Borrowing from work: Schools teach career mapping

24 Mar

One of the goals of education is to give the student sufficient basic skills to be able to leave school and be able to function at a job or correctly assess their training needs. One of the criticisms of the current education system is that it does not adequately prepare children for work or for a career. Caralee J. Adams has written the informative Education Week article, Career Mapping Eyed to Prepare Students for College.

Secondary schools are becoming more intentional about helping students discover their career interests and map out a plan to achieve them.

About half of all states mandate that schools help create individual or student learning plans, and most others have optional programs. Enabling students to make their own plans puts them in the driver’s seat and encourages a long-term look at their course selection so their choices match their career goals, experts say. Often, districts give students online accounts with passwords to track classes; create an electronic portfolio of grades, test scores, and work; research careers; and organize their college search.

The practice is picking up momentum with the increased emphasis on college completion, which research shows is more likely when students take rigorous courses and have a career goal.

But these career maps take an investment in technology and training. Finding time during the school day can be a challenge, and the job of overseeing the process often falls on already stretched counselors, according to researchers and program administrators. In some states, the plans have helped students understand the relevance of what they are learning, prompting higher enrollment in Advanced Placement courses and increased high school graduation rates. Others, meanwhile, have not yet experienced the same payback on their investment. As with many education programs, the rollout is left up to districts, creating a patchwork of approaches throughout the country.

“Career Mapping” has been a concept in human resources for awhile.

The American Advertising Federation Mosaic Center has some great information about “Career Mapping.”


We begin with definitions, as well as the caveat that many employees, managers and authors use these terms in different ways.

Career: The series of occupational activities throughout a person’s working life. The jobs that one holds over a lifetime comprise a career.

Career Track/Path: A metaphor to describe the lines of job progression that an employee can follow. This often assumes (especially the term Career Track) that the progression will be made, either vertically or laterally, within the same firm. However, employees use these terms to refer to a trajectory of job positions, whether with one firm or multiple employers, to achieve their career goals.

Career Mapping: For this section, we will use the term Career Mapping to mean the deliberate goal-setting and strategic planning on the part of the employee, with guidance and assistance from the employer and others such as mentors, to meet both work and “life” goals. Sometimes the term Career Management is used for this process of assessing aspirations and abilities. Managing or mapping one’s career could include such activities as training, appraisal and interacting with a mentor.

Career Development: Activities either provided or initiated by the organization or the individual to achieve the desired career path. Career development can have a work emphasis, such as job training, or it can have a personal emphasis, such as education or out-of-work activities.


For employees, career mapping and career development can be on-going, dynamic processes that involves many psychological and social factors. Ideally, in conjunction with employers, employees formulate a concept of “where their career is going” or “where they are and where they want to be,” and determine what is required to achieve a desired career path, next step, or eventual outcome.

Career Mapping is seen differently by various members of an organization. Personnel in each of these areas have their own perspective and desired outcomes:

  • From the point of view of the employee, career mapping is the blueprint or map to achieve the upward progression toward ultimate career and life goals. The typical assumption is that their development will involve moving from entry-level employment to increasingly higher positions that offer more fulfillment, responsibility and reward.
  • Middle managers are more likely to view career development from a systems view (“all about the work”), which emphasizes the optimum training, capability and productivity of the employees in their current positions.
  • HR staff are concerned with maintaining qualified employees so that the organization can achieve its goals. A big part of this effort involves career advancement of “onboard” employees while balancing talent needs of the organization going forward. HR managers should have the tools and processes for career evaluation and management.
  • C-suite executives often view career management or mapping as a way of achieving “succession planning,” or the preparation of employees to fill vacancies in key positions. As leaders, they set the tone for the corporate culture and work environment, as well as the organizational goals.

Career mapping may also be referred to as career planning, career advancement, career journey and career goal-setting. Asked about their career plans, both junior employees and executives tend to use words that symbolize a journey, and the value of a map, guide, track or plan.

If “Career Mapping” can help point more students toward an appropriate vocation, it is a useful concept.

Dennis Smith has a good brief article at College Recruiter. Com, Choosing A Vocation: Finding Your Calling

 “What do you want to do with your life?”

I’ve heard everything from,

“I want to be the VP of Engineering!”, to “I don’t really know what I want to do….I only know what I don’t want to do.”

In my opinion, both answers are good. I’ve known engineers that knew they were going to be engineers from their mother’s womb. I’ve known others who, like myself, enjoy doing so many different things that they graduate from college not having made specific plans for the day after graduation.

In making this decision, the mistake made by many of us is that we too often listen to the multitude of voices that are willing to offer up advice about what “we” should be doing with our lives. As my grandfather used to say, “That advice and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee.

What is it that matters most? What is it that you want to do more than anything? What makes you truly happy? What is it that makes you “alive?

Curt Rosengren says,

“If there’s one thing I’ve discovered over the years, it’s that just about anything we set our minds to is possible. Moreover, one of the biggest – if not the biggest – obstacle we face lies smack dab between our ears. We’re so often overcome with fear of what might go wrong that we don’t dare to even take a step.” “But….what would you do if you were brave?”

Students should be thinking about what is the appropriate life balance for them.

Another important part of career or vocational selection is life balance.

WebMD and the Mayo Clinic have some good suggestions about life balance.

WebMD Choosing A Vocation: Finding Your Calling

 1. Figure Out What Really Matters to You in Life

2. Drop Unnecessary Activities

3. Protect Your Private Time

4. Accept Help to Balance Your Life

 5. Plan Fun and Relaxation        

The Mayo Clinic has tips for striking the proper work-life balance

A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

Albert Camus

After two weeks of working on a project, you know whether it will work or not.

Bill Budge

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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