By Tracy Tsai, PCC, CPC
The arrival of a new year is a great time for reflection and looking ahead. Instead of making new year’s resolutions–which tend to fizzle quickly–we recommend taking the time to develop a “career vision.” A career vision gives you a clearer picture of who you are and where you’re headed. Why is this important?
- Increased engagement and motivation – Having a clear career vision increases our level of engagement at work. A study on women in engineering showed that those who had a “personal vision that included their profession” were more likely to be engaged in their work and stay committed to their jobs. In addition, those who were able to articulate a vision were able to find meaning and purpose in their jobs, despite the challenges they faced (such as bias, barriers and discrimination often prevalent in male-dominated work places). When our work is aligned with our values, goals and who we want to be, it has an energizing effect that not only benefits ourselves, but also the colleagues around us.
- Helps you take ownership of your career – At Her New Standard, our Fast Track program participants complete a Career Vision assessment that looks at key areas of career management, such as self-awareness, relationships and performance. It also asks where the participant wants to be, career-wise, in three to five years. Our participants find this to be a hard question to answer, as we don’t often give our career aspirations the amount of attention and thought they truly deserve. As a result, we leave our career trajectory partly to chance, hoping that others will give us opportunities that play to our strengths and interests. Taking the time to develop a vision and craft our future career goals puts the power of ownership into our own hands.
So how do you formulate a career vision? Here are some steps you can take:
1. Reflect on the past year
Questions that can help guide your reflection:
- What were you most proud of this year?
- How did you stretch yourself? And what did you learn as a result?
- Which activities were energizing for you? What kinds of work played to your strengths?
- Which activities were draining for you or lacked meaning?
- What lessons do you want to bring forward with you into 2023? What do you want to leave behind?
2. Visualize what’s ahead
You can take a similar approach by doing a career visualization exercise such as the one below.
Sit in a comfortable seat, with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths, noticing the sensations of your inhales and exhales.
With your eyes still closed, imagine that you wake up in the morning feeling energized, because you have a career that you find very fulfilling. Envision what a day in your ideal role or job looks like, from start to finish. Be as specific as possible, and notice the small details, e.g., how you feel, what you see. Some questions to help you hone in on the specifics:
- How do you start your work day? Where are you and what does your work environment look like?
- How would you describe the relationships and interactions you have at work?
- How are you regarded at work? What do people know you for?
- How are you balancing / integrating your work and personal priorities?
- How are you recognized for your work?
- When you go to bed at night, how do you feel? What contributes to these feelings?
- At the end of your career, what legacy will you leave behind, personally and professionally? What will you be remembered for?
After your visualization, write down your answers to these questions and journal about what you discovered.
3. Set goals and make a planNow it’s time to determine what you need to do to turn your career vision into reality. Some questions that can help inspire your next steps:
- What are some short-term and long-term goals that you want to accomplish?
- What is a stretch goal, or something outside your comfort zone, that if achieved, would be fulfilling and move you closer to your vision? This could be near-term or long-term.
- Specific: Does your goal address the five “W” questions of who, what, when, where and why?
- Measurable: How will you measure your success?
- Achievable: Is the goal realistic and attainable?
- Relevant: Does this goal align with your values and long-term vision?
- Time bound: By when do you want to accomplish this goal?
- Breaking the goal down into smaller steps makes it more manageable and ultimately, more achievable. What is the first tiny step you can take towards that goal? And the next, and so on?
- What relationships would you need to foster to achieve this goal?
- What capabilities would you need to strengthen?
- What might you need to let go of to help you move forward?
4. Communicate your vision and establish accountabilityNow that you have reflected on the past year, developed a clear vision of what you are heading towards and created actionable goals, it’s time to follow through. First, we recommend that you communicate your career vision to others. This is helpful for a few reasons:
- Sharing your vision provides an opportunity for others to give you feedback. This can give you insight on how others perceive you (which in turn expands your self-awareness).
- Involving others allows you to use the power of collaboration to brainstorm ideas on the best ways to achieve your goals.
- The act of saying your vision out loud makes it more “real,” and sharing it with someone you respect increases your motivation and the likelihood that your goals will be achieved. Recent studies have shown that people show greater commitment and performance when they share their goals with someone of “higher status,” or someone whose opinion they care about. This could be a manager, a mentor, an executive coach, or someone you admire outside of work.
- What specific support do you need to stay on track? For some, it’s coming up with their own system (e.g., setting reminders in their calendars). For others, having the support of an accountability partner can be much more effective.
- What might get in the way of you achieving your vision? How can you get ahead of that?
- How often do you plan to check in with yourself to ensure you’re aligned with your vision?