Mind Maps - 3 easy ways to use them to design your career.
Updated: Sep 13, 2021
"Maps can be used to capture all of ideas you have had about your career and add new ones, without forcing you to narrow down your options too early"
I am spending this month coaching University students on career preparation - one of my favourite jobs. Having these conversations with people at the beginning of their career journeys has reminded me of one of my Go To Career and Job-Hunting Hacks – Mind Mapping!
It might seem to have a tenuous link to Careers, to Resumes/CV’s, to Interviews but mind mapping is an extremely useful tool in SO many elements of the Career Design and Job-Hunting process.
Here are 3 ways you can use Mind mapping in your career thinking today!
When you are thinking about what you want to be when you grow up!
All of us need to be thinking about what we want to do when we grow up. Particularly nowadays, Careers tend to be a constant evolution rather than a ladder. Even I, at the ancient age of mid 40s (shhhhh!) am always working on what I want to be when I become a grown up. I encourage you to keep thinking about it too – forever!
When I coach, I use a Career Design methodology rather than a traditional ‘Careers Advisor’ approach. In my experience, the traditional approach is ill-suited to the needs of Neurodivergent people (but that’s the topic for another article).
This beginning stage of career thinking lends itself very well to Mind mapping. Maps can be used to capture all of ideas you have had about your career and add new ones, without forcing you to narrow down your options too early (a classic mistake in most career thinking processes). Maps also create clarity about what is important and ensure attention is focused on what matters most going forward.
At this stage, I would encourage you to put aside your sensible, practical thinking and give yourself permission to be completely open to ideas. The sensible, practical lens comes later, I promise.
For instance, rather than focusing on mapping ideas about a defined specific career or job, map of the things you enjoy in life, ALL the things you are good at or are interested in (not just in a professional sense) or ALL the things you want to achieve in life. Whatever living a good life would be to you – moving to a different country, learning to salsa, etc etc as well as your career goals.
Then the magic happens.
In career design, as in other design processes, the greatest innovations come from the tension points.
What are the trends?
What are the conflicts?
What are most interesting and sparkly things? (Cue Neurodivergent Hyperfocus rabbit-hole research festival!)
What feels a boring and uninspiring?
What could you smash together to make something new?
2. When you are writing your Resume, Cover letter, LinkedIn profile etc
Most people find this type of document hard to write. We worry about making the content relevant, about forgetting the details of things we have done, whether we have written too much or not enough.
Mind mapping can help download from our minds ALL the information we need to sort through to write these documents well. Once downloaded, we can structure and categorise the information and ensure that what we write is fit for purpose.
This is important, as it is easy to forget that the purpose of these documents is to act purely as a selling tool for a specific role. For instance, a resume might be structured completely differently for different roles. Maps help us structure all the skills and experience we have and consider how best to use it make the greatest impact. Maps help us ensure that we have matched our experience to the specific job criteria and captured all the great employability skills we want to show.
To get started, I suggest firstly noting all the experiences you have that contribute to your employability. Ensure this is not just ‘Work Experience’. It might also be other experiences that have enabled you to develop employability skills – hobbies, interests, voluntary work, travel etc. This is especially important for Neurodivergent people because we often miss out on professional work experience due to the mental effort required to ‘get by’ in other areas of life such as education, family commitments or maintaining mental health.
Next on your map, make a note of the employability skills you developed during each experience. For instance, if I worked in a café clearing tables, the employability skills might be working under pressure, a high level of attention to detail, strong team working skills, good customer service, reliability, following instructions etc. You get the idea! Also note any achievements you had, challenges you overcame or insights you had, and you have a great place to write from.
Every time you need to write your resume or similar, start with your map. Keep the map safe and use it as the scaffold in the way you sell yourself to career opportunities.
This leads me to my final example…
3. When you have any kind of Interview experience.
Very few people find interviews easy.
Most people report anxiety during preparation and/or feelings of panic and overwhelm during the actual situation.
Both experiences tend to reduce our performance in the interview e.g., not remembering the question or what we want to say.
Increase this by 1 million for us Neurodivergent types, stir in some Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and it’s easy to see why we often underperform in interview processes.
Now, I am a huge advocate for interview adjustments for Neurodivergent people but for the purposes of today, I’m going to assume we are talking about standard interviews without adjustments. These generally require the candidate to verbally communicate details of the skills, abilities and experiences they think they have that might demonstrate they can do the job, whilst also considering how they make a positive impression on the interviewers, how to sit, when to smile etc
Let’s just say there is a lot going on in terms of mental load! And a Mental Load that is too high = Reduced Performance.
Using a Mind map in the preparation stages of interviewing can help to prevent this reduction in performance. . Reducing the mental load (or mental arousal to give it the official name) works to reduce those feelings of overwhelm and panic. This gives you the change to perform at your best.
So, in terms of interview preparation, I encourage you to focus on visualising your mind map and one being able to describe the various skills and experiences you have detailed on it. Work on describing experiences flexibly so the same example can be used to demonstrate a wide range of skills and achievements. This will reduce the dependency you have on rehearsing just one ‘perfect example for any given question and give you a small chance of being able to remember at least one good example for any question you are asked.
This cognitive flexibility is extremely useful for us Neurodivergent types and can be helpful in ensuring we can reduce stress but also talk about all the amazing things we HAVE done, rather than focusing on the things we find difficult,
Watch this space for more on interviews and asking for adjustments.
Finally – my mind map technology hacks
1. Miro – an awesome app for any sort of brainstorming and collaboration although not great in terms of accessibility for some.
2. Tesla Sticky notes – slick to any smooth surface by the magic of static - amazing for those inclined to more of a hands on experience.
Keen for more Neurodivergent career thinking hacks?
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Until next time – be happy!