Career Mapping 1

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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.

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