Last week my colleague, Kate Famulari, wrote a blog post for The Works on using the Mind Mapping technique in lieu of to do lists. Through Kate, I discovered Mind Mapping about 4 years ago and have been using this method in my appointments with students.
For those of you who may have missed Kate’s original post, here is a link to the post and also a very quick overview of the process.
Step 1 – Start with a central theme in the middle of a sheet of paper. The central theme is the project you are working on, problem you are trying to solve, event you are trying to plan, test you are studying for and everything in between.
Step 2 – Develop your branches (ideas and tasks) that radiate from the theme.
Step 3 – Add and extend your branches. There are no rules – just keep adding your thoughts as they come to you.
In this post I will share with you three ways I apply this method when working with students through various stages of the job search process. As you read this post, consider where you might be in the process and try to assess if this technique can help you organize your thoughts and steps. In order to move forward, you can ask yourself questions that keep extending your branches until you have exhausted your thoughts (even if just temporarily). The more you allow yourself to brainstorm all possibilities, the more clarity you will find.
It doesn’t matter if you are a first year student, a senior, a graduate student or an alum, your career path is always evolving. Using the Mind Mapping technique will allow you to pause and reflect on where you have been and where you are going. Starting with the central theme of “Career”, ask yourself a few of the questions below. Some you might not be able to answer immediately but answering others will enable you to find just a bit more clarity regarding your career goals.
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What am I good at?
- Do I enjoy doing what I am good at?
- What do I enjoy learning about?
- What type of lifestyle do I envision for myself?
- How/when did I become aware of this vision?
- In what kind of work environment will I thrive (team, small company, creative culture, autonomous, etc.)?
These questions can trigger the start of your map and allow you to develop your “branches”. There is no limit to how far each branch can extend, just keep it going until it stops. The beauty of a Mind Map is that you can ALWAYS add to it.
Depending on where you are in your job search, you will need to obtain more information to help you move forward. Do you need to talk to people to find out what they do? Do you need to look through the course catalog to find out if the classes you are considering sound interesting to you? Do you need to explore possibilities of where different majors will take you? Here are some additional questions to help you with this section of your Mind Map.
- Who do I know that does X, Y or Z?
- Am I able to reach out to them?
- How can I find others I can talk to about X, Y or Z?
- What questions will I want to ask them?
- Are there helpful websites I should explore?
- Should I take any specific classes to help me move forward?
Going through some of these questions will help you clarify your goals. With every piece of new information, you will be able to assess your next steps based on what you have learned. What you learn from your research may or may not conflict with your values and career goals but a visual diagram of your thoughts will enable you to organize the information in a way that not only makes sense to you, but allows you to explore further based on additional thoughts and feelings that will come through as a result of the process.
- Decision Making
At every point through this process you will be evaluating your options as you move forward. I have used this technique with students trying to evaluate multiple job offers, graduate school acceptances, classes to take or simply making a decision to pursue one option and rule out another. Some questions to consider could be:
- What are the practical implications of options A and B?
- How do these options fit in with my goals and my values?
- Do these options excite me when I think about each one?
- Do I know enough about each one to rule one out? If not, what additional information do I need?
- What are the immediate next steps I must take to move forward through this process?
The benefit of using a Mind Map rather than a list of pros and cons is the ability to explore your feelings and thoughts instead of only logic (which I know many of us need to consider as well). Extending branches to explore different options will inevitably take you to where you will know you are closer to the answer. Next time you are trying to decide if you should buy option A or option B, try using this method to decide.
Once you have created the initial Mind Map, consider two additional steps.
Step 4 – Reproduce your draft in a more organized way. Focus on what you are trying to explore and most importantly, include ideas for next actions. Give this step more thought and attention. Take the time to consider each branch and its direction. Are there some that require more attention? This awareness will keep you moving forward as you pay closer attention to information that comes your way.
Step 5 – Place the Mind Map in a visible location so you can be reminded of your next steps without feeling overwhelmed by keeping all your thoughts in your head. Again, you can add and revise as many times as possible. My hope is that you will notice that by getting your thoughts out of your mind and on paper, you will immediately start to make sense of them.
I hope that you will give this a try. You can create your first mind map as your daily to do list just to keep it simple. Or, you can apply the technique right away to your job search process. Just remember, there are no rules – keep the ideas going until you find more clarity.
This post was authored by Anne Grieves.