What Are Career Maps?

Map on a blue background over insight global red What is Career Mapping

If seeing what the future of work looks like for your company plus your retention and attrition are at the center of your staffing concerns right now, career mapping might be a solution that serves both employer and employee. Why? The data reveals the answer.  

In 2021, a Pew Research survey found that 63% of people who changed jobs that year said a lack of advancement opportunities was the top reason for moving on. A 2022 MIT Sloan survey found that 67% of individual contributors said they want to advance their career—but 49% said a lack of good career advice has negatively impacted their job growth. In short, employees are saying that if they don’t see where they’re going with a company, they may simply choose to search elsewhere to find clarity in their career path. 

So, let’s take a closer look at career maps, what they are, and the role this kind of professional planning can play in building your team and their bench strength for the future of your organization.  

What are career maps?

As an employee plans out their professional path, a career map shows the points along the way and how to get there by laying out the requirements to help workers to advance at each stage of their career. 

Career mapping isn’t reserved for employers. Many employees develop their own career paths according to their interests and business needs. Sometimes employees start planning their course from entry-level positions, but anyone can create one to visualize how they get from the role they are in now to where they want to be with the company. Leaders can help in this process to build awareness and understanding of what the organizational needs are now and for the future.  

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The key features of a career map

Let’s look at what a career map entails and how to use it for employee development, upskilling opportunities, and to help retain key talent. 

Growth opportunities 

There are various ways to foster a culture of curiosity and employee development offering a range of programs and resources to support career advancement.  These can include things like upskilling, training and development, mentorship, and performance reviews.  

Are employees encouraged to take advantage of opportunities to develop and communicate their desired career path to receive further support in achieving their goals as part of your culture? Are they even aware of the ones you currently offer? Are they aware of your internal job boards or how you encourage employees to pursue open roles? Building that into your conversations can help employees confidently pursue opportunities that arise.  

A career map can further clarify ways employees can advance, focusing on potential roles, skills, responsibilities, and projects that they need to tackle to make progress in their careers. 

Stages of skill development and required competencies 

Speaking of skills, a career map helps to break down various skills, levels, and competency stages that people will need to have the chance to move forward in their careers. And this can vary. For instance, the more technical or higher the position, the more skills, leadership experience, or time investment may be required to get there. 

It’s important to ensure that individuals understand the necessary requirements as early as possible, allowing them to work towards their goals in a realistic timeline. Take note of individuals’ degrees and skills to see if they align with the role and consider accepting those as commensurate qualifications to fast-track individuals into key positions.  

It’s also key for them to know what may impact their career path beyond their abilities: hiring freezes, budget constraints, client requirements, product roadmaps, economic conditions, and more.  

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Milestones and achievements 

As mentioned, career map is intended to showcase the needed milestones but also celebrate achievements such as: 

  • Promotions 
  • Certifications 
  • Accomplishments 

These can serve to motivate individuals to continue following their career paths, but if your Project Managers must all have their PMPs in hand before being considered for internal promotion, that should be clear—as well as how you expect them to obtain the certification (internal or external course, company funded or self-paid, etc.).  

Training and education 

In career mapping, individuals may come to you with planned steps and development or receive suggestions for relevant training programs and educational opportunities to help them develop their skills.  

This might also include cross-functional roles or opportunities to gain experience in different areas of the company on the path to advancing their skills and where they sit in the org chart. This can help broaden their skill sets and professional perspectives.  

People: Networking, relationship-building, and Leaders to Follow  

Career roadmaps can also emphasize the value of professional relationship-building and networking to expand career opportunities. Who are great resources for the employees to talk to and get to know at your company? What professional organizations are essential to be a part of for your industry or for their role? Are there leaders that they should follow on social media or media they should be reading regularly?  

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Self-assessment and personal reflection 

It’s always important for individuals to know where they stand as they plan the roadmap to where they want to go. Encourage workers to create a candid self-assessment as part of the review process and create opportunities to build self-awareness.   

A strong career map can offer things like targeted prompts for employees to reflect on their interests, strengths, weaknesses, and values to ensure their career goals are in alignment. 

Why Do Career Mapping?

Clarity around goals and expectations is a key part of career mapping. They can help make conversations about potential promotions and internal growth easier if you’re both on the same page—literally.  

Career maps can help your team to develop the skills needed to advance in their professional lives—and help you see growth within your team. They can support employee retention and help create a workplace where internal advancement is highlighted. But they can also help leaders to identify gaps and upskilling needs based on your existing talent.  

Employees who advance in their companies are more likely to feel aligned with the companies’ values and mission. They are also more likely to stay with their employer. When you identify someone’s talents and work to enhance them, you help to align their individual skills, goals, and aspirations with your company’s short- and long-term objectives. 

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