When we speak of a career path, a road may come to mind, or a map. Or maybe a list of progressive job descriptions that shows you how to make a clear vertical move and make more money. It’s clear. It’s simple. It just doesn’t reflect what most people experience. And if you’re feeling stuck in your career, it’s like being in a mud pit and someone chirpily saying “you know what you need, is a road!”
How are you supposed to get to the road when you’re stuck in a giant mud pit???
Not to mention, those of us with change fatigue after the past year or two may find anything resembling a plan laughable, or exhausting to consider.
These are just some of the reasons that people freeze up at the idea of building a career path for themselves. It feels unattainable from where they are, today.
If this sounds like you, instead of identifying a career path, try writing your career story.
By writing your career story, you capture who you are today and how your experiences have led you where you are. It is a common mistake to try to map out a path without really understanding where you are or how you got there, to begin with.
How to Write Your Career Story
Write your story in the third person, so you can literally and figuratively get out of your own head for a few minutes and see things from a different vantage point. You’re feeling stuck, after all, so feeding yourself the same lines from the past won’t help you here.
Your career story should have all the elements of any good story:
Tell us about our heroine. What qualities do we love and admire about her? What are her loveable flaws? What is her back story when it comes to career and work? For example, what did she learn about work and career from her parents? What was her first work experience like? What are her scars? What are her open wounds? What are her triumphs?
Most of all, why are we rooting for our heroine?
Where is our heroine today? How does she feel about what she is doing right now? What daydreams keep coming back to her about work-life? What greatness is she on the brink of? What is holding her back?
The Final Chapter
Here is where it gets good!!
Your career story, for purposes of this exercise, ends with “Five years later…”. What would be a satisfying ending to this story? (Don’t confuse this with a satisfying end to your career. And don’t confuse this with a five-year plan. Both of these are traps of heaviness that are part of why you freeze up at the thought of having a career path. Have fun with it and see what comes up.). What would be a satisfying end to this career story? What have been the triumphs? How has our heroine responded to setbacks? In this final chapter, your heroine is being recognized for her contributions. Pay attention to how you want her to be recognized, by whom, and for what.
Ok, I’ve finished my story. Now what?
Once your story is drafted, ask yourself what stands out to you. What are the patterns from your past, present, and future vision? What is your favorite part of the story? What parts of the story do you want to bring into your reality today? What parts of your story are you ready to let go of? And what will you do differently tomorrow, in honor of your story?
If you don’t have a career path mapped out for yourself, never fear. Try writing and revising your career story, instead, and free yourself from the confines of a career path.