3 Stages of Getting Your Career Path Going

3 Stages of Getting Your Career Path Going

It was the dawn of my career when I became acquainted with the term “career path” when a former employer suggested discussing my career plans during our 1 x 1 meetings. Our strategy was to look at my career as a whole and go beyond my role in a software development company. He proceeded to create my professional profile page, asking about my wishes. As a first action item, I had to create a table containing my professional history from birth to retirement. Yes, from birth to retirement. My initial reaction was one of rejection, and I had to control an eyeroll. How could I know what my retirement years should look like? What relevance does this have? Why spend my time writing something that will surely change in the next year? Although reluctant, I did what was asked of me, including the highly dreaded 70-year plan.

What I realized along the way was that it does not matter if the plan changes; it is supposed to change because you do not have all the data. What truly matters is that you can turn certain events and wishes that are floating in a Brownian motion inside your mind into actual actions that can be followed to reach your goal. For example, I always say that I want to learn proper horseback riding. At some point in the future, when I have time and resources and when the stars align. When will this happen if I do not set myself up to do so by finding the timeframe steps needed to make it happen? Developing a concrete and traceable document brought my professional ideas into practice, and the horseback riding goal is still afloat. 

Most importantly, I took the time to sit with myself and ask some questions that helped me figure out who my professional persona is, what fulfills me, what I do not want, what qualities and flaws I have, how to help use them in my favor, how does my professional life impact my personal life, and what values ​​do I have? Believe it or not, I did not leave the school bench knowing exactly what I wanted professionally. Among the other benefits of answering the above-mentioned questions, it was considerably easier for me to make career decisions because I was able to align the upcoming changes with my values ​​and plan for the future.

In the following article, I will present some structures that helped me develop my own career path and assist other people in building their career paths.

What is a career path?

In short, a career path is a mapped journey that can be followed when moving from one job title to another, advancing seniority, or switching careers. It contains both your highest goals and the steps you must take to bring them within reach. Based on The skills you already possess, your desires, and your experience, they can assist you in setting your trajectory, monitoring your progress, and celebrating your success.

Keeping in mind that your career can be affected by several external factors, such as economic conditions, technological changes, personal events, and trends, having a structured path will help you adjust along the way.

How does having a career path impact me?

A well-crafted career path can lead to increased productivity, job satisfaction, promotions, and recognition, a sense of direction, easier and more informed decision-making, and achieving success through consistency and focus on long-term objectives.

  • Growth: A career path will nudge you toward the continuous improvement and development of your skills and eliminate the risk of stagnation.
  • Fulfillment: You will have a sense of satisfaction, and the work you do will become more meaningful.
  • Ease: The goal you have in mind will seem more attainable when you break it down into manageable and trackable action items.
  • Value: You will increase your professional market value, which will translate into higher compensation and increased job security.
  • Opportunity: It could open doors you didn’t even consider before.
  • Legacy: You could have an impact on other professionals by mentoring peers and sharing your knowledge.

Example of a career path structure

A career path can be applied from navigating roles in the current company to the overall career across various companies or even switching professions. You could benefit from having a career path customized for you by the company you work for, or you could create it yourself. Either way, there are some steps you can consider when building your career path. This is the framework I used and recommend, but feel free to adapt it to your preferences and needs.

1. Evaluating your profile


The first step is to create a profile by determining the starting point and history. It will be very interesting to read this once you’re 2-3 years down the road and assess your growth. Make sure to briefly describe or mention the following.

  • Your current role title + seniority level
  • Role responsibilities: if you have access to your evaluation criteria, even better
  • A brief history of activities in the company based on projects
  • Skill assessment (soft skills/hard skills): which skills can be used as assets in your journey?
  • Personality assessment: you can take a personality test, such as the ultra-famous Myers and Briggs test. It will help you understand your way of working and will help you when interacting with different types of personalities.
  • Certifications won so far, workshops you attended, any other activities that contributed to your growth
  • Previous feedback: maybe the ones you received on the yearly evaluation or privately communicated feedback that you might find to be constructive or validating your fortes
  • Lessons learned: what did you gain and value from your previous experiences?

