Why focusing on your career path is the secret to landing your dream job

Hardly any college student lands the job of his or her dreams directly after graduation, but these days young professionals are so eager to be employed that they’ll take any job thrown at them, which can actually be detrimental to eventually landing their dream job. Ron Mitchell, founder, and CEO of Virgil Careers, outlines why professionals should focus on their career path, pay attention to trends, and avoid the gig economy.

What is a career path?

A career path is a trajectory for professional growth within an industry, a company, or a functional area, according to Mitchell.

Why should you focus on your career path?

Professional roles are extremely more cross-functional than they used to be, according to Mitchell.

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“Back in the day, the accountants did accounting, the marketers did marketing, the engineers did engineering, and that was it,” Mitchell said.

In modern offices, people are expected to wear many hats, meaning that professionals need much more diverse skill sets to excel in traditional careers.

Creating a career path allows professionals to look at the gap of where they are and where they want to be, find the skills they need to get there, and work towards attaining those skills. By outlining skills you need to develop in order to land a specific position, you give your career a much more defined and clear path.

“That’s the way that you actually wind up being extremely valuable,” Mitchell said.

How a career path will keep you from falling into the gig economy trap

The gig economy consists of temporary jobs, like being an Uber driver, and while these can be great money generators for people in need, they often don’t help a professional further their career.

A clear view of roles you aspire to hold is necessary if you’re looking to excel in your industry. If you have a dream job in mind, you can map which roles you should hold in order to get to that dream job and identify which skills are required for each role. By listing which skills are necessary to get to your next desired role, you can then tell which you already possess and which you need to start working on. Gig jobs most likely won’t help with those necessary skills.

“Those jobs aren’t fulfilling, aren’t career paths, aren’t a growth trajectory, and although people are doing that to pay their bills and meet some flexibility needs in the workplace…if you want to grow within an organization you really need to have some transparency and have the ability to develop a career path,” Mitchell said.

Due to inexperience, it’s hard for professionals to understand which skills they need in order to break into a career, whether at the entry level or when they’re looking to switch industries. Even harder, Mitchell said, is for individuals to pinpoint which roles they’re best fit for based on the skills they’ve already developed, which is why they’ll need some tools to find out.

Which tools can you use to define your career path?

  1. Virgil Careers. Virgil enables job seekers to assess their competitiveness for hundreds of different careers. Once Virgil has all your professional information, the system not only tells you how competitive you are for a particular opportunity or career path, but it then connects you to specific jobs. The system delivers you a personalized skill development road map for specific career paths and then connects you to the developmental resources that help address your skill gaps. Additionally, the system can also recommend previously unknown alternative career paths that would be good fits for you.
  2. LinkedIn. LinkedIn can be used to find professionals who currently or previously held the job that you aspire to hold. By researching these professionals you can see jobs they previously held, companies they worked for, and the skills they have in order to old their current role. This can be an extremely helpful tactic whether you’re looking to enter an industry or move up the ladder in one soon. LinkedIn Learning can also help you lose some of your skill gaps through various courses.
  3. Career advisers. Career advisers have access to information regarding different jobs and can be extremely helpful in helping you map your career path. Professional career advisers are trained to identifying skill gaps that you may have in regards to a specific position, so they can provide the insight you may not receive from coworkers, current employers, or online research.

How career paths have changed over the years

Mitchell notes that career paths used to be static, meaning that someone would get a job at a company and move up the corporate ladder, from newbie to manager to director, and so on. These days, career paths are much more dynamic.

“That’s a real important differentiation,” Mitchell said because that means today’s professionals always have to be evolving and learning new skills.

Additionally, this means that finding a career path isn’t as easy as it used to be, and it’s not as easy to figure out where you are on your path.

“And by the way, figuring out your path is going to change because the job that you have today or the job that you’re aspiring to…that job may not be around five years in the future,” Mitchell said.

This dynamic nature of today’s workforce is why professionals need to maintain flexibility, track trends and continue to develop relevant skill sets. While Virgil Careers doesn’t predict new job titles, it does stay on top of predicting trends in skills that will be in demand for specific industries.

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