Defining Who You Are: Mission Possible!

In a previous post I began to explore the concept of structuring a career plan like a strategic plan. I am sure many of you, like me, have struggled with your career plan and sometimes the hardest part is defining your starting point.

In the business world, a mission statement defines the purpose and guides an organization and spells out who/what it is to its stakeholders.  In much the same way, individuals can use this concept in their own career planning.

In simple terms this means to describe who you are, how you operate and the “services” you provide.  More specifically this means to take stock of your strengths, weaknesses, passions and your style/approach.  More times than not we don’t take the time to really understand who we are as a person and as a professional and what that might mean for our career development.

By determining your mission you set a starting point to plan your professional journey.  But, first you have to give yourself permission to step back and reflect.  Consider it a real-time investment in your long-term future.

Seems simple enough right?  You may be shaking your head right now and that is ok.  It took me years to really get a handle on this concept.  We all think we know ourselves well, but in reality it’s not all that easy to put into words what we know and feel about what makes us who we are.  Plus, let’s face it, not everyone is always that honest with themselves.

First, conduct some internal soul searching to determine what your values are, listing your strengths, weaknesses and passions.  Next collect some external feedback.  Some good ways to do this include:

  • Taking some of the available personality surveys.  Myers Briggs, Insights, Predictive Index and Strengths Finder 2.0 are tools I have used in the past and have provided some interesting results.
  • Ask those who know you.  An easy way could include having them describe your top 3 strengths that come to their minds.  I recently went through this exercise at work and it was eye-opening to see how my work cohort saw me.

The key is to gather feedback through many different mechanisms and keep an eye out for trends.  What themes, terms, adjectives consistently popped up?  How did they mesh with your own view of yourself?  The more information you collect the more your personal mission starts to take shape.

Once you have pulled together a good amount of information go through the exercise of creating a mission statement.  Using the things you learned about yourself write a 2-3 line statement that describes your professional purpose including the strengths and skills you provide for your “stakeholders.”

Note: From time to time you should inventory your traits and adjust your mission accordingly.  This is natural as you grow as a person and professional.

Once you have this starting point, you can use it as a foundation for plotting your vision for the future as well as a handy elevator pitch when describing yourself to potential employers.  In my next post I will explore plotting a vision for the future.

What are some tips and tools you have used to get a better understanding of your personal mission?

About the author: Heath

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