What is a Career Trajectory?

Each career has a path it must follow, and it is called career trajectory. Hence, when you pursue your chosen career route, chances are that you envision the goals you want to achieve for the career and actionable steps to do that. 

The form of your career trajectory depends on your passion for moving higher in your career. So, you must be intentional about your career trajectory and give it every determination to succeed

In this article, we have helped you define what a career and career trajectory is, the types of trajectories, and how to plan one. 

What is a Career?

Your career is the total of the jobs you hold and the accomplishments you pulled off during your professional or working life. 

A person can stay in one industry or career their entire professional life, while another may take up one or more careers in the same or different industries. 

Some careers have a clear standard for success, which may be in the form of titles or positions, while others are seen from the accomplishment point of view. The number of wins can also review some careers, like those in sports.

Your career can be in a job, but your job cannot be in a career. Find out the difference between them: Career vs Job: Differences and Similarities. 

What is a Career Trajectory?

A career trajectory is a path your job takes throughout your working life. It is a long-term plan that involves specific jobs that lead to a desirable profession. 

It includes any job you have done before which either pushes you forward, backwards or keeps you stagnant. You may change your organization and job roles as many times as possible throughout your career while working to achieve your goals.

When you identify your career trajectory, it helps you to plan your work life. Hence, you will easily identify when it is time to leave your current job role or company and go for a higher or different opportunity. 

When you are creating your career trajectory, ensure to know what you want, the right job opportunity to go after, and events that make up your work life, and also set goals for your career trajectory.

If you want to have a career change, you can consider other career opportunities within your goals. 

For that reason, you need to list the steps that will help you follow your path without getting distracted or veering off the way. With the steps, you will identify a job that will provide room for growth and fulfilment.

Types of Career Trajectory

Two major types of career trajectories exist: vertical and horizontal. Here is an elaboration of each:

1. Vertical Trajectory:

With this kind of career trajectory, you will only move upward in your career as you move into higher-level positions. It also comes with higher pay. Ideally, a vertical slope is not possible in every stage of your career growth.

An example is when you move into a higher-level role and are yet to get promoted after so many years. Even though you might think growth does not happen because of that position, you may gain some skills and mentorship that may cause a positive change in your career life.

While vertical trajectory might seem to be an upward slope only, it may also take the shape of a downward slope.

For instance, you may take a lower-level job position to have time for your education and training. This may also come with lower pay. But since you aim to obtain certain skills, it is also vertical growth.

2. Horizontal Trajectory:

This looks like a straight line. You may find yourself in one position for a long time or making tangential career moves. A horizontal career trajectory may look like you are not growing in your career, but there are perks you can enjoy here. 

For instance, staying in a position for a long will allow you to understand the intricacies of that position while you learn new skills to help you work better. 

Although you may stay here for a long, with the new skills and experience, you may be called upon any day to take over a management position in your field. You will move up with better pay.

What are Good Career Trajectories?

Although there is no one-size-fits-all pattern for identifying a good career trajectory, a meaningful one involves learning, building your skill set, and aligning your career aspirations and steps with your values. 

Therefore, you must ensure your values and professional goals are consistent. Doing so helps to integrate both vertical and horizontal career trajectories, which may also include career changes.

Steps you can Plan your Career Trajectory 

You will need to follow the right steps to help you plan your career trajectory. These steps will help determine if you will achieve your goals. They are outlined below:

1. Identify your professional goals: 

What you want to achieve in your career and the goals you set for it will determine your trajectory. You may wish to work in a leadership position or become comfortable as a team member. 

Knowing what to pursue will give you an idea of what goals to set. To achieve this, design a simple graph that includes your goals and what you want to achieve in your career life. Add a timeframe to each goal to enable you to achieve it at a specific time.

2. Improve your curriculum vitae: 

After you have identified your goals, you will need to rework your resume or CV to reflect the goals and paths you want to follow. The most important area to reveal includes your mission statement. 

This aspect of the resume displays where you want to go and how you plan to achieve your goals. Also, look at the skills you listed on your CV and ensure they reflect the positions you want to apply for.

A good resume is one in sync with the latest practices. Discover the Current Resume Trends in 2023: Why You Should Have These

3. Build the right skills: 

While carrying out the steps above, do not forget to develop relevant skills to help you achieve them. 

Create a list of the most important skills you will need, down to the ones you may not pursue immediately. Start developing those skills through various channels, like continuing education and development opportunities at work.

4. Build a professional network:

When you build a professional network, you will learn about new opportunities in your field or industry and go after them. For that reason, you will need to identify the people who are on a similar path and job roles as you. 

Get across to them through social media and professional bodies, among others, and connect, hoping to build professional relationships. Update your social media handle and website to reflect what you stand for and what people you are looking for. 

Importance of Career Trajectory

Organizations use career trajectories to increase employee retention and engagement. An organization that is interested in the employee’s career trajectory is likely to have employees that stay longer with them. 

Employees are also motivated to grow within such an organization. As a result, the organization can reach its short-term and long-term goals faster.

Setting goals for yourself requires serious work. Learn How To Set Career Goals And Achieve Them

With a career trajectory, you can know the next step to follow and how to get there with little or no uncertainty. 

This means that you will not wonder about what your next promotion will be. Your productivity and motivation will once increase. You will be more motivated than those who do not have a career path in place. 

It also shows that you will be more productive because your career vision stretches beyond the task at hand.

More importantly, once you create a career trajectory, it will help you to know if career growth is achievable with your current job or employer. You will also know what you will need to do to achieve your long-term career plans.

Your Career Trajectory is Your Choice

This journey we call career trajectory is a personal journey. It is your growth, whether you gained the training internally or externally. It is your journey you have to make from your current level to where you want to get to, and you must be intentional about it. For that reason, choices govern the journey. 

You must make your plans and define your career goals. What point do you want to reach on your professional and personal level? 

Whatever point it is, ensure to stick to it. From time to time, you need to measure your achievements while identifying the mistakes you made. 

Likewise, make the right adjustments when necessary and do what it takes to attain your goals. 

Although some factors may affect your journey by making you either give up or move sluggishly, the underlying reason is always your choices. 

These choices could be in the form of the position you are aspiring for or the training you attended to help you get there. 

They could also be the mentor who guided you towards better opportunities or even that you took up new projects and dropped them off.

Each of the decisions plays an important role in your career trajectory. One thing is certain, no one will walk the hard steps for you, and no one will choose for you. 

The choice to make is squarely on you, and when it is time for the rewards or consequences, be sure to be at the centre of it all.


It is never too late to take hold of your career trajectory. As long as you are alive, have dreams, and walk towards them. 

Although following your career trajectory requires a high level of accountability and intentionality, the perks of doing so are huge, leading to a more fulfilling career and balanced life.

Therefore, step up and move ahead, drop off excuses, and embrace uncertainty. It is only when you risk it you can achieve the heights you have always longed for. Also, it requires a blend of self-improvement and efforts on your part for the right people to notice you.

Always remind yourself of your goals and ensure to stick to them. 

If there is any point you need to adjust, do so. To learn new skills, you need to be creative. You do not get to know more than others by doing exactly what others are doing. You cannot outperform others without being innovative. 

Do not forget it is up to you to follow your career trajectory. Give it a shot; you will surely make it.



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