WINSTON-SALEM NC – While the vision of a future career may be crystal clear for some, others may find making that choice overwhelming. It’s true for graduating seniors seeking their first career, a specialist said Monday (April 14, 2014), and equally true for those looking for their next job, either by design or because of economic changes.
Dr. Katharine Brooks, Wake Forest University executive director of personal and career development, said she now helps people navigate their career paths with “wandering maps” — or vision boards — that creatively capture the patterns and themes in one’s life that can include significant moments, activities, interests and feelings.
Wandering maps are especially suited for minds that prefer non-linear thinking, such as those with attention deficit disorder.
Brooks, the author of “You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career,” said maps can be a simple pencil sketch or a colorful creation with magazine clippings and bright drawings. Wake Forest students create them in college-to-career classes, but others could just as easily make them at home.
To build a wandering map, Brooks advised, put yourself in the center of the page. Then, working quickly, add short phrases, pictures or drawings of things that have been most important in your life. Next, make connections that – when you first look – seem to be dissimilar but are, in fact, linked in surprising ways.
“One student of mine drew a line connecting her favorite TV show, ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ to her love of playing poker, to having a sister with cerebral palsy,” says Brooks. “When I asked her what the connection was, she said all of those things honed her ability to problem-solve and strategize.
“She liked to guess who the villain was in ‘SVU.’ She used strategic thinking in her tournament-winning poker playing. And because her sister had physical and learning challenges, she was always trying to come up with strategies for helping her gain access to inaccessible places and do better in school by finding other ways to help her learn.”
When designing a career path, Brooks suggests looking at your whole life. What do you love? What were your struggles? What were the turning points? “Visual mapping moves the focus away from asking, ‘How am I going to make money?’ It’s a wide-angle view on choosing ways to make a living that fit within life passions rather than just intersecting them in a small way,” Brooks said.
“Creating a wandering map isn’t just a feel-good exercise,” she added. “We explore the difficult challenges that have tested our mettle. By identifying the skills in which we are particularly strong, we can think about how we would apply them in the workplace.”
Wandering map illustration from Wake Forest University