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Off the Beaten Path: The Benefits of Mind Mapping Your Career

For a lot of us, we don’t know what we want to be when we grow until we grow up; even then, our choices might turn out differently than we’d hoped — or just plain wrong. And while daydreaming of stardom or veterinary school is a practice we strongly encourage, it doesn’t always help turn your aspirations into action. Even those of us that are thrilled with the path we’re on can use some direction now and then — luckily, there are methods and tools that make analyzing our professional needs pretty easy.

Naturally, those of us at Mindjet prefer mind mapping. Brainstorming ideas, realigning choices, and seeing new connections is an awesome way to go from thinking about making things happen to actually getting them done.

Choosing a Direction: Inside-Out or Outside-In?

Deciding on a starting point is typically the first thing to do, right? What’s cool about mind mapping is that you don’t have to. If you can’t think of a linear path you’d like to travel, that’s perfectly okay — starting a map is all about asking questions.

What’s your current job? What do you like to study, watch, listen to? How much money do you want to make? Do you want to travel, live in a particular city, start a family, own a dog? No question is too ridiculous or unimportant when you’re mapping your career — remember, the average person spends 90,000 hours working during their lifetime (that’s 10 straight years, 24/7). It’s probably a good idea to make those hours worth more than just a paycheck.

Farnoosh Brock of the Prolific Living blog has some great suggestions for things to consider as you build your career map. My personal favorites:

  • Values you’re not willing to compromise on, such as flexibility or integrity
  • What you’re not willing to do or whom you wouldn’t want to work with
  • How you want to see yourself and be seen professionally
  • What you’re willing to invest for yourself and career (education, training, etc.)

Since mind mapping is the digital equivalent of brainstorming, you can always delete, change, and rearrange later — get the important questions answered up front. You’ll learn a lot about where you are and where you really want to go.

Heart, Tree, Star

One of the methods we use to shape our career paths at Mindjet is the Heart, Tree, Star approach. The idea is to get us to focus on what we think we’re great at, how that aligns with what we love to do, and how we want our skills and ambitions to carry us forward.

Mindjet CMO, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, says, “[This approach] aligns personal and professional goals, ambitions and desires with business outcomes. There is no stronger relationship between what you do and who you are personally than when you use this toolkit well and consistently. For each person in the organization, they see the clear relationship between their professional and personal success. And for the business, ultimate success is aligned to the goals and desires of each person on the team. The ultimate win-win.”

Here’s how to go about it.

Heart. Make two lists. One should include things you’re great at; the second should detail what you love doing. Then ask yourself how you like to be recognized, and what constitutes a meaningful reward — it doesn’t have to be money. Maybe credibility is really important to you, or you’d like your experience to land you leadership positions.

Star. Ask yourself what your aspirations are. Think of reasonable timeframes in which they could be accomplished. It doesn’t have to be specific to the company you’re with now; think bigger. Think outside of what pays the bills.

Tree. Review these lists with someone you trust and who can provide advice, ask valuable questions, and who might have some insight on how to help you get where you want to be. Set achievable milestones and have them hold you accountable.

By mind mapping your career, whether you’re just starting out, changing industries, or want to push yourself beyond where you thought you could go, you’ll find new connections between your true talents and the things you love. You’ll learn a lot about who you are. Most importantly, you’ll unearth patterns that can take you to the next step — or the next fifty.

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