Career Planning: How to Map a Backwards Career Path to Success

Jobs…Now, Next and Later: Your Guide for a Backwards Career Path

By Allana Farley – January 27th, 2017

In the post below, CSU-Global’s career navigation services manager, Allana Farley, defines four types of jobs that people have depending on where they are on their career ladder. She goes on to show you how you can use this information to map your backwards career path, which will guide you towards your dream job through an actionable career plan.

If you want one-on-one advice to make your career work for you then come see us! Meet with one of our career counselors at the Denver7 New Year New You Expo, sponsored by Colorado State University-Global Campus, on January 28, 2017. The expo is at Colorado Mills from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and admission is free!

career path

Do you feel stuck in your job? Undervalued? Underused? Or unappreciated? If you have negative feelings toward your organization or role it could mean that you’re ready for a change. Just like many things in life, there may come a time when you outgrow your position.

In order to plan your next career move you need to know where you’ve been, what you’ve learned, and how you can demonstrate that to potential employers. Regardless of where you are in your career currently, chances are you’re in one of the following types of jobs:

Survival Job

  • Typically a low level, low-paying, low-skill job that requires limited training.
  • Usually taken on a temporary basis, or as a last resort to cover basic living costs.
  • These jobs may actually set you back instead of moving you forward. That doesn’t mean they don’t have value, it just means they’re not something you want to be stuck in for long.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a survival job when you need it, but don’t get too comfortable. Keep your motivation high, your time managed, and your path upward clear.

Entry-Career Job 

  • Utilizes your current skills set, but is a starting point to bigger and better job opportunities.
  • Allows you to work within your chosen industry, even if you’re not in your dream job.
  • Helps you understand the necessary steps to get where you want to be long term. On the other hand, you may decide to change your long term career goals all together based on what you experience.

There are a lot of benefits to an entry-career job, but if you join an industry that’s not your passion, you may have trouble seeing the perks. Use the experiences you’ve had in life and in previous roles, your education, career quizzes and coaches to choose an industry you’ll most likely enjoy.

The biggest take away you can gain from an entry-career job is exposure. As a member of the industry, you have access to the people who do it every day and that’s a huge body of knowledge. Even if you’re not in your dream position, you may be able to sit down with that person and find out what the job is really like.

Form relationships and connections with the people you meet at every level. As an industry insider, you may be able to network your way to a better position, or leverage a relationship when you’ve got the skills to move up.

Transition Job 

  • Any job between your entry-career job and dream job that teaches you new things about your industry.
  • Where you gain skills, knowledge, and experience while continuing to network and make connections for the future.
  • Allows you to shift your career goal if your perspective, industry, or dream job has changed.

Depending on how well you liked or didn’t like the industry in your entry-career job, you may be starting fresh, or continuing to find your fit in the industry you’ve chosen. Regardless, a transition job is one that both utilizes the skills you have, while teaching you more.

Transition jobs can be varied and last for years as long as you’re continuing to enhance your qualifications and connections to prepare for your dream job.

Dream Job

  • A job you can get within five to ten years.
  • Utilizes your skills, knowledge, connections, and experience.
  • Supports your values.

Dream jobs aren’t always what you think they’ll be when you start your journey. However, for some, they are exactly what you wanted all along. Others have a change of heart and adjust their path along the way. Some people may never find their dream job, but are equally as satisfied in their career.

Now that you know where you are, let’s make a career plan to get you where you want to be.

The Backwards Career Path to Your Dream Job

Now that you have a better idea of what a career path may look like, look at it from a different angle. You understand what you have to do to move forward in your career, so what if you now start with your dream job and work backwards?

Map your career path starting with your end goal; your dream job, and step backward through the process to where you are now. You’ll have a clearer image of the path you need to take rather than thinking of the path you should’ve taken.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Previous Work Experience

Remember at the beginning of this post when I said you have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going? That’s what this exercise is all about.

  • Start by listing your last three to five jobs.
  • Categorize each job based on the descriptions above.
  • Identify any patterns that emerge as far as the type of work you did, the industry you were in, the culture of the organization, work schedule, pay, etc.

What do you notice?

Maybe you’re on a steady career path headed for victory. Maybe you’ve bounced industries but maintained a similar skills set and educational experiences. Perhaps there aren’t any patterns and this is the perfect time to chart your professional destiny.

Step 2: Create Your Backwards Career Path

I highly recommend you draw out your backwards career path to make the vision come alive. Start with your dream job and work backwards noting the education and experience necessary to get you to the previous level.

Use these tips when mapping your backwards career path:

  • Even if you know what your dream job is, you may not be as familiar with the path you need to get there. Do industry research to find out what level of experience, time in the field, and skills you’ll need to acquire within each job type.For instance, if warehouse manager is your dream job, you may need a transition job of assistant manager. Within that position you would need a logistics degree or 1-2 years of experience to get out of the transition job and into your dream job.
  • You might not end at the entry-career point. You may already have experience, education, or industry related work that can be applied to finding a transition job instead.
  • Identify the point where you can enter your backwards career path. Consider any issues that may impact your entry point like whether the job is realistic and achievable from your current situation. Things like education, skills, work experience, criminal background, etc. can help or hinder you.

Once you’ve created your backwards career path, you’ll ironically have mapped a trail for your future. Keep your backwards career path visible and check in with it regularly. Make the most out of this time and use it to your advantage instead of only meeting your immediate needs. Don’t just survive in your work, thrive!

For additional career planning and navigation services, see how CSU-Global’s Career Center can help you no matter where you are in your backwards career map.

On – 27 Jan, 2017 By Allana Farley

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