How to map out your career ambitions

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Part of the challenge of figuring out how to grow in your career is competing against other people in the industry who want to improve their performance as well. If you can work out how to improve your capabilities more quickly than they do, you’ll improve your current performance and earn future opportunities. Development matters in ensuring career growth, so it’s worth considering potential ways that you can chart the shortest and surest path to success.
mapoutambitions | Teamrecruit
Research has shown that we grow most successfully through a combination of on-the-job, social and formal learning known as the 70-20-10 model. This model says that roughly 70% of your professional growth comes from work experiences, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal education. 

Think of career growth as a cycle where you successfully perform tasks, receive feedback and then perform even better following the feedback. This growth cycle is powered by your experience, so it makes sense to consider which of those experiences matter most to your improvement so that you can gain as many of them as quickly as possible.

Determine where you are coming from and going to

In order to create a successful development plan, you will need to be clear about your starting point and desired destination. To assess this more accurately, you can use the “from/to” framework, which describes where you are today and your next big destination.

Examples of great from/to statements include:

  • From a Technical individual who adds value through expertise and closely follows others’ directions, to a leader who creates a clear strategy and delivers results through a small team.
  • From a sales professional who can appear aloof and dismissive of those with less intellectual horsepower, to a general manager who aligns and inspires a region through personal connections and demonstrates genuine care for people.

To help get an accurate from/to, ask some trusted superiors and colleagues for their honest opinion of your origin and destination. Introduce them to the from/to concept including examples and ask them to think about your from/to. If you tell them to be brutally honest and up front with you, their transparency will allow you to grow faster.

Once you have this input, you can create your final from/to. Consider which statements are the most direct, whether the “to” is a far enough goal to be meaningful to achieve as well as whose opinion do you trust the most. Once you have a clear from/to, you will be able to focus on fast-tracking your growth.

Creating your personal experience map

As the 70-20-10 ratio says that experiences will best accelerate your growth, you’ll need to work out which career experiences will be the most important in closing the gap between your from/to statement. To help chart your path to success, it’s helpful to have a regularly updated personal experience map.
 
A personal experience map is a practical plan that describes how you will achieve your highest performing results by showing which experiences you want to acquire in the next two to five years.
 
There are two types of experiences that will help accelerate your growth: functional experiences and management experiences. Functional experiences allow you to prove your competency in relevant skills for your career, whereas management experiences prove your performance or management ability in a variety of challenging situations. For example, proving that you can lead an equipment sales team when you have a new team in a new location and with different brands.
 

Performing well during these challenging experiences will show your company your leadership skills and versatility and that you deserve a chance for larger and more important roles. 

You can create your personal experience map after you:

Network with experts in your field
Meeting with and communicating with experts in your field will help you to learn which experiences will build your functional ability and help you become an expert. This will provide you with the insight to create your personal experience map.

Identify experts both inside and outside your company
Network with the best in your field and not just within your company. For example, if your goal is to be a great General Manager in an agricultural dealership, look for five Managers who you admire or who are well regarded in the industry. You can find these from industry “best” lists, articles in trade magazines, lists of speakers at conferences or referrals of leaders in your company.

Request a meeting to discuss professional development
Email each leader and ask for an informal chat about helping someone in their field develop.

Ask for insights
During your talk with them, ask what the key functional experiences (not necessarily jobs) they believe will produce the highest quality person in their position, or what they would expect on the resume of someone like this. If you aren’t getting the information you need, consider asking them about the most valuable experiences they’ve had in their own career.

Build your map

Review your notes from the meetings and list the experiences mentioned. Not everything will be relevant, and some information may contradict what other interviewees said, but your goal is to sort through the information and find out what experiences will best accelerate your career.
 
An experience should mean something to others in your field and be a significant building block of your functional or leadership capability. It should describe a meaningful outcome for the business such as opening a new dealership branch, turning around a profitable service department or bringing in a new franchise.
 

Although the functional experiences needed to be a high performer will depend on your position, management experiences tend to be similar across professions. Management experiences will help improve your capability in areas that are valuable to all managers regardless of industry.

 You can use the following experiences when you create your map to make it simpler:
 
  • Life-cycle experiences: Lead in different departments of your company, a turnaround situation, a greenfield site, a steady-state environment, a developing market or a fully mature one.
  • Managing experiences: Upgrade a poor-quality team, lead a large team, manage a team where you have influence but not authority, lead in a matrixed environment, lead in a highly political environment.
  • Geographic experiences: Have experiences outside your home geography where the local language is not your native language.

List four to seven functional experiences and three to four management experiences on your personal experience map that you believe will benefit you the most. The map is a reference sheet that you’ll use regularly to assess your progress and plan your path, so make sure it is both focused and realistic.

 Your personal experience map can now be a guide for you in continuously growing and improving your performance. Make sure to review it at least every six months and whenever you switch jobs or companies to ensure it continues to remain a helpful guide to your progress. If you continue to follow this approach, it will make your faster career growth a far simpler process overall.
 
[Adapted from HBR.org. Original article by Marc Effron]
 
Teamrecruit is Australia’s most established recruitment agency specialising in truck, earthmoving and agricultural machinery dealerships in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Find out more about Teamrecruit and how we support employers and candidates in the dealership industry.

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