Setting up a road map for life and career

Do you wonder about where your life and/or your career are heading? Management guru Stephen Covey and headhunter David Jensen explain how to create a road map for your future.

How successful are you in life? In your career? Management guru Stephen R. Covey encourages writing a “personal mission statement.” Headhunter David G. Jensen suggests refining this statement by committing your professional dreams to paper in a "career vision statement.” Together, these two written statements can serve as a road map to your future.

Start with a personal mission statement
In his book First Things First , Covey suggests you imagine your 80th birthday party celebration and the tributes each of your guests will pay to you. Have these guests represent every role you now play in life: CIO, manager, team member, spouse, parent, mentor, etc. Now, write down these roles and a “tribute statement” next to each—some praise you want to be true of you in this role. These tributes will take you to a deeper understanding of what could be improved in your life. Covey says to memorize it, and envision its fulfillment.

Covey believes that we don’t invent our life’s mission, we detect it inside us. So, to write an empowering personal mission statement for yourself requires time and an open connection with your deep inner life. He stresses that no one else can be the unique employee, parent, or spouse that you are, so what you offer to others in your many roles is a very important contribution. Covey suggests you do some serious soul-searching about the following:
  • Needs
  • Capabilities
  • Motives
  • Ethics
  • A unique purpose in life
  • Your capability for contribution to others around you
  • Values

Finally, Covey identifies these characteristics of a mission statement:
  • It comes from your deep inner life and represents the best in you.
  • It expresses your unique gifts and contributions.
  • It transcends the little things and is based on a higher purpose than self needs.
  • It integrates all your physical, spiritual, social, and mental needs.
  • It is based on quality-of-life issues.
  • It combines vision and principle-based values.
  • It encompasses all the roles in your life.
  • It inspires you only. It is not written for others’ approval.

Follow up with a career vision statement
Now that you have created a “deep inner connection” to your heart, mind, and life, it’s time to take the personal mission statement one step further. David G. Jensen, managing director of Search Masters International , suggests writing a career vision statement to help define your career and keep it on track.

“Certainly, a one page or less document cannot serve as a road map through every twist and turn of your career,” Jensen says, “but it can point out a desired destination and help you remember the reasons why you set that course in the first place. It is certainly worth spending a few hours on initially, and then reviewing it as a part of your annual career review.”

Write it down
Both Covey and Jensen suggest that you need to get into a contemplation mode and do some creative visualization. Articulate your long-term personal goals and incorporate them into a personal mission statement. Jensen has developed the following questions to help you complete your career vision statement:
  • If I had unlimited time and resources, and could channel them into developing any type of career I desired, what would it be?
  • What do I most deeply enjoy doing?
  • When I look at my work life to date, which activities seem to be of greatest worth?
  • What are the three or four most important things to me in my work life?
  • What strengths have others who know me well noticed in me?
  • Whom do I most admire, and which qualities have been most responsible for their career success?
  • How would I change my current job or improve it to suit me?
  • How do I feel about the type of company and the environment I’m in?
  • How do I feel about my involvement with people?

After you have written down the answers to these questions, you have a draft of your career vision statement. Work with it and gradually make it say what you want it to say about your future.

Both of these documents—a personal mission statement and a career vision statement—are slowly evolving, intensely personal documents that should help you identify and focus on the ideal life and career paths before you. Writing these goals down—and then checking them along the way—will help keep you on target in life and in your career.

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