Designing Your Career Path

You’re almost there. The final step of your Career Strategy is designing your Career Path.

First, what is a Career Path?

In short, it’s the big picture of your career. A chart of your movements between employers, industries, and business types.

It’s both backward-looking and forward-leaning. We use the Career Path to understand where we’ve been professionally and chart a course for our career future.

Even with your Career Factors and Career Profile in hand, if you don’t have a thoughtful Career Path, you are just floating through professional growth, allowing the universe to guide your way for you.

For many professionals, that’s totally okay with them. Have you, or someone you know, ever made your next career move based on thoughts like…

  • “Ah, my old boss just reached out; he’s at a new company and wants me to join his team. That sounds interesting, and I’m bored at this job anyway…”

  • “Well, we have to pack up and move, so I’d better find a company - any company - in that area that can match my salary…”

  • “Oh, that new hot company is opening an office in town. I should fire over a resume and see if I fit any of the roles they’re trying to fill…”

  • “Hm, my colleague just left the company, and I was asked to take over their work. I’m a team player, so I’ll say just ‘Yes,’ to everything they were working on, even if those projects don’t align with my professional goals or expertise...”

  • “Aw, I’d really love to work at that hot company, but I have no experience in that industry. Even if I want to change employers at some point, I guess I’ll have to stay in the same industry if I want a real shot…

Any of these strike a chord for you? At least one probably sounded familiar - this is how most professionals make their career decisions. Opportunistically, reactively, and usually the path of least resistance.

But what if there was another way?

The Career Path is your secret weapon.

Using your Career Factors and Career Profile, you can map out a Career Path that illuminates the way, showing you exactly where to step and what you need to do to get where you want to go in the least amount of time.

It’s a literal map that you design using the shapes below to represent different types of businesses where marketers commonly find themselves at various stages of their career.

One of the most common marketing Career Paths looks like this, starting at an agency out of college, taking another role at a different agency for more money or after a physical move, then going in-house or ‘client-side,’ where they can pause to SuRF.

Here are a few other common Career Paths - do any of these look familiar for you?

Now, the Career Path is more than just a pretty picture.

It becomes actionable when you know where you want to go professionally.

Do you want to be the CMO or VP of Marketing at your current company? Great!

Do you want the same role you currently have, just at a bigger/smaller company? Perfect!

Do you want to transition from one industry to another, perhaps an industry where you have no past experience? Excellent!

Visualizing ‘what you want to be when you grow up’ in your Career Path shows you what you should be doing next. These are oversimplifications, but here are a few examples...

  • You have your sights set on becoming a future CMO. Then accumulating responsibility faster and remaining in the same industry are usually critical elements of your path. You can accumulate more responsibility faster by volunteering for the right projects at work or by transitioning to a smaller employer.

  • You enjoy your currently level of responsibility and would like to stay in the same role, but at a bigger or smaller company. It’s relatively easy to find similar roles if you are industry agnostic. Then, your Career Factors further filter your employer options.

  • You don’t like the industry you’re in right now, but you don’t have experience in any others. This is an opportunity for your Career Profile to guide you into other potential industries where you have ‘adjacent experience’ - either in the work that you’ve done or the connections in your network.

Every marketer has different career goals, a different set of Career Factors, a different Career Profile, but only driven professionals will be able to visualize their future, design a Career Path, act upon it, and achieve it.

Marketers without a Career Path just have to continue making their career decisions reactively and hope they’re happy when they look in the rearview mirror...