How to Map Your Career Path Before It Starts

3 ways to get started in the right direction.

Where are you headed?

Maybe you’re already on track for your “dream job,” or maybe you don’t even know what your idea of a dream job looks like yet. 

Either way, now is a great time to start thinking critically about your professional future.

Know Yourself

First things first—you need to know yourself. This isn’t actually as easy as it sounds. Sure, you are yourself, but how often have you really focused on critically understanding your professional strengths, values and limitations? 

To really do this well, you’ll need to invest in some serious—and honest—self-evaluation, and you may want to consider some psychological-type tests like the Myers-Briggs Personality Type test.  Tests can help you see yourself in a different way and may identify areas of importance that you haven’t considered.

Recognize your God-given abilities and use them. But when you come to the edge of your limitations, be willing to say, “This is too much for me.”

In addition to strengths and values, you also need to recognize your limitations.  Romans 12:3 sheds some light on this:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Author and pastor Rick Renner explains that the word “soberly” is the Greek word sophroneo, which means to think sensibly; to think reasonably; to think realistically; to think rationally; to think practically; to keep in proper measure; or not to think beyond the set boundaries. 

In other words, don’t pretend to be more than you are! Recognize your God-given abilities and use them. But when you come to the edge of your limitations, be willing to say, “This is too much for me.”

Shape Your Goals

Once you fully know your strengths, values and limitations, then you can put them to use to define some more concrete goals for your career.

Create a list of at least 10 key workplace characteristics.  Think beyond the type of work you want to do to include the culture of a company, the work team and the elements of the job that best fit you.  Are you naturally competitive like me?  It might be crucial to have some element of “pay for performance” in your ideal compensation structure.  Do you have—or plan to have—a family?  Work flexibility and family-friendly culture may factor high on your list.

Plan a Strategy

Finally, you need to think strategically. Coming out of business school, I knew that I wanted to aim for the “C-Suite” (CEO, CFO, COO, ect.). 

One of my professors, Dr. Salhman, warned me that to get to the C-Suite, your area of expertise must be in the company’s main line of business.  This advice stuck with me and when I found myself working in and enjoying marketing consulting for an international accounting firm, I realized that I would need to make a change.  I was gaining some valuable job experience, but I knew that marketing couldn’t make me a key leader in an accounting business.   So I made the best of the situation and moved on when the right opportunity presented itself.  

Maybe your goal is to become a partner at a law firm, or to become the principal of a school someday.  Consider (investigate if necessary!) what strategic steps you can take now to help set you on the right path.

Adapted from a post on



Anonymous commented…

All I did was pick a random word in a dictionary. It's working out.


Anonymous commented…

Not really. I was at a Bible college open house (the things I do for fun...) and I prayed about it. I'd had a rough journey with post-secondary school and my parents weren't too happy with me because I had done complete turnarounds three times within two years. I asked God for some insight, so the wasteful wandering could end. And I got an image of water and Amos 5:24, "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.". That very cool moment led to clarity when I never thought I'd figure things out, and now I'm in school for water resources engineering, and learning the gospel of the living water. God is our Father and our guide, not Myers-Briggs. He will help!


Anonymous commented…

I am actually a little tired of the "find out what your heart wants, that's what God wants for you" thing. I don't think he will always align your natural talents with your calling. Seems like Moses wasn't too fond of public speaking. Abraham might have liked the thought of making many descendants, but Moses had a stutter.

Lazarus, another good example. Dude was dead. That's us before God calls us out by name. Smelly, bodily fluids oozing in the tomb, slaves to sins and selves. And then we are a new creation.

There's also the guy who used to have the legion of spirits. Jesus didn't let him follow him despite his begging. Instead he was told to go tell his friends (he had friends after living in a graveyard for years??). God's direction isn't necessarily what you would naturally pick. If Christian life is all natural, why do we need to seek him diligently?

Bill Peel


Bill Peel commented…

Diane gives great advice here. She is a smart woman and is serious about following Christ and helping other women do the same.

It’s my responsibility to help several thousand college students discover the work God has for them at LeTourneau University’s Center for Faith & Work. Finding how God wants you to invest your gifts and abilities is no easy task for most people. And why not! If Satan can confuse us about who Jesus is, we’re lost for eternity. But, if he can confuse about what God created us to do, he’s marginalized us for time. So finding God’s calling is a spiritual battle. That being said, Anonymous’ comments are way off the mark biblically. Who do we think gave us natural gifts to begin with? Psalm 139 gives us a graphic picture of the attention God put into our design. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created by Christ to do certain work. It’s our job to listen, seek diligently, and move toward the work for which work God designed us. And if Ephesians 2:10 is correct, then understanding our form (our God-given giftedness and design) gives us a clue to our function (our purpose and work). Personally, I don’t think Myers-Briggs actually does a very good job at surfacing this kind of information. It’s great for sorting out interpersonal relationship issues, but does not tell you where you will excel. Better to follow the scent of your joy. Look back through your life and identify the things you love to do, where you are energized. There’s a hint of your design there. I believe that is God’s economy, when we do what He gifted us to do, His energy flows through us in that activity, allowing us to do good work and fulfill our purpose (Philippians 2:13).

Diane Paddison


Diane Paddison commented…

There are two ways you might take action around moving to the opportunity that is the right fit after prayer as follows: 1. Move toward a change - Put a plan in place to get you to the right fit, implement with patience. 2. Stay in the same role - God may have a plan for you that is not your plan. Moses, Mary, Noah are all examples of that. God can call us to something we might not consider ourselves gifted in, but in time it may align with your giftedness in an unexpected way. The disciples were called from their literal fishing jobs to become “fishers of men”. A different kind of fishing altogether, one of which I am sure they were not at all familiar with, nor did they know they would be successful at. Even still, they responded to the calling and then God gifted them with the natural abilities to be able to complete the calling on their lives. In John 15 Jesus reminds the disciples that they had not chosen Him, but He had chosen and appointed them to bear much fruit (v.16).

Early on I did not consider myself a gifted speaker, but I was willing to do it and try it in order to help 4word to grow as an organization, if it was needed. Yet it's turned out to be one of the most meaningful, impactful things the ministry does to motivate leaders, outreach etc. Just because God’s direction in the moment does not seem to align with your natural abilities, it does not mean that you don’t have those natural abilities inside you waiting for the opportunity (such as God’s calling) to arise and flourish. It’s also important to remember that your talents and gifts change with every stage of your life. At one point I did not feel that I could speak publicly but I responded to the need and calling of my ministry and God equipped me for that. Now I have the opportunity to speak publicly on a regular basis and can see the impact that it has not only on the ministry of 4word but in the lives of many women. I would have never imagined myself in that role many years ago, but where I am now, I know that God has not only called me but also equipped me. Seeking God diligently allows us to hear what He has called us both in our natural and unnatural gifts to do for His glory.

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