Career Vision: Its a Thing of the Future!

The rush of life can be very distracting.  Racing to meet one deadline after another, staying on top of personal obligations, getting to that daily to do list can lead to constant fire fighting.  Before we know it we are halfway down a path that we would have never taken had we seen it coming.

photo by Space Ritual via PhotoRee

Nowhere is this more real for most of us, than in our careers.  How many times have you heard the interview question, where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, etc?  I would wager it’s one of the harder questions for most people to give a true answer.  Oh sure, most of us find some answer to give in the moment, but was it truly a well thought out answer?  One that is rooted in time and deliberate contemplation?  If your answer is never or rarely, you are not alone.  Typically, we aren’t encouraged to think long-term.  Our lives are structured in a way that incents us to live in the moment and worry about that very next step, the rest will sort itself out.

Yet, so many of us find ourselves in professional ruts a few years into our careers.  We have this feeling of listlessness, not sure which way we want to go.  Probably, the biggest problem with this situation is that we end up putting our careers at the mercy of someone else’s motivations.  And who can blame them?  If we aren’t willing to take charge of our own career, then someone will step in and guide us in the direction they see fit.  Or worse, they will see us as directionless and not waste their time on us.

In a previous post, I touched upon the fact that each of us needs to first define who we are in the now.  This approach is similar to how organizations set their missions.  In much the same way, I think we should also determine who we want to be.  Successful organizations are very good at setting a vision.  An aspirational statement of how they want to be described in the future.  Having a clear vision not only should inspire the employees of the organization, but set a point in the future to strive towards.  I strongly believe that this is important for individuals when managing their careers.

A vision isn’t intended to be specific.  The good ones are clear yet aspirational giving a person some flexibility to plot their course in many ways while still providing a compass point to move towards.  Once you know your personal vision, it allows you to better understand what skills you need or experiences you need to have to get you to that point.  These skills and experiences you gain become waypoints on the way to your vision.  But to craft that personal vision, you need to give yourself the time to reflect and understand who you are and what/where you want to be.

If you find that your vision no longer suits you, don’t despair, even visionary people and organizations revisit and tweak their visions based on new experiences or changes in their environments.  The fact that you take the time to consider your future and try to describe it is half the battle and a handy back pocket answer for those interview questions!

Have you struggled with describing your future?  If not, what are techniques you have used to help define your personal vision statement?

About the author: Heath

2 comments to “Career Vision: Its a Thing of the Future!”

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  1. Christian Lauffer - April 6, 2012 at 7:58 PM Reply


    This post is coming at a really good point in my career. I’m realizing the need for a professional, personal and family vision and mission statement just to help me prioritize the important stuff from the fluff and to give me something to shoot for. What techniques have you used to help define YOUR personal vision statement?

    • Heath - April 7, 2012 at 10:03 AM Reply

      You are going through a very similar point that I experienced a few years ago. A vision helped in a lot of ways but I think some of the components that went into determining that vision may have helped even more. Specifically, taking the time to take inventory of my values, both personally and professionally. What I learned is if my energy and direction were in contrast with those values then I felt lost and generally unhappy. Realizing this helped me in a lot of the ways. It forced me to look at the choices I was making with my time and whether those choices aligned with those values. For example, some people set a career goal of making VP by a certain age, but if you value a work/life balance or more hands on tactical work and this position requires more time at the office and delegation then are you going to be happy? Taking stock of your values can be a great first step and liberating in a lot of ways, then looking at your current situation and seeing the misalignment can help you set that future vision and help map out a route to get that alignment. Maybe that means a position or career change or finding a company that also touts similar values to your own (e.g. work/life balance, community involvement, etc.). It may even help on the home front. It’s a bit of a subjective process, but can help in a lot of ways. Once you have a better handle on what is important to you, you get a little more control back. Before I did this, I found my work life controlled me rather than the other way around. I hope this helps but happy to chat more about it!

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