads thinking “what can I do?”. This is the wrong question.

It’s much better to work out exactly what you want first. This can, and should, encompass both your personal and professional life.

A handy thing to have in mind as you work through this is the Japanese Ikigai concept. This involves working out where the following things intercept:

  • What you love.
  • What you are good at.
  • What the world needs.
  • What you can get paid for.

Taking the time to work through this, instead of rushing towards the first paid job you qualify for, is wise - not self-indulgent.

Plan Relevant Experiences

The previous steps teach how to identify where you are and where you want to be.

Next, you need to work out how to get from the first place to the second - from “Point A” to “Point B”. By planning relevant experiences, rather than leaving these experiences to chance, you can advance much quicker.

You don’t need to fixate on timescales. There’s no reason why you can’t have a thirty-year plan, a three-year plan, AND a three-month plan. Having all of them could work out very well for you. The key thing is that you have a plan.

Here are three experiences to include in that plan:

1. Learn from Experts

While I was grinding through the tough pea-picking job, I gave a lot of thought to what I’d like to do. My research led me to SEO, and it was clear that I’d need to invest in lots of training and learning.

A few months after I returned from England, I started online courses to learn the basics of SEO. I also started working for a seasoned SEO professional, which gave me a chance to immediately put my learning into practice.

Training resources are more accessible than ever, thanks to the internet. When it comes to working with experts, many are far more amenable to being approached than you would expect. Surprisingly few people take the initiative.

2. Work on Personal Projects

I wanted to accelerate my progress from “Point A” to “Point B,” so I also started to work on personal projects. You can’t always test methods and theories on client projects, but you can do whatever you want with your own.  

Again, it’s not hard to do these things. It’s simple and inexpensive to create blogs, websites, and apps.  

These things don’t have to be financial successes. Everything you do adds strings to your bow, even if it’s just knowing that a certain concept doesn’t work. However, it can go the other way as well.

In my case, my course project - Actionable Link Building - was a commercial success. It continues to earn me passive income despite the fact I’ve now moved into a full-time role I love.

3. Think of Experiences Outside of Work

Work/life balance is hugely important, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that work and life experiences are not intertwined.

The experiences that shape everything from our work ethic to our communication style and the ways we handle stress are not exclusive to work. Everything from the books you read to the people you spend free time with influences you as a person.

As motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

You don’t have to ruthlessly cut people out of your life! However, decisions around whether to spend another evening with the hard-partying university crew or to spend it doing something that contributes to your career plan could have a profound impact in the long term.

The Journey is the Destination

The wonderful thing about having a plan for exactly who you want to be and what you want to do is that you can enjoy the process of putting it into action.

For example, if you’re learning about something you love, you can enjoy the study, instead of feeling it’s a grind.

I feel as excited about the work I do now as I did on the first day of my first internship. Working for Semrush is a bit of a “dream come true” scenario for me - and there’s no reason why you can’t have one of your own.

You don’t have to compromise with a job that’s “just a job" as many people do. Taking the time to plot out what you want, instead of just going where life takes you - is the key.

Remember: Be the driver, not the passenger.

Author bio

SEO Manager at Semrush, responsible for establishing new processes at the company. He loves traveling, watching online courses, reading books, and listening to podcasts during his daily nature walks.