Career Mapping- The strategy you need to create positive career change

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

There is great power in having a road map to understand your ideal career. Think about how valuable it would be to have a detailed chart that maps out the combination of your unique life experiences with your education and skill set. Once you know your personal strengths, interests, motivations in combination with your personal career journey then you are literally set up to win at work; while experiencing positive change and growth on your way to a new level of career success. This information is valuable for students and seasoned professionals since it protects the limited resources of time and money in how to focus on the job to achieve fulfillment in life.

Most people don’t realize that we actually spend more hours of our life working than any other single activity. That’s why it’s more important than ever to know where you fit in your career, because if you are drifting and feel lost in your career, you literally are drifting and letting life slip through your fingers. Another reason why it’s important to have a clear career focus is because of some startling research which revealed that almost 80% of workers felt stress on the job, and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress. 26% of workers said they were 'often or very often burned out or stressed by their work' (Gallup Management Journal).

Another survey reported that almost 8 out of ten US workers go to jobs every day that they don’t like or don’t feel well equipped to do. I suspect that one area of career drifting and weakness fuels the dissatisfaction in the other. Basically, if you don’t know where you fit, then you are set up for tremendous stress and disappointment that will ripple into every other area of life. Conversely, if you know where you fit, you life just got better and it will show in the joy on your face when it’s time to get up and go to a job that you love. When you know where you fit on your career path, you enjoy life more and worry less. So how can you tell if you are in the wrong job or the right one? One way is to take the checklist below to review the key career areas to see if you have more fulfillment on the job or just a lot of frustration as you begin your search for answers.


Career Roadblocks-

___Weak or wimpy leadership ___Little or no chance of career advancement
___Low or no company benefits ___Career burnout or continual job stress___Continually forced overtime ___Boring work
___Feeling burned out ___Continually feeling overwhelmed by work
___Too long of a daily commute ___Career is out of balance with rest of life___Not trusted by leadership ___Others are passing you by
___Not empowered or equipped ___Forced to do meaningless tasks___Low pay, low benefits ___Constant complaining about money
___Given too much responsibility ___Absent leaders who don’t lead___Mean or abusive managers ___Hostile work environment___Low or no employee morale ___Lone wolf syndrome vs. team approach
___No validation of progress ___No job stability or security

Here’s your Career Coaching Goal:
Find your “Fit” by mapping out and blending the key elements listed in this coaching resource onto a legal pad as you put together the pieces that can become a successful career for a lifetime. Each category will help shape your thinking as you do the final assignment to discover your ‘core’ career focus from the Career Kaleidoscope exercise. Then review the results with a family member, pastor, co-worker, trusted friend or coach so you can get some honest feedback to insure that you are on track as you develop a personalized career GPS or “Global Positioning System” of your greatest skills and strengths which will become your career map of a strategic path of greater success together.

► Directions:
Customize the categories below by listing out information from your own career journey. Place in facts, names, dates or a brief description of events as you give the details that describe your strengths learned through educational or life experiences. There are no wrong answers, and some categories will be longer than others, so add or adjust space as necessary to give an accurate description of your career development. The more detail you give, the more clearly you can uncover and discover your career strengths and where you can focus to achieve maximum results. This is the story of your journey, and it is an important one. Be honest with your successes, failures, wins and losses. If you won an award- bring it up, or if you were fired for poor performance, comment on what you learned from it. Most business people doing this exercise have strengths they don’t give themselves credit for, so just by listing out and then thinking through these topics should open your eyes to better see where you fit in your career. Answer these questions with an open mind to discover a new view of yourself and where you best fit in the world of work.

Dwight Bain’s coaching guide to discovering your ideal career placement by charting your life journey… this exercise reveals your personal strengths and areas of excellence. Find your “Fit” by mapping out and blending the following key elements onto a legal pad or the career Kalediscope exercise attached. Then sit down with a trusted mentor or coach to review the results as you develop a personalized “GPS” tracking system of positioning your skills and strengths onto a strategic career map leading to success.

“Be direct with change and you will take charge of your life”. -Dwight Bain

† Personality (e.g. introvert/extrovert, people person/loner, loud/quiet, sanguine, melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic or D.I.S.C., Meyers-Briggs, 5 Love Languages or other scores from personality profiles you may have taken)


† Energy level in personal & professional life (high, moderate, low)


† Organizational skills in personal & professional life (perfectionist, slob, motivated, disciplined, detailed, efficient, focused, timely, etc.)


†Career Stage (e.g. just starting, starting over, leader, novice, expert, etc.)


† Age, gender & birth order in family (or placement through adoption)


† Family background (e.g. traditional nuclear family, middle class, urban, suburbs, Army “brat”, single-parent, large/small family, raised by grand-parents, blended family, and so on.)


† Cultural background (Anglo, Asian, Black, Hispanic, first generation American, as well as the region of United States you grew up in.)


† Education & school background (loved school, barely passed, sports, extra-curricular activities or leadership, GED, military, public/private, went away to a state-university or stayed home for community college, etc.)


† Current roles & relationships (include both personal and professional roles like; student, employee, share-holder, CEO, vice-president, sales manager, as well as the relationship factors of single, married, divorced, husband, wife, mother, father, senior adult caregiver, dating, loner, committed or etc.)


† Mentors & role models (include the family members, teachers, pastors, authors or leaders who shaped your thinking with their influence and indicate how much time and energy they spent with you personally or how much you were influenced through their writing or speaking. In either case, try to rank who was the most influential in your life at different stages of your life, especially before age 30.)


