Mind Mapping Your Career


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.

Mind Map

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.

  1. Exploration

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.

  1. Research

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.

  1. 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.

Good luck!

 This post was authored by Anne Grieves.

The Senior Career Conference Is Here!


Senior Career Conference

If you didn’t know already, tomorrow is the annual Senior Career Conference, hosted by the Career Development Office. This is a great chance for anyone graduating who maybe is looking for a quick way to supercharge your job search. I’m talking to you seniors! Of course if you are a rising junior or recent graduate, we certainly won’t turn you away. Let me give you the quick rundown of why you should stop by tomorrow and join us!

  • Networking lunch! That’s right, lunch AND the chance to mingle with dozens of employers. We’ll take care of lunch; all you need to do is bring your networking game face. If you’re feeling a little nervous about what to say, check out our Career Development Connect Four game at registration. We’ve prepared some prompts and topics for you to discuss with employers. If you complete the handout, it can help you ease into networking and be entered to win a door prize. Lunch is from 11:30am-12:30am, so come on by!

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  • In Depth Conversations. Something really unique about this event is the ability to dive deep into topics with employers. I absolutely love this about the Senior Career Conference. Between the Meet-up sessions, networking lunch and our Employer in Residence sessions, the afternoon is chock full of opportunity to pick an employer’s brain about a number of different questions.
  • Developing Connections. Yes, there will also be employers at this event, but you’ll be sitting next to your classmates and friends during this conference as well. You never know where someone else may end up post-graduation, and considering that over 70% of all jobs are found through networking, it’s in your best interest to broaden your own personal network. So don’t count out your fellow huskies!

We are excited to put together a wonderful and dynamic program for all of you. We hope to see you there. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below, email me at m.ariale@neu.edu or tweet us @CareerCoachNU. It’s not too late to register either!

See you at there,


Preparing to Live Abroad

Abroad, map, co-op, global northeastern, uganda

Being abroad in an unfamiliar place can be scary at first. What are you going to eat? Will you be able to communicate with the local people? Will you be forced to do things you don’t want to do? Before you leave for your adventure, take some time to better understand what you’re getting yourself into. Once there, know that there is a culture shock curve to overcome and give yourself time to adapt to your new environment. The following are some key points to address when preparing for an international co-op.

Language. Are you familiar with the local tongue? Can you get by with English? Make sure to use several references to answer these questions or ask a person who has traveled to the country before. As a personal example, before I left to travel abroad to Uganda, I found on Wikipedia that the most spoken language in Uganda is Swahili. Over the winter break, I listened to an audiobook to learn common words and phrases I might use and recited random sentences to my family members. Upon my arrival, I found that practically no one spoke Swahili, but rather, Luganda and other region-based dialects in addition to English. I survived using English, but I now advise others not to make the same mistake I did.

Food. Do you have any allergies? Can you eat spicy food? Are you vegetarian? I was fortunate in the fact that Ugandan food is the complete opposite of flavorful, giving me few flavors that were unpalatable to my taste buds. But make sure you think in the long term and pack a few comfort foods in your suitcase. One thing I regretted almost every day was not bringing a tub of peanut butter.

Clothing. Not every country is as liberal with appearance as the US is. Should you wear makeup? Can you wear shorts and skirts that end above the knee? Make sure you look up the local practices before packing a suitcase full of things you can’t wear or use. While you want to maintain your usual level of comfort and appearance, remember that you are a guest in a foreign country and should respect the local practices. Women, if you know crop tops are inappropriate, don’t wear them. Men, consider leaving the speedos at home. You do not want to invite unwanted attention if you can help it.

Expectations. Communicate with your local coordinator or supervisor to go over what will be expected of you. Know what makes a successful intern or volunteer. Also be familiar with your personal and ethical limits and stay true to them once there. Keep constant communication with your supervisor, know the limits of your assignment, and find areas in which you can grow.

Emergency situations. Is there a hospital nearby that is covered by your travel insurance? What happens if there is a terrorist attack? What if you get robbed? You don’t have to go as far as writing a will, but consider all emergency situations in case anything major happens. Make sure you are prepared enough to legitimately tell your grandparents that you’ll be okay. Get the necessary vaccines, prescription medication, and emergency contacts to ensure that you are as prepared as you can be before you leave the country.

Mika White is a  biochemistry major at Northeastern expecting to graduate in 2018. This past semester she was on her first co-op in Uganda interning at a rural hospital in the town of Iganga and establishing a malnutrition treatment program in Namutumba District. She loves to travel, read, and run. Feel free to reach out to her at white.mik@husky.neu.eduand LinkedIn, and read her personal blog at mikawhite25.wordpress.com.