Why writing your career vision doesn't have to be daunting
Updated: Nov 17
Here is how it goes.
Sit down. Write down what you want to achieve. What heights you want to reach. Think about your skills and strengths. The end. Job done.
Yeah, right. As if it was ever that easy. (Because, if it was, wouldn't you already have done it?)
Let's face it, creating a vision for your career can be hard work
Especially if is your career and your life we're talking about.
Before we delve right in, I just want to say that it's completely OK NOT to have a career vision. Especially if you are only just starting to think about changing your career. Especially if you don't have a clue (yet) what you'd like to do next.
No one is expecting you to sit down and just - you know - write up this slick statement of what you want to do and achieve. Just like that. It requires a bit more than that.
1. Why write out your vision in the first place?
In business you set out goals, and you write down a vision for your company. Setting goals is linked to higher achievement.
Why? Because it gives you a sense of direction. It allows you to check the priority of your actions against what you set out to achieve.
My biggest problem with a vision? We think it's the beginning of everything.
Which is why it such a daunting task early on in your career change.
Because changing your career more often than not doesn't start with 'this is what I want'.
It often starts with 'I haven't got a clue what I want, but it's not this. And, NOW is the time to do something about it!'
It means that a lot needs to happen before you can start writing down your career vision.
2. You have to start with where you are now
How you're feeling
So, let's start with how you're feeling first. Because that's why you're considering making changes to your career in the first place.
Are you making changes to your career to get away from somewhere ('away from')? You might be working in a toxic environment, you have done your job for a long time and are sick and tired of it or feel that you're not being challenged enough and just want something different.
Or do you have a clear picture of where you'd like to go next? You may have had a long-held dream that now HAS to come to fruition ('go to'). You may want to live and work abroad, start your own company, work for a charity. It may be a combination. Or you may not know at all.
Understanding why we are feeling how we are feeling is your first step towards establishing your starting point.
I don't know about you, but whenever people start talking vision it all becomes a bit airy-fairy. It's all swinging-in-a-hammock-drinking-pina-coladas-with-half-an-eye-on-the-laptop type dreams.
Whilst - actually - there is only a very small part of the population that would call that fulfilling.
(Well, for more than two weeks, that is. I can do two weeks. I'm sure I can - if I really put my mind to it. Having said that, the last time I was in a hammock it fell out of the tree and my sister laughed at me. After which I walked off in a strop. That's how long ago that is. Maybe I don't like hammocks at all? Maybe I've been lacking hammocks in my life? Maybe I have a hammock PHOBIA? Anyway).
When it comes to setting your vision it's all about you. About who you are. Who you are now. Warts and all, so to speak. All your strengths, your skills, your life experiences. What makes you you.
What's important to you
One of my school friends died two years ago. Not even fifty yet. An ex-colleague died last year. Early fifties. All I'm saying is: you don't know how long you've got.
Which is why it's all the more important to start focusing on what's really important to you.
People. Causes. Doing the things you love. What is it? What is it that you really want to get involved in. What are the things that - if you didn't do anything about them in your lifetime -you KNOW you'd regret?
THAT is your starting point. From here we can start looking forward.
3. Three ways in which to start creating your vision
FEEL your future
'Hang on!', I can hear you say. 'I KNOW all these things about myself. Doesn't mean I know what my future will look like!'
I get you. You may have all this information and still not be able to find your way forward.
Which is why I suggest to start with how you're FEELING instead!
One of my clients said it best. She made a vision board for herself. On it she had some goals. She said she wanted to be PROUD of who she was and not set goals without its feet firmly based in reality.
What does that teach us? That we get to decide how we want to feel. And that what we do should help us feel that way.
A bit cryptic still?
OK. Another example.
You know how you set your New Year's resolutions (do people still do that)? Instead of stating what you will DO, what if you said how you would like to FEEL instead.
Last year I said I wanted to feel HEALTHY and CONNECTED. Healthy means that I've eaten not so many chocolate biscuits (well, I tried not to!) and became a lot more active. Connected means that I wanted to meet many more amazing women like yourself. And I did!
That's what I mean. If you look into the future, how do you want to feel? What can you do now to help you be that way?
SEE your future
Years ago I did this community leadership course. It was run by an Australian guy. Not that that's important. What IS important is that the guy was a sports psychologist. He had worked with athletes.
In the dingy little basement classroom he made us stretch, imagine stretching further and ACTUALLY MADE US STRETCH FURTHER THAN WE THOUGHT WAS POSSIBLE.
I know! My cynical little brain was totally blown.
The power of visualisation is immense. But what comes before visualisation is imagination. Imagination to see what you couldn't see before. Imagination to see yourself go further than you imagined possible.
Because if you can SEE what your imagination is sketching for you, you CAN achieve it!
So, go on! Stretch that imagination of yours (see what I did there?). Imagine what you want for yourself. In as much detail as possible. So that it becomes easier for your brain to make it happen.
WRITE FROM your future
When I turned fifty I wrote myself a letter. I made it into a blog (What I'd tell my 39 year old self - you can read it HERE).
Now, instead of ACTUALLY telling your younger self what to do or not to do, what if you could IMAGINE yourself being your 20 year older self telling you what the future will hold. What would that look like for you?
Write yourself a letter and tell yourself what your life has turned out like. Sketch out your life. What you're doing. How you're looking. The lessons you've learned. What you would do differently. What you'd do the same. What does this future you do? Where does she live? Who is she sharing her life with? Who is this person, at 60, 70 years old? And what could she tell her younger self?
WRITE ABOUT your future
It's funny that. Before 2020 we were amazing at compartmentalising our life. We closed the door behind us in the mornings and it was all work until we stepped in the door again in the evening.
Now, after Covid, (well - considering there are still tens of thousands of new cases per day here in the UK - IN Covid), we know that work and life are the same thing. That your work is part of your life. No more compartments. Instead a blend of work and life.
Which is why I believe you should make your vision for your career incorporate your life. How you want to live. Where you want to live. What type of weather you feel best in. How you want your day to look. Who is around you. How much you'd like to travel.
Because there's no point creating a career that doesn't fit your vision for your life.
So, for the final way of starting to define the future you - including your life and career. Write yourself a story. Define what you'd like your life to look like. In 5 years time, in 3 years time, next year. Start broad. Where do you live? Who do you live with? How do you want to live your life?
Describe it in detail. Feel your life, and career, becoming real. Make it into a story. And save it somewhere prominent. So that you can look back at it anytime. And adjust accordingly.
So there you have it. How to move from 'I don't know' to a (more) detailed picture - or story - of what you'd like your life and career to look like.
Visioning? You've got it covered! Not so daunting after all!
How do you envisage your future self?
--- Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.
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