If you’ve taken to full-time web working as your sole source of income, one of the challenges you may have already encountered is that there is no clear or pre-determined career path to follow. In other words, it can be hard to see the next rung on the ladder, or if one even exists. There are no road maps, and it’s completely up to you how to progress professionally. It is possible (and maybe inevitable) to take steps that appear helpful at first, but that won’t lead to anything in the long run. Here’s how I plan my career path.
The question is where to begin, and how to avoid making too many mistakes or following too many false leads along the way. I’m a visual person, so I recommend starting by literally charting your course. You can pick your software of choice, but for me, this is a task that mind-mapping software is nicely suited for, especially since my career path is non-linear. A pen and paper or word processing software could work just as well, depending on your preference.
Start with your current state of affairs at the center, then brainstorm a number of possible directions your career could take. You could do this by comparing yourself with others in the field, by taking a survey of existing professional goals you might have, or by asking friends, colleagues and relatives what they imagine in your professional future. This last one can produce some very interesting answers, often those that you would not come up with for yourself.
Use your career goals and directions as end- (or mid-) points surrounding your current state. Now comes the fun part, which is figuring out how to get from point A to point B in as few steps as possible. That might mean taking courses, reading books, consulting other professionals, increasing monthly sales output, joining professional organizations, etc.
Focus on one goal at a time, and choose them in order of importance. Then, when you’re working out your map, figure out which steps toward it are absolutely necessary, and which are just beneficial. Rank the steps in order of importance once they’re broken down into these two categories. In the interest of not overlooking minor but crucial things like paperwork and application processes, try to be as detailed as possible, including attaching time estimates.
Once you’ve accomplished a sub-goal, go back and check your career path chart against the results to see if what you’ve achieved actually does further your progress towards your overall objective. If it hasn’t opened up more options or helped in some way, you may want to rethink your overall strategy. Pay attention to your timelines, too, and see if your estimates are accurately reflecting your experience.
Of course, all the mind maps in the world won’t make the big choices for you. For that, you need the experience of your peers. Identify people who are currently in the places and professions that you’d like to be. If possible, try to find out how they got there by charting their career trajectory. Luckily, the web working space isn’t a brave new frontier any longer, so you don’t have to fumble around in the dark on your own. Other people have made mistakes for you, and there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of that.
Always remember, though, one of the big advantages of being a full-time web worker is that you don’t have to follow someone else’s prescribed idea of how you should grow professionally. Even if you do use someone else’s experience as a model, make it your own as well. The Internet, after all, has no use for hundreds of Robert Scobles.
How are you managing your career path?