Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D
A large percentage of companies, including most of the Fortune 500, have
corporate mission statements. Mission statements are designed to provide
direction and thrust to an organization, an enduring statement of purpose. A
mission statement acts as an invisible hand that guides the people in the
organization. A mission statement explains the organization's reason for being,
and answers the question, "What business are we in?"
A personal mission statement is a bit different from a company mission statement,
but the fundamental principles are the same. Writing a personal mission statement
offers the opportunity to establish what's important and perhaps make a decision to
stick to it before we even start a career. Or it enables us to chart a new course
when we're at a career crossroads. Steven Covey (in First Things First) refers to
developing a mission statement as "connecting with your own unique purpose and the
profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it."
A personal mission statement helps job-seekers identify their core values and beliefs.
Michael Goodman (in The Potato Chip Difference: How to Apply Leading Edge Marketing
Strategies to Landing the Job You Want) states that a personal mission statement
is "an articulation of what you're all about and what success looks like to you." A personal
mission statement also allows job-seekers to identify companies that have similar values
and beliefs and helps them better assess the costs and benefits of any new career opportunity.
The biggest problem most job-seekers face is not in wanting to have a personal mission
statement, but actually writing it. So, to help you get started on your personal mission
statement, here is a five-step mission-building process. Take as much time on each
step as you need -- and remember to dig deeply to develop a mission statement that is
both authentic and honest. And to help you better see the process, we've included an
example of one job-seeker's process in developing her mission statement.
Steps Toward Personal Mission Statement Development
Step 1: Identify Past Successes. Spend some time identifying four
or five examples where you have had personal success in recent years.
These successes could be at work, in your community, at home, etc.
Write them down.
Try to identify whether there is a common theme -- or themes -- to these
examples. Write them down.
Step 2: Identify Core Values. Develop a list of attributes that you
believe identify who you are and what your priorities are. The list can be
as long as you need.
Once your list is complete, see if you can narrow your values to five or
six most important values.
Finally, see if you can choose the one value that is most important to you.
Step 3: Identify Contributions. Make a list of the ways you could
make a difference. In an ideal situation, how could you contribute best to:'
- the world in general
- your family
- your employer or future employers
- your friends
- your community
Step 4: Identify Goals. Spend some time thinking about your priorities
in life and the goals you have for yourself.
Make a list of your personal goals, perhaps in the short-term (up to three years)
and the long-term (beyond three years).
Step 5: Write Mission Statement. Based on the first four steps and a
better understanding of yourself, begin writing your personal mission statement.
Sample Personal Mission Statement Development
1. Past success:
- developed new product features for stagnant product
- part of team that developed new positioning statement for product
- helped child's school with fundraiser that was wildly successful
- increased turnout for the opening of a new local theater company
Themes: Successes all relate to creative problem solving and execution of a solution.
2. Core values:
Most important values:
Most important value:
3. Identify Contributions:
- the world in general: develop products and services that help people
achieve what they want in life. To have a lasting impact on the way people
live their lives.
- my family: to be a leader in terms of personal outlook, compassion for
others, and maintaining an ethical code; to be a good mother and a loving wife; to
leave the world a better place for my children and their children.
- my employer or future employers: to lead by example and demonstrate
how innovative and problem-solving products can be both successful in terms
of solving a problem and successful in terms of profitability and revenue
generation for the organization.
- my friends: to always have a hand held out for my friends; for them to
know they can always come to me with any problem.
- my community: to use my talents in such a way as to give back to
4. Identify Goals:
Short-term: To continue my career with a progressive employer that allows
me to use my skills, talent, and values to achieve success for the firm.
Long-term: To develop other outlets for my talents and develop a longer-term
plan for diversifying my life and achieving both professional and personal success.
5. Mission Statement:
To live life completely, honestly, and compassionately, with a healthy dose
of realism mixed with the imagination and dreams that all things are possible
if one sets their mind to finding an answer.
A personal mission statement, is of course personal… but if you want to truly
see whether you have been honest in developing your personal mission statement,
I suggest sharing the results of this process with one or more people who are
close to you. Ask for their feedback.
Finally, remember that a mission statement is not meant to be written once and
blasted into stone. You should set aside some time annually to review your
career, job, goals, and mission statement -- and make adjustments as necessary.
And for more ideas on creating a personal mission statement, read one of our
other articles, Using
a Personal Mission Statement to Chart Your Career Course,
which includes links to other mission-building exercises.
You should also consider reading some of these
mission statements... they may help inspire you.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search
terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers,
one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of
EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of
EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of
Quintessential Careers Press,
including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter,
QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a
published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often
quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is
also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his
personal Website or
reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.