Advancing

How a Career Map Led to Success

career map

A conversation with his manager many years ago changed the course of Doug Holloway’s career.

Holloway was only twenty years old when that manager asked him where he wanted to be in 20 years. Holloway had no answer. His manager advised him to write his own story. “He told me to write my resume in reverse.”

So Holloway decided he wanted to be president of a television company. But unlike most people who set a faraway goal, he didn’t just hold it as a dream. Holloway did his research.

There were no cable networks at the time, only the big three television networks of NBC, ABC, and CBS. Holloway did research on the backgrounds of the current presidents of those networks, and learned that most had come up the ranks through sales or programming positions. He charted seven layers of hierarchy between where he was and where he wanted to be.

He even set a time frame. Holloway wanted to be a network president in 20 years. That meant that he should spend only about three years at each level of the hierarchy. He planned to start as a generalist, and then move into sales.

And he did it. Holloway had seven jobs between the time he graduated from business school and the time he became president of a network.

One of the potential downsides of creating a detailed career map is sticking too closely to it and missing potentially big opportunities. Another is losing momentum when you hit a roadblock, as everyone will at some point.

After working a few years in marketing and finance posts to learn those skills, Holloway planned to move into advertising sales. But he couldn’t find a position. So he adjusted his plan. Cable networks were coming into their own, and Holloway saw he could still get what he wanted—sales experience—by getting a gig selling for distribution networks instead of selling ads.

The shift paid off. He moved up the sales ranks and later became the president of USA Network.

While his plan was important, it was one aspect of achieving success. Networking and keeping up with industry trends were also crucial. Holloway credits being an active volunteer with organizations in his community with further developing his network, skills and reputation. Said Holloway: “Getting involved outside of work accelerated my learning curve.”

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and iVillage.com, among others.