Uncertain of Your Next Career Move? Create a ‘Life Vision’

A number of my clients are reassessing their careers in the wake of the pandemic and wondering if they should be doing something different (part of a wider phenomenon being called the Great Resignation) . One of the things I have them do to figure this out is to create a “Life Vision.”

This exercise can help you to make strategic, thoughtful decisions that are more likely to result in a meaningful, satisfying career. You compare the life you want for yourself down the road with your current situation, and then come up with the steps to close the gap. As you come up with these steps, you gain clarity on the things you need to do next in your career to achieve your life vision. In addition, developing a vision for your life can inspire you into action, just as Martin Luther King inspired millions with the vision he conveyed in his “I have a Dream” speech.

To develop this vision, follow these steps:

  1. Pick a time at least five years from now to envision what you want your life to be like. Most of my clients choose a point in time that’s further out, say 10 or 15 years (or even more).
  2. Imagine what you want your life to be like at this point in time by writing down the answers to a series of questions you ask yourself. That is, paint a picture of your life in words. Start out with a broad question, such as “What’s my life like at this point in time?” Write down as much as needed to answer this question. Then ask yourself more specific questions. Examples include: Where do I live (in a city, suburb or rural area, another country, near an ocean/mountains, and so on)? What kind of work am I doing, if any? What are my relationships with family and friends like? Who is in my life? How do I feel financially? How much money am I making, or do I have saved? What’s my health like? What do I do outside of work?
  3. Now move closer to the present and ask yourself the same set of questions from Step 2. For example, if in Step 2 you crafted a vision for your life 10 years from now, what do the answers to those very same questions need to be five years from now to get you to your 10-year vision?
  4. Repeat Step 3 with additional points-in-time closer to the present, for example, 3 years from now and one year from now. As you get closer to the present, ask yourself an additional question: “What have I accomplished to get to this point in time?” By asking this question, you’ll gain clarity on the next steps you need to take now in your career (and life) to achieve the change you want.

Build self-awareness to inform your career next-steps

You’ll want to be using your “motivated skills” on-the-job to feel truly satisfied in your career, that is, the skills that you’re both good at and enjoy using. Try these self-assessment exercises to determine your motivated skills and then use the results to decide between career options.

The best career move will also be consistent with your work-related values. To come up with this list of values, first brainstorm anything that you value related to work. Examples might include a minimum income that will still enable you to live the way you want, having a feeling of authority, independence, prestige, meaningful work (whatever “meaningful” means to you), working alone (or with a team), a flexible (or fixed) schedule, and so on. Then highlight the values on which you don’t want to compromise. Make sure your next job, or the one after that if your next job is a stepping-stone, has these values present.

Be proactive once you know what you want to do

You’re more likely to get the best offers faster if you take an active approach to getting interviews so that you tap into the hidden job market. That is, go beyond just applying to postings. List out the organizations where you want to work, start building relationships with people in a position to hire you at those organizations, and keep in touch with your network. Assuming you’re communicating well, you’ll start to see a high return on your time investment in the form of interviews at the places where you really want to work.

And finally, play the numbers game to win. Make sure you are having enough conversations with people in a position to hire you so that you improve the odds of having something work out.