Tips for Charting Your Career Path

Tips to chart your career pathWhen most people imagine their “career path,” chances are they picture something linear. They might imagine starting at Job A, getting promoted to Senior Job A, then to Lead Job A, and finally Executive Job A. While that career path does exist, for most of us it isn’t that simple. Instead, your path could involve several major career changes, shifts in focus, and many other variables.

A fantastic article from the blog 99u recently highlighted 10 things to keep in mind when navigating your career path1, drawn from a number of great thinkers, creators, innovators and professionals. We’ll give you the low-down on these tips and provide some key insights of our own.

10 Career Path Tips

The 99u article offers up 10 tips for life on the career path, each offered from a different perspective. These tips provide excellent benchmarks for success. We’ll break down each tip and offer some additional wisdom:

  1. Assess your happiness: The article stresses the difference between having a job, a career, and a calling. Essentially, you can picture these three terms on a sliding scale; a job is something you have to do, a career is something you want to do, and a calling is something you’re meant to do. A job is okay to pay the bills, but having a calling should be your ultimate goal.
  2. Embrace trial and error: Don’t be afraid to fail. This is a piece of advice which is great for life at large, but is especially pertinent when it comes to a career path. If you think a job isn’t for you, it’s okay to move on and learn from the experience. Every job you hold, even if it’s a short term one, provides some value.
  3. Enjoy the ride: The 99u piece quotes noted journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who in a letter to a friend stresses not becoming obsessed with self-development. It’s definitely smart to look ahead to future jobs and promotions, but it’s also a quick way to burn yourself out. Take time to enjoy your career as it happens, instead of always worrying about what’s next.
  4. Take the complex path: As noted in the example at the beginning of this post, the career path is rarely as simple as we’d like it to be. Because of that, it’s crucial to investigate all options you have. This include switching careers, going back to school, or making the jump to a different employer.
  5. Make yourself valuable: In essence, you should always strive to do more than what’s required of you and seek to master new skills. This will not only make yourself more indispensable to your current employer, but help you gain considerable experience and leverage your knowledge for the future.
  6. Always keep yourself in mind: If your career path is a road, you’re the one driving the car. It’s crucial to never forget that fact; your career decision should be motivated by your own goals and happiness. There will always be other factors, like bills to pay or family members to support, but balancing that with your own desires is a must.
  7. Don’t rely on luck alone: No person who’s truly successful in their career got there through luck alone. While it’s always helpful to get a break from a connection, there’s no replacement for hard work and dedication.
  8. Surround yourself with different perspectives: Avoid the echo chamber. If you’re looking for fresh takes on a career move, try asking people who are removed from the situation. Similarly, if you’re stepping in to a management role, ensure your direct reports have valuable insights to offer – even if their opinions differ from yours.
  9. Forge close relationships with thought leaders: The best way to become a leader is to learn from one. The mentor/mentee relationship is a crucial one when it comes to the career path. Offer your help to those in charge, and seek opportunities to shadow them.
  10. Be patient: Building a career takes a lifetime, not a single day or even a year. Stay focused on your objectives in the long term and make important career choices deliberately. Your patience will be rewarded.

Where Will Your Path Take You?

A new degree might provide the change in career path you want. Find out more about CTU’s degree program options and what furthering your education could mean for you.

1 Jun, P. (2015). The Career Compass: 10 Essential Ideas For Navigating the New Career Landscape. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from