The Value of a Personal Career Vision

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If you think you'll be happier in your career simply by switching companies, think again. To be successful and love your work, you'll need more than a job. Before you focus on resume writing, networking, and job hunting, you'll need what I call a "personal career vision" - a tangible blueprint of the direction you want your life to take.

What's the value of this? Simple: It helps you gain a deeper understanding of who you are and what you want out of your life and career. Skipping this step may lead you back into the wrong career. On the other hand, using this information will give you the raw materials to create a masterpiece of a career and life.

Consider: The average person has three careers and ten different jobs in his or her lifetime, says the Department of Labor. Monday morning at 9 a.m. is the most common time of the week for heart attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Often, people hop into jobs they dislike as much as the ones they just left. Instead of taking the time to understand who they are, what they want, and what they can offer the world, they jump with the increasingly unlikely expectation their next position will make them happy.

Creating a Personal Career Vision

Recently, authors Bob McDonald and Don Hutcheson asked a number of people, "what made you happy and successful?" Virtually all of the respondents, they say, cited two factors: First, they knew about and used their natural talents. Second, they created, and are guided by, a clear personal vision.

A personal career vision is a blueprint for exactly the type of work you should be doing, based on information about what you are naturally good at, what you want, and what you think is worth doing.

So, how do you create one?

Stop. Most people live on virtual treadmills, which keep them focused solely on the here and now. We keep busy following the wrong priorities while building up our stress levels. You must stop and give yourself a concentrated time to reflect on where you've been and where you want to go.

Reflect on where you've been and where you are now. There are times when we feel compelled to evaluate our situation to see how well it matches our expectations. I call these times "turning points." While many of us assess our jobs and lives on a daily basis, there are certain milestones that lend themselves to deeper evaluation. For example, at around 38 to 45 years old, we start to realize that half of our life has passed. We begin to really wonder if what we're doing is worth doing. As we get older, it becomes increasingly important to feel we're doing meaningful work. At this and other turning points, we need to ask ourselves if we're heading in the direction of our true nature and dreams.

Assess how you're hard-wired, what you really want, and what you want to offer the world. When you understand - and can articulate - what you most want for your life and what your ideal job or career is, you're much more likely to get them. For example, look over your job history and identify themes that run through the jobs you've loved and the ones you've hated. Your next job or career should have more of what you've repeatedly liked, and less of what you tend to dislike.

Okay. So how do you go about this? More detail on that in my next post.

Steve Bohler is director and head career coach for the Oxford Program of Career Change.

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