Types of career paths
There are several different kinds of career paths available.
- Multiple unrelated jobs: Your career could be made up of multiple jobs that are unrelated to one another. For example, you could work as a sales associate in a retail environment, then as a server in a restaurant and then as a receptionist in a veterinary clinic. Because each job is vastly different than the next, there is no way to predict what your next position will be. Because they have very little in common, you may not see significant pay increases from one to the next or significant increases in responsibility.
- Advancing within one occupation: This path involves advancing in the same occupation, whether you work for the same organization or at different establishments. For example, if you are working as a cashier, you could eventually be moved to a customer service position where you operate a cash register but also handle customer service issues. Eventually you could be moved to a head cashier position, supervising the other cashiers.
- Advancing in the same industry but not occupation: This path involves staying in the same industry, but not necessarily the same occupation. For example, if your goal is to be a manager at a restaurant, you could start out as a dish washer, then move to a server position, then head server or assistant manager and eventually manager.
Related: Guide: How to Choose a Career
Examples of career paths
In order to help you understand how career paths can progress, it can be helpful to review career paths for a variety of different careers. Be aware that some career paths, like those that advance within one occupation, are direct and others are indirect and can involve working in different industries or different types of jobs.
- Customer service and sales: Customer service representative -> inside sales representative -> outside salesperson -> account executive -> sales manager
- Editorial: Editorial assistant -> assistant editor -> editor -> senior editor -> editorial director
- Education: Teacher -> curriculum coordinator -> assistant principal -> principal
- Retail: Sales associate -> assistant management -> store manager -> regional manager
- Human resources: HR assistant -> HR specialist -> assistant director of HR -> director of HR
Tips for finding the right career path
- Network regularly
- Be a lifelong learner
- Pay attention to industry news
- Make plans but be flexible
- Be ready for career shifts
- Be open to lateral moves
Connecting with your peers and building and nurturing professional relationships can help you identify new directions for your career. You never know which connection will lead to a new opportunity.
Be a lifelong learner
The job market is always shifting and with technology and best practices continually changing, it’s important to always be in learning mode. Review the LinkedIn profiles of people who have similar careers or who are in your industry and look at the hard and soft skills that they currently have. Also review certifications they have obtained. Identify key areas where you need to enhance your skills and increase your knowledge.
Pay attention to industry news
Read industry blogs or magazines to keep up with trends. These will also give you an idea of what the occupational outlook is for your occupation.
Make plans but be flexible
When developing your career path, don’t hold on too tightly to a specific plan. Be open to new opportunities that might present themselves and keep your goal in mind. Know what is important to you and what you enjoy about your job and your career. Also, be aware of what you would like in a future career that’s different than what you’re doing now.
Be ready for career shifts
If you’ve been in your position or are in an industry that is declining, it may be time to consider making a complete career change or at least shifting in a different direction.
Be open to lateral moves
Be open to the idea of a lateral move, or even a step backward, if it means you will have a chance to develop valuable skills or connections that can impact your career in the future.