Navigating Your Career is Like Planning a Road Trip

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

For some, planning is a joy. For others, it is a chore. Either way, you must have at least the outline of a career plan.

Think of it as if you’re planning a road trip. You might not know exactly where you’re going to stop along the way, but you wouldn’t get on the road until you have a destination in mind.

The same is true with your career. If you don’t have a plan, you’re just meandering along with no set destination. Don’t worry: you don’t have to know every minute detail – you just need to envision where you want to end up.

Your plan should be specific enough for you to be able to see if you’re hitting milestones, but can make room for detours and side trips. That’s part of the fun of a road trip, right?

And remember: you don’t have to see the details of the road itself more than a few hundred feet in front of you. But you have to keep moving!

Taking one sheet of paper, write out where you want to be in one year, five years, 10 years, and 20 years. Next, fill in the space between the years with the following information (note: it will get a little fuzzy as you move out in time; you’ll know better when you get closer).

Skill Sets You Need

Do you need to learn how to magically manipulate a spreadsheet? Or maybe you need to hone your public speaking skills. Perhaps you need to be better organized, or learn how to manage teams. Whatever it is, write it down, and indicate by when you need these skills.

Experiences That Will Support Your Advancement

What conferences, networking groups, trainings, and leadership seminars will help you along this path? Some events give you practical training, but some events are simply valuable for the people you meet there. Either way, you want to have specific reasons why you attend an event, and decide on what you want to get while you’re there so you take advantage of the opportunity in the best way possible.

Another useful experience may be sitting on a non-profit board. Not only does this give you experience on how a board should run, but also can put you in touch with other high-profile members of a community.

People You Want in Your Network

No one goes the distance alone. What kind of support do you envision needing down the road, and what kinds of resources can you offer others?

You want to have people in your network that you can share ideas with, bounce project plans off of, and, of course, you want to have your personal board of directors, where you can include your sponsors and mentors.

Knowing where you want to go allows you to ask good questions and line up the kind of personal support you need to get there.

Having a plan also allows you to say “no” to the time wasters!

Over the course of time, not having a plan will cost you lots of money (not to mention time, anxiety and disappointment).

Keep adjusting and tweaking your plan, and if you get stalled out for a while simply re-focus and get back on the highway.

Having a plan puts you on the map toward the future you envision!

Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website,, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.

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