How to Map Your Dream Career

May 7, 2024


Unsure of the next step in your career path? Madelyn Mackie shares her tips for deciding where you want to go and how to get there, so you can land your dream job. 

Recorded at EA Ignite Fall 2023 and produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals - ASAP. Learn more and submit a listener question at

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Leah Warwick: Hi, everyone. I'm Leah Warwick, and you're listening to "The Admin Edge." We're rounding out season two with our final episode of this season, recorded at EA Ignite Fall 2023 in Austin, Texas, and it's a really good one.

This episode is going to be about finding the career of your dreams, and my guest is a specialist in this area. Madelyn Mackie is a certified career coach and trainer, with experience in the C-suite as an officer with the American Red Cross, and as CEO of Madelyn Mackie & Associates, among other high-profile careers. Madelyn, thanks for joining me.

Madelyn Mackie: Leah, I am so excited to be here with you and everyone here at EA Ignite.

Leah Warwick: It's such a pleasure having you always. You're just such a delight, and you have so much knowledge to share, so I feel like we should just get right into it.


As a career activator who has worked with executive assistants and admin professionals to help them land their dream jobs, where do you start? Say you're an EA who wants to level up, or perhaps move to a related but different role, such as project manager. How does one begin to map that journey? 

Madelyn Mackie: I think the first step is identifying: What is that next role for you? Or how do you want to define your current role as an admin? If you look at different admin job descriptions, every single one is different, so where do you want to focus your talents and energy? Do you love doing event management? Do you love working with the boards? Do you love doing travel and things like that? So, identifying what you want to level up to, or if there's a different role—you want to be an office manager, you want to be a chief of staff, or, like you said, an event manager or project manager. 


Then, once you know where you're going, then you can map out: What are the skills you need to know to get there? 

Leah Warwick: Yes. You have a great download on our site. Start with self-analysis. You need to know yourself first. Take a step and say: What do I want? What do I most enjoy? Do I really like events, or do I really like board of directors management?

I'm curious about your thoughts on titles these days, because there are not just admin assistant, executive assistant, and chief of staff titles anymore. There is a plethora of titles just in the admin professional world. Have you talked to folks about leading with the title first, versus leading with where you want to go and then negotiating the title after the fact? 

Madelyn Mackie: That part. I really tell people: Go look at the skills you want to bring to the role, and put that in the search box. If you're looking for a new job, put the skills in the search box, not the job title, because you might be surprised at what pops up. When you put in the skills, you're like, "I never thought about a job like this." Then, once you have the job—or if you're in the role and you want to do different things—see if you can add that title to your title.


You're an executive assistant and event manager, or an executive assistant specializing in board relations. So, you can expand on your title so it's really more descriptive of what you do. But I know some people don't care about titles. Someone's like, "I'm fine with whatever my title is. It's more about the pay and it's more about what I'm doing in the role." 

So, it's up to each individual, but when we get to branding yourself professionally online, in your résumé, that job title really needs to be descriptive of what you're doing so people understand at a glance what it is. 

Leah Warwick: Yes. I really like that you said that because everybody's career path and goals at the end of that are different. Some people don't want to change careers. Some people want to do a very complex career switch. I find with a lot of the EAs that I've talked to, they like what they do for the most part, but they want to have their role look different than it does now, whether that's a lateral move, whether that's advancement. What have you heard, especially from EAs, about where they'd like to go, even if it's not necessarily to a new job or to a completely new type of role?


Madelyn Mackie: They want a seat at the table. What I am hearing from all of the senior admins is they're like, "I want to be in the executive meetings. I want to be able to hear what's going on, and I want to be able to contribute to the conversation" because there's such a wealth of knowledge among the administrative professionals in an organization that they can actually fast-track some of the projects if people would just talk to them. Chances are, they already have the resources, the tools, the vendors, the contractors, the people needed to be successful in that project, but no one talks to them about it until after the fact, when they say, "This project is a hot mess. What are we going to do?" And you're like, "If you had talked to me three months ago, we could've avoided all of this."


