This time of year, you might be thinking about the year ahead and all the promise that it brings. Let me stop you for a minute and ask where you’re headed next year. Are you letting someone else navigate your career for you? Or are you at the helm of your career journey? If I asked you right now what your vision is for your career, what would you tell me? What are your steps to get there?
An essential leadership skill for leaders is vision…that ability to peer into the future, get excited about what it holds, share that excitement with others, chart the path forward, and relentlessly drive to completion. We talk about vision so much in organizations that it’s just a natural quality that we expect leaders to have.
Yet so few of us ever stop to think about developing a vision for our own careers. Instead, we leave it to someone else to tell us whether a promotion is in our future, whether we should take on a stretch assignment because it will be “good for you”, and whether another work environment is actually a greener pasture. If we’re not careful, we’ll be stuck with 2020 vision for our careers, instead of looking to a brighter future.
I wanted to share the top three reasons why your career vision is so important and offer a free resource for you to create a vision statement yourself. Here we go:
- Your vision ensures you will have the right skills and competencies when that perfect position lands in your lap.
Imagine you wanted to travel someplace fun, but had no idea where you wanted to go. You already took the week off from work and, like those dream jobs, you only have 24 hours to make a decision. Instead of spending time figuring out your destination and making appropriate plans, you decide to pack your shorts, sandals and swimsuit and head to the airport only to find out that all flights to warm, tropical locations were overbooked. Your only alternative is to fly to Alaska in the middle of winter for a chilly adventure or stay right where you are. Your career is kind of like this. Have you thought about where you’re headed and what needs to be in your bags to get there? Or are you just packing your resume with certificates, degrees and technical skills and hoping something sticks? If you haven’t stopped to think about where you’re going, you might be left out in the cold with only your swimsuit and sandals on. For such a bright, talented, hardworking leader, that would be a shame. Take time today to start your career plan by zeroing in on your vision.
- Without a vision it is almost impossible to map out your path to success!
Do you feel overwhelmed sometimes with all the work you need to get done? Are there more opportunities coming at you than you have time to handle? Have you taken on a lot of work and wish you could figure out which ones need to be your priority and which you need to give to someone else? When you have a vision and can plan your path forward, you can say no to those opportunities that don’t align with where you’re going. While working as a litigator, I had the opportunity to mentor and coach a law student who aspired to be a litigator in a United States Attorney’s Office (USAO). She knew she needed litigation experience and it had to be solid experience that would make her competitive for the USAO. Her law school grades weren’t stellar, but she shined on the trial advocacy team. A few offers came in and we evaluated them together. Because she already had worked to get clear on the vision for her future, her decision was very easy. She ultimately chose a small federal government agency where she could get true trial experience. Along the way, she turned down offers from bigger agencies, because she knew where she was going. Today, she’s a litigator in the USAO, just as she envisioned eight years ago when she graduated from law school. Have you ever met someone like this who is super clear on where she’s going and she let nothing get in her way? Do you wish you could have that clarity? You can! The first step is creating your vision.
- A clear vision helps you stay the course through the most difficult of times.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with and coaching amazing women who have endured some of the most excruciating pain at the hands of their colleagues and bosses. I used to think I was alone in my stories and I’ve learned, sadly, that so many women have struggled just like I have. We’ve been passed over for positions because of our gender and some because of their race; we’ve been scrutinized by colleagues who were upset that we were making them look bad because we had a strong drive and work ethic; we’ve been the most successful change agents and have been forced out because other executives were threatened by us…and the list goes on. What I’ve found, though, is that each of us has a beautiful story of resilience as we pressed on toward our vision. It is true that the vision of that mountain peak doesn’t come without wading through the swamps with woman-eating alligators, yet the rise toward that peak is far better than being stuck behind an obstacle. Perhaps a vision is just the thing you need to surmount that obstacle and get back on that beautiful journey toward the peak.