Mind Mapping Your Career Comeback

February 20, 2018

The idea of the mind map is that you come up with a crystallised idea via the explorations of keywords, themes and sub-categories. What I mean is: empty all that head jazz out onto one piece of paper and get a really clear picture of what you want. Mind maps help you organise concepts and ideas into a logical framework.

I find them super-useful and have done one before each significant job change. People use them to plan out a holiday, map the next three years of their life, "mood board" a room decor...it's all the same thing.

I have found that there is a high correlation between what I have mind-mapped in a role and what I have ended up doing. The more detailed you can be, the clearer the picture is in your head of where you want to go. You can then

1)    Focus your energies only in the relevant direction and with relevant people

2)    Be articulate in your proposition; both what you bring and what you want

3)    You can start to visualise the desired outcome

Visualisation is huge. When we visualise something, it creates neural pathways that are indistinguishable from those created by actually completing the task itself. Visualising an act is almost as good as doing it. The science really backs this up. Your mind can’t tell the difference after a while between what it thinks is happening (the vivid elements of your completed mind map) and what is happening. Wow. Is that enough motivation for this exercise?

Take time now, as much as you can, to answer the eleven groups of questions with an unabridged, free creative flow of ideas. Answer with “stretch” goals as they are far more motivational. Just because they feel out of the realm of your possibilities does not mean they are unrealistic in your future or for a future employer.

Write two pages per answer if you need to! The more time you take, the more beneficial this process will be in helping crystallise what is important to you. From these answers, you then create a one or two-line summary for each area or better still, a few keywords.

These summaries or keywords are then imported to a one-page graphic. I like to represent each “summary area” as a satellite, orbiting around my ultimate goal. For the purposes of this mind map that will be your ideal work scenario.

I hope that this process motivates and excites you. Here are the areas to explore:

1)    Work Location – the Physical Environment

Where would you ideally like to work? What is the maximum commute that you are prepared to do? Could you work remotely or must you have the physical energy of a team?

How will you get there? Cycling? Walk from home only, drive only with parking?

2)   Your work style

Are you the boss? 2nd-in-command?  A member of the team working towards a common collective? Autonomous or collaborative? Working alone with feedback along the way? You might value the opinion of others but prefer executing mainly on your own. How do you work with your boss? Do you like specific direction or a manager who sets the main objective and then lets you figure out how to get there. How do you like to communicate? Skype/formal face-to-face/informal, agile/email and written?

3)   What are you doing all day?

What have you been told you are good at? What tasks give you energy so you barely notice  you are doing them. Executions that come so naturally are likely to be  your “flow” skills and should feature heavily in your job. Look at other CVs on Linkedin of people with your desired role. See what they have detailed as their tasks and cherry pick the ones that you are happy to see yourself doing. Do you need a rigid structure with routine?

4)   Balance

What hours do you work? Is full-time manageable? Are you a morning person who could benefit from an earlier start to beat the rush hour? As long as you are committed to being successful and dong what that takes, you can often state that you want flexibility up front. What does that look like? Four days with one from home? Will you consider a job-share? Can you only manage part-time? Think about a compressed work week or daily flexible schedule if it is important.

5)   Culture

What workplace culture will you be most compatible with? Are the employees very social outside of work? Does diversity and inclusion need to be high on the agenda? Will an established wellness policy or faith groups be attractive? Does it matter if the employees have such different lifestyles outside of work that you might not have a lot in common? 
Are sports teams important to you? Dress code? Cycle-to-work schemes with bike storage? Is formal support for on-boarding and induction vital to you? Formal mentoring? A big focus on team building and development? What employee-friendly policies will be important to you?  A strong Learning and Development Ethos? Work-life balance? Corporate Social Responsibility and philanthropy? 
These features may or may not feature highly for you, but if they do, be intentional and write them down now. They could help your application if you take a lead role in one of these areas. Culture champions are very important.

6)   Strengths

What professional strengths can you bring to bear in a role? Consider old appraisals, or if you have ever done a Strengths Finder 2.0 or Myers Briggs have a look back through what they told you. You can also consider doing one yourself, there are plenty of free resources on the web. What would ex-colleagues say are your greatest areas of expertise? It is worth here connecting with your adaptive and transferable skills. Adaptive skills are your personality traits; they help you adapt to situations and be successful. Transferable skills are skills that you take from one task or job to another.

7)   Values

Values are the things you believe are important in the way you live and work and inform your priorities. Everybody looks at each other through the lens of their own values so alignment with those of your employee enriches your work hugely. The Japanese have a great term: Ikagai. It roughly means the reason you get up in the morning. Dr John de Martini helpfully organises values into seven main areas on his website and provides a free online assessment.

Once you have done this you can have a clear idea of what it is you hold dear; thereby ensuring these are not compromised in your job. You can make plans and decisions that honour them.

8)  Your professional profile

Is it important that you are a thought leader? Do you write industry articles for the public domain for forums liked Linkedin or could you? Are you shooting for board/leadership committee representation? Do you want to have a governance role? Will it be important for you to serve on a charitable arm if they have one?  See organisations like Women on Boards to see if you can be “match-made” with an opportunity with a wide range of governance bodies. Is it important that the organisation you work for is supportive of these desires?

9)  Type of company

Is it large or small? Is it important that it is a strong brand? Do you like the innovation of a startup or would you prefer something more secure and stable? Have you done your time in corporate settings? Is there room for growth? Is it bureaucratic (you may have amazing skills of diplomacy with which you can navigate this). Will you consider third sector or a move from your industry if the daily tasks are desirable?

10)  The value that you bring

What are the benefits to an organisation of you doing what you do well? The way to answer this is to think back over your work history to specific achievements and key accomplishments. What are you most proud of completing and how did it benefit your employer? This is really a commercial question about what the tangible results to an organisation were of your actions. Break down your accomplishments into:

what you did; what the outcome was and what that meant in terms of profit; process improvement or lasting change or benefit.

11)  What can your former roles tell you?

Observing what you don’t like about certain jobs or situations can also help direct you to a new path. Look back now through each of your jobs, and through the lens of these ten preceding areas, continue to populate each of the ten fields with the relevant highlights and lowlights of previous roles.

Now take all of these and summarise them into a one-liner or a few keywords. Write in the middle of the page “my ideal role” and have each of your summaries written down around that heading.

You can download your own mind map in a PDF copy of this post.

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