I think that's the biggest thing. The first thing is they want a seat at the table. They want to be a part of the conversation. 

Then the second thing is everyone (not just admins) wants to define their work-life balance. Whether that means working from home or going into an office, having a hybrid schedule, or having a flexible work schedule, everyone wants to be able to define it. They're like, "I'll get my work done. I will produce and deliver the results you need, but give me some space and some flexibility so that I can create the lifestyle and the career that works for me and my family." 

Leah Warwick: That is such an important point because your dream job could just be a better version of the job you already have—with work-life balance, with a seat at the table. I think events like EA Ignite are one place that people can go to realize, I have that knowledge and that capability within me to ask for these things, to self-advocate, to set boundaries.


Sometimes it's just about the difficulty that's in your way, whether that's an exec who may be a little stuck in their ways, or perhaps it's a limitation that you're putting on yourself. So how would you recommend breaking through a limitation, whether it's external or internal? 

Madelyn Mackie: That's why I love events like EA Ignite, because you can talk to your peers. Chances are, in this room, there is someone who has done what you want to do, who's already had that really difficult and challenging conversation. By speaking up and talking to other individuals from other companies and saying, "How did you handle this conversation?" you have a whole speakers' group of experts here that they can tap into. They can get really personal because all of the speakers, we love being here, and we hang out and we have lunch and dinner, and we go to the networking events and the receptions.


I think to break throughout whatever barrier you're doing, it's about finding your tribe and finding someone that's already gone through the maze that can say, "Oh, this is the path. This is how you do it. Here's what I would do differently, and here's what worked for me," because that gives you a blueprint, and it also gives you the confidence because when you see that, "Oh, she did. I can do that, too! Okay, I know what to do," then it becomes a lot easier to step up into your confidence and claim your space. 

Leah Warwick: I'm sure you see (and we see too) ah-ha moments in these sessions where someone's talking about, "Oh, my exec is totally fine with me having three days off for my professional development," and there's people still on their computers or phones and trying to squeeze in their me time whenever they can get it. And they go up to her afterward and say, "How did you do that?"

Madelyn Mackie: Right. "How did you negotiate that? What did you say to them? How did that conversation go? Help me." That's one of the best parts about EA Ignite. I know after I do one of my sessions, I just sit on the front of the stage and everyone comes up. And, yes, they take the selfies and everything, but they get my business card and we have a quick conversation. I do some mini coaching sessions, where they're like, "I need to go back and have this conversation. What do I say?"


So that's the beauty of taking time out and putting pause on the workday and coming to EA Ignite, and finding answers to those questions, because then you can go back and fast-track whatever it is you need to do in the office. 

Leah Warwick: Yes, that's perfect. I know you have so many resources for admins and EAs, but all types of folks, too, about how to get to where they want to be. If you want to leave our listeners with one piece of advice, what would it be, in terms of having the career you've always wanted?

Madelyn Mackie: Get clear on your vision. Take some time. Set aside time. Get an adult beverage if that is your choice, and really write out your ideal job description. By writing it out, you are seeing it, you are touching it, you are feeling it, and then you're going to be ready to execute and activate it.

Leah Warwick: That's wonderful. Where can our listeners find you?


Madelyn Mackie: They can find me on LinkedIn. The best place to connect with me is on LinkedIn. Look up Madelyn Mackie, or put "career activator" in the search box. I'm the only one out there. Or you can visit my website at

Leah Warwick: As always, I'm so excited to see your session and your webinars on ASAP. You're a great contributor and just a wonderful person to talk to, so thank you again.

Madelyn Mackie: Thanks, Leah. Have a great conference.

Leah Warwick: Thank you for listening to "The Admin Edge," produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals. Original music and audio editing by Warwick Productions. If you liked this podcast, please leave us a five-star review wherever you listen to podcasts, and subscribe. If you want to send a listener question, you can submit via the form on our website at

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