Road map of area around Garden City, New Jersey, extreme close-up Resources

For many of us, a job is more than something that helps keep food on the table. It’s an “asset,” as career expert Hallie Crawford writes in a recent U.S. News & World Reports article, and that means we give to it with the hope it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

How do you ensure the investment pays off? Crawford’s article is titled “3 Steps to Mapping Your Career Path,” and in it, she shares some excellent tips for what she describes as the essential first step. “To begin, you must understand and be able to visualize where you see yourself in the business world in one year, three years and five years,” she writes.

To get things started, ask yourself, “Who am I?” As Crawford explains, your proper career path hinges on things like your strengths, values, interests, and personality type. What motivates you? What type of work environment do you find most appealing?

The next question to ask, Crawford says, is, “What does success meant to me?” Are you looking for a giant paycheck and fancy title, or will the opportunity to flex your creative muscle give you the most satisfaction? Maybe you’re looking to optimize work-life balance and have a great career that doesn’t cut into your family time. Whatever your end goal is, get a clear picture in your head.

Finally, Crawford says, you’re ready to ask, “How will I get there?” Once you know where you want to end up, figure out all the interim steps you’ll have to take in order to reach that point. You’ll likely need to pick up some new skills and step up your networking game, and it doesn’t hurt to think about hurdles you’ll face along the way.

Crawford suggests listing five major goals based on your five-year plan and writing down two or three “action steps” under each one. Before diving in, consult with a trusted friend or family member and get their feedback. It’s easier to succeed when you’ve got supportive people in your corner.

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