I am an enthusiastic advocate for Vision Planning in career selection and management. It is a process which is similar in some ways to the goal setting and review exercise that you might encounter with some employers, but actually it is much more than that. In fact it is a very useful and flexible tool which can not only help you evaluate and select your appropriate career and by updating the vision planning exercise periodically it is also an excellent tool to help you manage your career.
Hi. I’m Ted O’Neill and in this article I will tell you something about career vision planning- what it is, why it is important and how it can help you in your quest to find a great career and, once you have that first job, how it can help you manage and advance your career. I think that George Harrison got it exactly right when he said:
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you There!
Exactly, if you don’t know what your successful career might look like, how will you ever hope to find it? Without a vision it should not matter how you proceed, but you should realize that you will be more like floating driftwood in a swiftly flowing river than an arrow heading straight for its target. But if you can create a clear vision of what your successful career might be then you can figure out how to get there and pursue your career, and finally then you will hopefully realize your vision, manage your career and enjoy your success.
I didn’t invent Career Vision Planning. I wish I did but it has been around for a long time. I first learned about it more than a quarter century ago when my older brother introduced the concept to me. I was wanting to change my job with an environmental consulting firm and I was thinking about different careers I might want to pursue and different places we might like to live in. My brother asked me- what would you want to do if you could take away all of the constraints boxing you in? After some thought I came back with the answer that I would really like to get my PhD. in environmental science studying under a renowned professor in the US midwest, but it wasn’t practical. My brother then asked why didn’t I just go and do that. What was stopping me? My immediate response was I can’t because I have a mortgage and a young family. We need a source of income, etc. etc. I couldn’t possibly do that. He gave me some ways to overcome those constraints. It took some discussion but in the end he convinced me that indeed, I could do that if I wanted to..
First, he said, I needed to figure out what it was I really wanted. He said this could take a while, perhaps several months and that I had to get creative, find ways to get around the constraints or the boxes that were tying me down, I had to suspend logic and my normal way of thinking. Instead I had to imagine what I really wanted and paint a clear picture of the future that I wanted. It was not simply a career vision, it was actually a vision for the rest of my life, which included a career. My future could be and would be different. It would be what I wanted it to be.
There are different approaches one could take to figure this out. Here is the process which I used, which in fact took several months to complete.
I started by creating four lists. The first list represented things I was really good at (environmental consulting, mathematics, computers, etc.). The second list comprised the things I really liked doing (music, wine making, computers, woodworking, writing). The third list comprised the careers that I could potentially pursue (graduate studies, careers in wine making, music, environmental consulting, government, industry, academia and so on). I also considered careers totally unrelated to environmental science and engineering. The fourth list comprised my priorities (a happy and healthy family life, a good income but not necessarily excessive, high job satisfaction and a feeling of really making a contribution and a difference through my career). A priority was to own my company or be a Principal and owner of a mid-sized or large company.
With this basic research and data in hand I then I started to put together alternatives and then I characterized and rated them. This was a really important step. I found out that although I really liked music, wine making and woodworking, I was not exceptionally talented at any of these. So it would be hard (but not necessarily impossible) to be successful. A career in environmental science with a heavy involvement of mathematics and computers seemed a more promising approach and it certainly would be better able to meet my income and life style goals. I identified opportunities, and pitfalls and issues and tradeoffs. It is ironic but without knowing at the time, the very process of Career Vision Planning comprised many of the things I eventually found I was good at a really liked doing. In the end I selected and pursued a career in environmental science, specifically a field called Environmental and Social Impact Assessment or ESIA.
With a clear vision of a future I wanted it was then possible to figure out how to achieve it. That is a topic for a future article.
There are many great resources that you can dig into and I suggest that you do. I have listed some resources at the end of this article.
At KWIKB we have captured this approach in our tagline: “It’s your vision: create, pursue, realize!”