by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Remember when you were a kid and adults used to ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? Are you still searching for the answer to that question years or decades later? Are you happy with your career, but feeling unfulfilled — like you’re missing something? Are you unhappy with your career, but don’t feel very inspired or that you have many options?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, perhaps what you need is to put your mind to creating a career vision for your life that brings into focus a fulfilling career. A career vision is a statement about what you want to achieve in your career — the major accomplishments you hope to attain, the level or position you hope to rise to, and the lasting impacts you hope to make.
A career vision statement is very much “big picture” thinking. It should be something you can aspire to — and that should inspire you — regardless of where you are now and the distance between the present and your vision. By putting your vision into words, you begin to set in motion a process through which you will eventually achieve your goal. A career vision statement opens your eyes to what is possible and gives you something tangible to move toward.
Unlike a career or personal mission statement, which focuses on who you are now, a career vision statement is about crafting a mental image of the future you. A career vision statement describes the absolute peak of where you envision yourself in your career — not necessarily your current career, but the career you really want, the career that will completely fulfill you. Your career vision statement is the goal you want for your career — and it should be something that inspires, energizes, motivates, and directs you.
When you create both a personal mission statement and a career vision statement, you finish with one document that explains who you are now and another document that paints a picture of you at some future point. What’s left is building the ladder that gets you from today to that future. Without a career vision statement, you’re passively letting fate or inertia push you through life rather than taking a proactive approach.
So how do you go about creating a career vision statement? Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to creating a career vision statement that inspires and energizes you.
1. Carve out a chunk of time. Career visioning cannot — and should not — be rushed. It’s also something that may take several efforts and false starts before things begin to clear and you start getting a grasp of your ideal future.
2. Review your mission statement and core values. While you can certainly create a vision for your future without reviewing these career planning tools, it helps to examine who you are now and what drives you today. [Learn more about creating a mission statement and about understanding your core values.]
3. Suspend logic and pragmatic thinking. Remember that with a career vision anything should be possible, so find a way to turn off any negative vibes or logic filters that will block you from thinking big. Don’t assume the future is locked to what is happening today.
4. Try one or more of these visioning exercises to help get your creative juices flowing. Think deeply about the question(s) and answer each as authentically as you can:
- How do you define career success? Are you achieving some level of success in your current job? What job will help you achieve complete success?
- What would you want to do today if all your bills were paid and you had relatively unlimited cash reserves?
- What would your career be like if you had the power to make it any way you wanted?
- What you would like your obituary to say about your career accomplishments and the types of impacts you left with the people you worked with?
- If absolutely no obstacles stood in the way of your achieving it, what would you most like to attain in your career?
- Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or their careers that attract you to them? Is there something about what they have or do that you want for your career vision?
- Imagine yourself in the future at a point in which you have achieved great career success. What is it that you have accomplished? What does your life look like?
- Do you feel as though you have a gift or calling? How can you share this gift or best answer the call in a way that will fulfill you?
- What’s the one activity you most love? Is it part of your career? If not, how can you make it part of your career — part of your career passion?
- Where would you like to be in your career in 5 years? In 10 years? In 15 years?
- What makes you distinctive in your current work — and can you leverage that uniqueness to achieve a future you desire?
- What’s the story of your ideal career, your ideal life? Try imagining your future and write a story that describes it.
5. Put it all together. Using one sentence or a concise paragraph, write your career vision. Consider writing a short vision statement along with a short description of how you currently see yourself accomplishing it — reaching you vision.
Final Thoughts on Career Vision Statements
Without a career vision statement to help guide you, it’s like driving aimlessly on the highway without having a clear destination. It might be fun for a while to drive around, stopping wherever and whenever you like, but after a while, being on the road gets old. Once you develop your career vision, you can then start mapping out your journey — at least you’ll be heading to where you want to be, even if you have to take a few detours along the way.
Remember, as you go about the visioning process, do your best to avoid vision killers — such as fear of ridicule, short-term thinking, too narrow focus, tradition-bound choices, or following someone else’s career dream.
Once you’ve created your career vision statement, plaster it in various places and read it and say it aloud often. Imagine yourself achieving your career vision. Constantly reinforcing the image of you in your career vision will help you both consciously and subconsciously develop goals and action steps that will lead you to success.
Finally, take into account that your vision can — and most likely will — change as you move closer to it. As part of an annual career planning process, you should review your career vision statement and make any adjustments that you feel are necessary.
Career Vision Statement Samples
Need a few examples of other people’s career vision statements before you try tackling your own? Check out these Sample Career Vision Statements for Career Planning.
Other Career Planning Resources
Here are some other articles that can help you with your career planning:
- 10 Tips for Successful Career Planning
- Deploying Your Intuition to Find Your Ideal Career
- Finding Your Career Passion
- Plotting the Story of Your Ideal Career
- Developing a Strategic Vision for Your Career Plan
- The Five-Step Plan for Creating Personal Mission Statements
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
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