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Mapping Your Route

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." – Lewis Carroll

We have traditionally thought of career paths and career progression as static and controlled. Not that long ago, it was the norm to plan on working in one primary career field, although changing jobs has been prevalent for a while. Changes in the economy, technology and industry, the workforce, and global reach of employers have resulted a new kind of career path – one that is flexible, dynamic, and varied. You may be faced with decisions and options that are different from those encountered by your parents.

What path are you on? Mapping your career path can be a helpful step in the overall career development process. As you complete your coursework and prepare for your next move, this step involves not only taking a careful look at what you have accomplished so far, but also setting goals for your working future. Let's take a closer look at some of the career mapping tools available online.

Career Planning Tools


This career planning tool from Payscale "explores the zigs and zags your career can take." Begin by entering a job title you are interested in, maybe your current one or the position you are moving toward after graduation. The system generates job titles related to yours – one list of jobs that lead up to your position, and one list of jobs your position leads to in the future. Each job title is presented with a salary estimate and can be moved into the search position to further expand the lists of job titles along a career path.

This site uses job information provided by millions of people who have responded to Payscale's salary survey. This adds an interesting depth to the results you'll get – it's based on other people's career choices, not just strict occupational progression, so you'll find a great assortment of titles that reflect how others have moved from job-to-job in both traditional and non-traditional ways. With GigZig, you can also personalize a few of the settings. Select your country and enter your city and state to create results applicable to your location.

Career Explorer

The popular professional networking system LinkedIn also has a tool for mapping career paths. Career Explorer draws on information provided by its existing users, which number over 100 million. You begin by entering your field or major, your degree level, and the industry in which you expect to work (e.g. construction, marketing, hospital and health care).

A five-step path builder allows you to select a series of progressive job titles, and ultimately look at the profiles of companies that are recruiting to fill the jobs you've identified in your path. The career path information provided includes not only a salary range for each job title, but also a forecast for growth and education level for entry.

Some of the special features offered by this system include links to profiles of real professionals working in the careers you are researching, and links to the profiles that may already be included in your contacts list if you have a LinkedIn profile. There are additional features to explore, such as job statistics, suggestions for expanding your network, and discussion boards. 

This tool is part of the popular CareerBuilder job posting site and uses a Career Planner Quiz and additional questionnaires to help you find out more about careers that may fit with your interests, skills, and values. This site does require registration in order to receive your personal results, but there is no fee to get started.

Modern Day Mapping

Colorado Technical University created an interesting infographic based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which compares "The Most Popular Career Paths: 1970-Now." Perhaps not surprisingly, Business ranks #1 now (and #3 in 1970) and Healthcare and Nursing is currently #3, up from #8 in 1970. This general guide is based on degrees sought in specific majors and, in my opinion, updates us but gives only a vague picture of the possibilities that are out there.

  • Brand new options: It's a dynamic world where new careers, along with new ways of working (i.e. freelance, entrepreneurial, telecommuting), are increasingly available options to consider. Explore several new employment opportunities that didn't exist a decade ago. These kinds of jobs are emerging to fit specific needs and are often made possible by the existence of new technologies and other driving factors in the economy.
  • Regional differences: Minnesota's iSeek Careers and Illinois' WorkNet Center each highlight new and emerging jobs in their states. Among the categories included are green careers, energy industry jobs, and health care positions. Find similar reports about careers in your area.
  • Assess your skills: Consider completing a self-assessment, such as the O*Net Skills Search to identify your skills and how they might fit into both existing and emerging career fields. As you map out your route, be alert for new and different possibilities to apply your skills in unexpected ways.
  • Create multiple paths: The LinkedIn Career Explorer recommends that you "create multiple paths to explore your career options." This is solid advice in today's job market. You may be able to reach your goals in more than one way, and find success and satisfaction on a variety of paths.

Mapping your career path is not necessarily a one-time task, and it's not carved in stone. As opportunities arise and you make decisions, you may find a new path that meets your needs. Continue to review your goals and assess your accomplishments as you move forward. Map your route and get started on your journey!