Mental Model

Rome was not built in a day. Buildings are not constructed without a solid design and plan. The journey of your career and life is no different. Hope and chance do not deliver results – a strategic plan and hard work do. The decision to go down a certain path should be guided by solid reasoning and aspirations to be the best at your craft. Visualize your career journey as stops along the way where you gain valuable experiences that build on each other over time. Think of yourself as a dynamic product where capabilities are carefully sequenced and adapted to the needs of the market. Engage people you trust by sharing your vision of who you want to be and the potential paths to get there. This is a journey you can’t go alone.

The Career Roadmap Concept

Rome was not built in a day. Buildings are not constructed without a solid design and plan. The journey of your career and life is no different. Hope and chance do not deliver results – a strategic plan does. The decision to go down a certain path should be guided by solid reasoning. The Career Roadmap Concept is a fusion of two ideas – a roadmap used to guide the development of software products and a decision tree used in data science to determine the path to an optimal outcome. The outcome is unique to you – money, fame, freedom, etc.

The key is visualizing your career journey as stops along the way to a destination where you gain valuable experiences that build on each other over time. Each day is accruing value and experience to your destination. As a product manager, roadmaps are a concept that outlines a set of features that will be released over time to realize a compelling product vision. The features build upon each other delivering more impact and value. The capabilities are carefully sequenced and adapted to the needs of the market. The vision cannot be achieved in one product release. It must be built and revealed over time. Roadmaps and the actions they drive are not static. 

The Career Roadmap Concept reinforces the following ideas:

  • Destinations – potential destinations that will require many years to reach (e.g. a job, an achievement).
  • Experiences – seek experiences, not the job title, to develop your skills. Articulate the envisioned experience you will need to develop the skills and capabilities that you want to master.
  • Time – the timeline estimates when to transition to the various options you have outlined.
  • Friction – the degree of effort to transition along your path and challenges you need to overcome to transition from one experience to another.

Mental Model Overview

View your career roadmap as a visual representation of your options at any point in time. A person who has the most options will experience the power and win in a competitive situation. That situation could be negotiating a compensation package or an easy transition from one job to another. When designing your roadmap, keep an open mind to identify options that prevent you from being locked into a specific job or market. Plan work experiences that build strong foundational expertise that can be applied across many domains.

You are not doing your job if you don’t have another job to quickly move to at any point in time.

Moving from one work experience to the next will require overcoming friction. That friction could be developing skills and relationships to enable that transition. The next work experiences should ideally build on previous experiences to advance your craft. Understand, there is nothing worse than feeling boxed in because you have not thought about your work options. You will get taken advantage of when people and organizations can sense you do not have viable options that you can pull the trigger on.

Achieving success and fulfillment generally takes years of hard work and rarely is a straight path. Having a destination in mind for the aspirations we wish to achieve in life, is critical to focus our direction. A clear, vivid view of our desired state is priceless. How we get there is the journey of life. Our subconscious plays the movie of our ideal life, but we must codify these elusive thoughts into a directed path to make the movie real.

Maps outline the potential pathways we can take to make the journey tangible. Each stop along the journey is an opportunity to collect experiences, deliver our unique contributions, and develop relationships. Think of these as building blocks, that over time, build a solid foundation for the competencies and experiences that will set you apart from others. Be creative and explore different pathways that you never thought were possible. This may open our eyes to uncover a path or destination we never thought of.

A career roadmap outlines your potential pathways to a long-term destination. I recommend you explore more than one destination as our careers can change over time. The format of your roadmap can take any form, although a visual linking of building blocks through time outline the sequence needed to achieve higher levels of contribution.

Here are steps and considerations for creating a roadmap:

  • Take out a piece of paper and sketch a circle or box to the left-most part of the page. This represents your current state – the job or situation you find yourself in today.
  • To the right, brainstorm the potential next experiences you would like to have. Identifying this as a job or role is fine, but it’s the underlying experiences that are important. At this point, do not limit yourself to what may be possible.
  • Continue the exercise of extending the map to the right but linking roles/experiences that build upon the ones to the left.
  • You may have more than one career path, so repeat this exercise to document how each of those paths can unfold over time.

Imagine feeling the power, focus, and empowerment pointing to your unique roadmap. Rome was not built in a day and your career is no different. 

Our roadmap is a plan – a model of how we navigate to a destination in our mind. Plans will evolve as they provide a compass but are never a representation of reality. Our ability to evolve the path is necessary as our needs and the environment changes around us.

Experiment With This

  • Sketch out a roadmap for your current career path. Think about the potential sub-paths you can go down and what each may have to offer.
  • Identify the friction, which you will need to overcome and learn, to transition to the next work experience in your roadmap. This will shape your personal development plan.
  • Is there a creative path, distinct or related to your main path that can serve as a passion project and a new source of income? The act of consciously being aware of this path will enable you to dedicate time in parallel to your main sources of income.


Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It: Unlocking the 9 Secrets of People Who Changed the World – by Robert Koch (Landmark 5: Make Your Own Trail)