† Individual life experiences (travel, meeting a well-known leader or celebrity, internships, moving out on your own, rebuilding after a crisis event- like the death of a friend or a DUI, winning an award for a sport or hobby, charity work- like Habitat for Humanity or the United Way, golfing with a sports star, being featured on TV, etc.)
† Group life experiences (being on a winning team, trips with family or friends, being affected by disasters like Hurricane Andrew or the terrorist attacks of 9/11, or helping accident victims after a wreck, being in the Navy reserve during wartime, driving cross-country to a concert, etc.)


† Stressful or Traumatic Experiences (any crisis events you may have experienced or lived through, such as a major accident, living through a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado, as well as any man made disasters like the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This might include the break up of a family through a highly contested divorce, a business failure, personal bankruptcy or a health crisis like battling against cancer. Note- these life altering events could have happened to you, or perhaps to someone else who experienced the trauma and you were their primary support through the crisis event.)


† Work Experiences (your first job, your worst job, your favorite job, being fired or having to fire a friend at work, going through a down-sizing or lay-off, being bought out by a competitor and being restructured with new owners, businesses you started or sold, etc.)


† Physical Values & Beliefs (your commitment to exercise, diet, sleep, fitness and use of healthy substances-while avoiding unhealthy ones, and the respect you have for others who have strengths or weaknesses in this area.)


† Spiritual Values & Beliefs (your commitment to personal character development and integrity through disciplined meditation, worship and religious involvement, as well as the respect you have for others who have strengths or weaknesses in this area.)


† Emotional Values & Beliefs (your commitment to develop personal maturity and self-control in managing the feelings of stress, worry, anger, fear, sadness, depression or anxiety, while displaying consistency with personal peace, kindness for others, impulse control and mental harmony as well as the respect you have for others who have strengths or weaknesses in this area.)


† Financial Values & Beliefs (your commitment to wise use of finances- both now and in the future, including budgeting to prevent impulse spending, buying or renting, cost analysis prior to major purchases, charitable giving, saving for future emergencies or investments, preventing debt, or managing current debt service and responsibility to taxes, insurances, retirement, and future expenses. Include a description of the respect you have for others who have strengths or weaknesses in this area)


† Skills & training (e.g. languages spoken, typing speed & accuracy, workshops or specialized training you have received, self-improvement groups you have participated in- like Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie, lessons taken, usage of special equipment or tools, computer programs or skills mastered, specialty products you have knowledge of, etc.)


† Certifications, licenses or earned degrees (e.g. CPA, MD, PhD, JD, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, lifeguard, CPR, certified product specialist, RN, or Reverend. Include any career training programs that you started but may have not completed and those you may have previously held at any level, including local, state, national or international. It is helpful to also note any professional goals that you may have that require future certifications or license requirements.


† Knowledge & information sources (types of books you seek out, favorite authors, primary media sources- like Internet, television, radio, newspaper or magazines. Comment on your choice of fiction/non-fiction or reality/happy ending themes, and why you choose your favorite entertainment, news, sit-coms, documentaries, how-to programs...is it to learn, relax, laugh, experience with others or escape daily life? As you list out this information be sure to indicate how much time or money you invest into your favorite information sources- for instance, “I read two books a month from the library, but spend $140 a month on cable television and high-speed Internet.)


† Talent, Natural Ability & Gifting (Honestly point out your strengths if you know them, since false humility gets in the way of this important exercise. Are you a ‘natural’ at leading others, does everyone find it easy to talk to you, or it is easy for you to stand up to give a speech? Do you love to do research, organize, or discover the hidden source of problems in people or organizations? Think about how you appear to others and describe any areas that you may have been praised for in your life; like natural physical size or strength, high intelligence or creativity, musical or athletic ability, an attractive or fit body, a great smile, expressive eyes, pretty hair, perfect teeth or a soothing or broadcast quality voice. Be sure to comment on the areas that come so easy to you, but seem to always draw admiration from others, such as; the ability to match colors in clothes, people or furnishings. Having the artistic ability to create or reproduce images with video, film, or photography or with the use of drawing, painting, sculpting or designing. Repairing things or skillfully working with your hands on any type of material, machine or equipment. Assess your ability to put anyone at ease, work with children or the elderly, wake up feeling friendly or positive in your mood, automatically reaching out to others in need, being a great team player, eager to learn new things, always active and eager to move forward, being quick at solving puzzles, games or people problems or being called the “fix-it” person. You have these qualities- but you do have to carefully look to really see them because what comes natural to you isn’t really noticed by you. Since our society doesn’t teach us to pay much attention to natural gifting, you may find this exercise the hardest of all, so ask a trusted friend if you get stuck.)


Career Kaleidoscope Exercise:

Spend less than a minute per category and go with your first response as you consider your life and career in the following areas to discover your career ‘fit’

Design or natural talent and ability, (people always say you are good at this)


Work that is highly Interesting to you, (never boring, you can’t wait to do it)


Important or valuable work to you, (issues or causes you deeply believe in)


Areas you are highly skilled or experienced in, (been there- done that well)


Areas you are educated or credentialed in, (degrees, licenses, certifications)


Your current career development plan, (audio learning, DVD’s, night school)


Marketplace and industry options available, (location, costs, age/stage, gender)


Groups or industries already looking for people with your background to improve the strength and depth of their team, (esp. networking organizations)




Next: What logical career conclusions fit into the Kaleidoscope “core” today?


Finally: What steps can you take today to make a positive career change? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

► Suggested resource:
Visit www.Crown.org and check out the “Career Direct” career assessment profile. It is a highly detailed resource to help students and working professionals find their exact career with dozens of pages of resources personalized just to you and your specific personality and career strength. (Note: students tend to benefit from the educational version, which includes school choices as you map out your career for lasting success.)

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Family Law Mediator and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and partners with major corporations and national organizations to make a difference in our culture with the positive message of Jesus Christ.
Visit our website with over 100 helpful counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time and reduce your stress by providing positive solutions at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

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