A lot of students feel lost and use college to find themselves and then graduate without a clear sense of direction and purpose. Then they enroll in graduate school in order to delay the inevitable decision on what to do with their lives. Then they jump from company to company and from job to job trying to figure out what they like best, all while not having a plan. While many aspects of life are unpredictable, it’s up to you to make smart decisions, plan ahead, and be accountable for your own actions and behaviors. There are three things you need in order to start with the end in mind: core values, a vision statement and a mission statement.
By clarifying your character values, life goals and ideal relationships and work, you can be more successful than your peers. When you know where you want to end up, you can make better short-term decisions each day. I always say that if you know your long-term goals, it’s easier to create your short-term goal. In this way, you can start to take control over your own life and success. If you don’t establish your long-term vision of yourself, then you will be lost and have trouble communicating your career goals to others who might be able to help you. If your long term goal is to be an investment banker, a short term goal would be to pass your Series 6 exam or apprentice under an experienced banker.
When it comes to your career, you need to center your focus on your values, vision and mission in all that you do so you are focused on the future. You need a strong mental game and plan in order to make it happen in real life. Personal values could include health, loyalty, empathy, ambition and achievement. In order to define your values, you need to reflect on times when you felt happy, proud, satisfied and fulfilled. This way, you can understand what you value and get excited about. Your vision is where you see yourself in the future and defines what you aspire to become. It helps you put your life and day-to-day activities in perspective. An example of a vision statement is: “My vision is to be a top project manager in the technology field, recognized by my company and respected by my co-workers”.
Your mission statement, on the other hand, is a description of what you want now that will help you achieve your vision. An example of a mission statement is: “My mission is to help increase the efficiency of projects at my company so that we accomplish more in less time.” Once you jot down your vision, mission and values, it’s easier for you to decide what type of work to do on a daily basis, set goals and achieve more.
People, just like companies, need to have a sense of direction or they become lost. If a company doesn’t have a long-term vision, employees won’t have anything to buy into and embrace. If they don’t have values, they won’t be able to effectively recruit the right talent to fit into their culture. Whether you want to work for a company, or start your own, you need to understand your values, mission and vision so that you can best position yourself for success now and in the future.
Dan Schawbel is the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, now in an expanded paperback edition.
Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University Of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.