While the concept of a career treasure map—and its close cousin the vision board—might sound a little new age-y, people who use these tools diligently say they can be life changing. The slide show at the end of this article includes additional tips for getting your own career treasure map started.
In the simplest terms, a career treasure map is a graphic representation of pictures and words representing your career goals and aspirations, and they can be as minimalist or as detailed as you wish. But more importantly, they can be useful whether you’re just beginning your career or if you’re halfway to retirement.
Plotting a career map forces you to answer the question:
Where do I want my career to take me and what do I need to get there?
If your goal is to one day become the president and chair of AHIMA, you might start by looking up the current and past presidents on LinkedIn to figure out what career moves and levels of education they achieved on their rise to the top, and model your own plan after theirs. Think through these steps very carefully. Ask yourself how you’re going to finance your classes and exam prep for certifications and think about what changes you’d have to make to work on your MBA in night school. No detail is too small: do you have childcare to coordinate, a spouse’s schedule to accommodate, a child’s extracurriculars to consider? Look at these hurdles before you get started and develop a plan to manage them.
Harry Rhodes, MBA, RHIA, CHPS, CDIP, CPHIMS, FAHIMA, AHIMA’s national director of standards, is a proponent of using career treasure mapping, and credits the tool for getting his career on track. He says he realized that 10 years into his career he was disheartened that the only thing he had to show for all those years was a paycheck. Although he was the HIM director of a hospital, he wanted more.
“One thing I did was get involved with my state association where I found other people who are trying to learn new things and are excited about the career,” Rhodes said. “My life is in two sections. The ten years before the state association,” and then everything that came after.
It was at one of the local state association meetings that he heard a presentation on career treasure mapping and subsequently began building his. He figured out which certifications would make him more valuable, thought about the size of the HIM departments he wanted to lead, and educational goals such as getting his MBA and PhD.
“After 20 years of working for AHIMA, people come up to me all the time and want career advice or want me to be their mentor. When I ask, ‘So what are you doing to get to your goals or make yourself more valuable,’ I find they aren’t doing anything,” Rhodes says.
It used to be that in the working world, most people worked at the same company their whole lives, and the company took care of them and nurtured their educational interests, Rhodes explains. But that era is over.
“You’re very much on your own. You brand yourself. It’s great you have this steady job, and great that you get good evaluations, but you’re competing against a bunch of other people,” he explains.
This is where a career treasure map comes in handy.
Getting the Look
No two career treasure maps are alike. You can create your own pirate-like treasure map with the starting point being an internship or community college classes with a path winding to your dream job within 20 years.
Or you can do what Rhodes did and put your goals on a bulletin board, using pictures and symbols that serve as reminders for goals you want to achieve. If you want to be the HIM director at the UCLA Medical Center, find a picture of the hospital and slap it on your map.
“You can make it any size you want—put it in a notebook or on a wall, these days you can do it electronically, make a screensaver. Put yourself in a picture. Write yourself in, show yourself doing it. Having a desired object, new clothes, travel around the world, authoring a book. If you could have everything what would it be?” Rhodes asks. All of this is fodder for your map.
Additionally, if you’re religious, you can include inspiring scripture or meaningful symbols on your map. If you’re into meditation or activities such as yoga, put that on your map too—whatever it takes to motivate yourself—include it.
People in HIM, particularly coders, tend to be extremely detail oriented, and if you go overboard trying to create the perfect map or set too rigid a timeline, it’s easy to get discouraged and burned out by it. Rhodes says it’s completely fine to leave things a little fuzzy. In life, unexpected circumstances have a habit of popping up, whether it’s caring for an elderly parent or the loss of a job.
A career treasure map, like life, can be constantly updated. Remember that you’re free to change course whenever you need to.
A career treasure map combines the power of creative visualization techniques and journaling to help individuals literally map out their goals and dreams. There is no single right way to do treasure mapping. Whether you start with a bulletin board, poster board, chalkboard, or professional workflow software such as Vizio, you’re on the right track.
Some people love selfies and some people hate them, but they can play a big part in the creation of a career treasure map. Having a hard time picturing yourself going back to school for a master’s degree in informatics—but find yourself looking for a challenge? Drive yourself to an institution of higher learning, put on your best back-to-school outfit, and take a selfie with your smartphone. Now you are visualizing one step closer meeting your educational goals!
A career treasure map takes the motivational phrase “keep your eyes on the prize” and makes it tangible. That means your map should be kept in a place where you see it frequently. If you work from home, you can keep it on a bulletin board or a collage pinned to the wall. Or you can put it in a digital format and make it your screensaver, or keep a miniature version in your wallet or near the dashboard of your car. The more you can remind yourself of your plans, the better.
HIM professionals tend to be detail-oriented, so they might have to scale back how elaborate they want their map to be, says Harry Rhodes, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, CHPS, CDIP, CPHIMS, who adds that it’s a “treasure map, not a road map.” Nobody wakes up one day and says: “I think I’m going to be the HIM director of major regional medical center,” and makes it happen in one day. Treasure maps reflect the bigger picture.
A career in HIM affords versatility in educational paths—there are unlimited combinations of certificates and advanced degrees that can help seasoned HIM veterans and students advance their careers. AHIMA’s Health Information Career Map lays out these options in a clear format, and would be an asset to any career map.
Chances are, if you’re diligent enough to create a career treasure map, your flair for planning extends to other aspects of your life. Treasure mapping can be used for tasks such as planning the purchase of a home or taking a long-awaited dream vacation to Europe. Here’s one way to get started: http://www.stellatesori.com/create-vision-board/.