2. Goals and Vision

Now that you have analyzed your background and the current status of your career, you must think about what you desire. Is it technical growth, advancing in a certain role or field, or changing your direction drastically? Perhaps you already have an idea about where you want to land, or you know what your next achievement will be, independent of the “final destination,” and that is great; you have to write it down. If you do not have a clue about where you are heading but you feel the need to make a change, then it is time for reflection and research. There are several directions to ponder and document.

  • Do you know where you want to go as the next step on your journey? Do you want to continue working in the same department?
  • Do you want a certain role, or do you have several ideas? Describe possible career trajectories and what they imply
  • If you don’t know what role would be the greatest fit for you: research possible roles and what they require
  • What are your life priorities?
  • What are your life values?
  • What role do you aspire to attain?
  • What aspects of your activity are non-negotiable?
  • Tools you want to learn? How about technologies?
  • Are you looking for specialization in a certain area?
  • Soft skills you want to develop
  • Are there any certifications to help? Research certifications
  • Is there a possibility that you have areas of undiscovered potential that you can explore?
  • How does this change affect your personal life?
  • Does this change leave room for promotion?
  • Do you think that a technical mentor would help?

3. Determining the steps

Once you set your career goals, you can identify training qualifications and the steps you can take based on your skills, interests, and opportunities. This step helps bring all your ideas into a structured plan that you can control and will be able to follow.

Long-term plan

A long-term plan will help you have a bigger picture of your career. I recommend having 10 years mentioned in the table; no need for the retirement years. It does not have to be very accurate; after all, life happens, and you cannot predict it, but it will help design your path. Trust the process.

  • Year – If you are very dutiful, you can go back in time and write your journey so far. For example, in 2017, I got my first job as a developer, and in 2020, I was promoted to a higher seniority level.
  • Personal milestones – You need to have a perspective on your personal life because it will affect your professional life. For example, if you are looking to build a house, you will be stressed, tired, and will not perform as well as before, or you will not have time for professional development outside of working hours.
  • Career milestones – What do you think you will achieve each year on your career path? Make sure to write it down and try to be as realistic as possible. You might surprise yourself and achieve milestones a bit earlier than predicted, but allow yourself plenty of time to reach your milestones with no need to put pressure on yourself. Consistency is key here.

3-year goals table

Using the table will help you visualize the doable steps in reaching your dream, which will help you determine the immediate action items. Ensure you choose attainable goals and perform a breakdown of manageable tasks. I always recommend using the SMART goals. What are SMART goals? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

  • Goal –  A goal that helps you reach your bigger dreams, such as certification or learning a new programming language
  • Success measures – Make sure you can measure your success, for example, attaining a diploma
  • Opportunities – Maybe the company you work for could sponsor you
  • Support needed – Perhaps you need a budget for certain steps
  • Deadline/timeframe – You want to allow yourself sufficient time to get it done, but respect the timeframe you set for yourself as much as possible.
  • Status – Just use the classic “To do, In progress, Done.”

SWOT analysis

It is a framework for identifying and analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is often used at the organizational level, but it can be a useful tool for you, as well.

  • Strengths: What are the most-valued assets? Are you proficient in a certain programming language? Do you have soft skills that can aid in your goal?
  • Weaknesses: Can you pinpoint areas that could be improved?
  • Opportunities: Do you receive support from external sources?
  • Threats: Are there threats that can affect your trajectory? Perhaps changing technical trends, economic situations, illnesses, competition, or organizational change?

Actionable items plan

Prepare to meet your next best friend: the action item table. Together, you will set manageable tasks to reach your goals, and it will help you monitor your progress. Make sure that you are allocating some time for your career path at least monthly, both for doing the action items, refining your actionable item list, and updating your progress.

  • Action – For example: if your goal is to get a certification, some actionable items could be: research the certification, register for training, prepare for the assessment, take the assessment
  • Description – Describe in short what it requires of you
  • Status – Again, use the classic To do, In Progress, Done
  • Timeframe – Set yourself a timeline
  • Comments – You could use this column to write some highlights of the experience, lessons learned, feedback

History log

Here, you will archive the history of the activities of actionable items, participation in training/workshops, certifications or awards, and any notable achievements.


Now that you have your career path set, all you have to do is follow the actionable items, monitor progress regularly, and enjoy navigating your professional life in a purposeful, structured way. Keep an eye open for unexpected opportunities, and do not forget to celebrate your accomplishments.


Article by

Manoila Miruna
Project Manager