The Why and How of Career Vision Statements

Key takeaway: A career vision statement based on your values can help you make decisions about where to spend your time and energy.

Many of us are overworked and at times, overwhelmed. Time, energy, and financial resources are tight. In such an environment, using a career vision statement can provide us with direction and focus for every decision.

We often think of a career vision as something a person includes on their resume when seeking a particular type of position. But if you write a vision based on your personal definition of success, not how others in your field define success, a vision statement can be so much more! Your career vision statement will summon a mental picture of who you are, where you are going and what you will do to get there. In other words, it will inspire and motivate you to act. And, as you change and grow professionally, your vision statement will change, too.

My current career vision statement is the following:

“I create environments that energize and expand the research community. I do this by cultivating relationships and building networks that elevate the impact of scholarship.”

The first part is how I define my own success as a faculty member and administrator. My vision is not based on traditional academic metrics like securing external funding. The second sentence includes a “how” statement that is the unique way I go about achieving my vision—my own personal brand.

I use my career vision to make large and small professional decisions. For example, with every new request and opportunity, I ask myself, “To what extent does this move me toward my vision?” and act accordingly.

A vision statement is an articulation of a future state of being. It is usually written in the present tense. To write a career vision statement, I have found it helpful to first engage in reflection. The prompts below are ones that helped me get started and are adapted from a variety of resources.

Strengths identification

  • What am I really good at? What makes me “tick”?
  • What strengths have others have commented on, and how have these strengths affected my accomplishments?
  • What is my gift or calling? How can I share my gift or best answer the call in a way that will be fulfilling?

Value reflection

  • What am I really passionate about?
  • What are 3 things I must do every single day to feel fulfilled in my work?
  • What are my 5-6 most important values?

Contribution to field

  • What issue do I care about the most? If I could solve one problem in my field, what would it be?
  • What makes my current work distinctive? How can I leverage that uniqueness to achieve my desired future?

Desired end state

  • What would my career be like if I had the power to make it any way I wanted?
  • If no obstacles stood in my way, what would I most like to do?
  • Where would I like to be in 10 years? In 20 years? What does my life look like then?
  • At my retirement party, my organization gives me a plaque; what is the inscription?

Writing a career vision by using these prompts will result in a statement that is centered on your values and definition of success.  You can use it on a daily basis to focus your time and energy.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.