6 Ways to Get Clear About Your Career Vision

Even when you are working a job or career you chose, it’s still possible to feel lost.

For most of my working years, I felt like something wasn't right. I loved the people I worked with and enjoyed the intellectual challenge of helping companies work toward their goals and successes. But I still went home feeling like I was spending my time and energy on something that wasn’t meant for me. It wasn't fulfilling me.

I doubted myself for years. I questioned my work ethic and tried to figure out if I was scared of hard work. I wondered if I was ungrateful – I had a job at a University at a time when higher education was under a lot of financial strain. I struggled with feeling like, I needed to stick it out to be an example of what it could look like to “be a valuable employee.”

It took me a while to realize that my questions about the direction of my professional life surfaced just as I was making a personal transformation. As I addressed my sense of worth, issues related to insecurity and imposter syndrome, and my knack for compartmentalizing, I was also giving myself permission to imagine a different career vision. This new vision brought my personal strengths and value into closer alignment with how I wanted to contribute to my fellow humans.

Maybe you aren’t in the midst of a major personal awakening like I was, but many of us go to work feeling like what we do every day isn’t quite aligned with our vision for our careers and lives. Here are a few things you can do, right now, where you currently work, to bring your actions at work in line with the vision and goals you have for your career.

1. Know your value and values.

Before you can work to fulfill your vision for your career, you have to know your value and values. How do you uniquely contribute to work each day? What are you specifically positioned to do in a way that no one else can? You might be tempted to think there isn’t anything that special about you, but resist that thought. Pull out a piece of paper or note app on your phone and spend 5 minutes thinking about what you do at work and how you do it. Write down what you come up with. Your unique value will become much more apparent.

You should also know your values – the principles that center you, guide you, and influence the things you do and want to do. An example of some values: authenticity, balance, faith, family, friendship, service, growth, stability, teamwork, empowerment, self-awareness, and learning (these may or may not be some of my values). When you can identify your values, you can figure if the work you do aligns with these values and decide what needs to change, if anything.

2. Invest in your career goals and vision.

When you see “invest” you may immediately think about spending money. True, part of investing in yourself may mean paying for tools, courses, or time with a professional who can help you get to the next level. But investing also means being deeply engaged or committed to something. Investing in your goals and vision for your career means committing time, energy, and resources (yours or someone else’s) to the outcomes you desire.

Think about a skill you want to develop or a tool you want to learn to use. Is there a training program your job could sponsor or reimburse you for? Maybe there is a podcast, book, or online program you can access on your own. Whatever it is, consider the benefit you will gain on the other side of the time, financial, or resource investment and figure out the path to making it happen.

3. Identify what you may need to sacrifice right now for future progress.

Sacrifice and investing are related, but the sacrifice is more about what you are willing to give up or move away from to get to that next step in your career. Future progress often comes at a cost in the present. Taking on additional responsibility without a corresponding pay raise, relocating, or taking a step back in your title to gain the experience you want are examples of right now sacrifices that can help you in the future. Any sacrifice you make will require to you stretch yourself and move away from where you are to get a bit closer to where you want to be.

4. Act with intention as you make career-related decisions.

Careers aren’t always made of lock-step, paint-by-numbers kind of moves. That said, it is still important for your career decisions to be grounded in a larger goal, plan, or purpose. This does not mean you have to know exactly where you want to be in 5 or 10 years down to the company or job title, but you should have an idea of what you working toward. Knowing what you are working toward can help you figure out what your intention should be. Knowing your intention will help you develop the filter for your career-related decisions. Deciding to take on certain projects, positioning yourself for promotions, and connecting with internal influencers are examples of ways you can act with intention in a practical way that aligns with your career goals and vision.

5. Stay ready for opportunities.

Visions don’t become reality without opportunities for tangible progress. But having an opportunity and being prepared for said opportunity are two different things. To be prepared for opportunities, you should be willing to look for ways to improve, learn, and try things you have never tried before. Think about where you want to go and the kind of opportunities you would need to get you there. Identify the skills or experiences you need and look for them. Or at the very least, stay ready for opportunities that may arise so you won’t have to get ready when they show up.

6. Nurture your vision for your career.

Not your parents’ or your family’s vision for your career, but the one you developed for yourself. I spent a good chunk of my life committed to a career vision that ultimately did not align with what I wanted for my life. I realized that if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be, I would have to nurture a vision I developed for myself.

You can absolutely achieve the kind of career you want for yourself. But no one will hand you the vision or the opportunities you will need to bring your goals to fruition. And no one will be able to influence your own career as much as your own goals, vision, and actions can. Commit to caring about your career and encourage yourself during every stage.

What actions have you taken at work that align with your career goals?

Have you taken any actions that changed your career goals and vision? Let me know!

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