True North of Your Career Search: Creating a Professional Mission Statement

Suzanne was accustomed to sweaty palms. Getting established on the speaker circuit, she hadn’t yet moved beyond stage fright. On one occasion, however, she was delighted to find her palms dry! What was the secret? Talking it over with her coach, she saw that her topic, and this particular audience, was precisely in line with her vision of her purpose, the reply to “why I’m here”. She had been true to her professional mission statement. The experience of being aligned in this way apparently left no room for self-consciousness or fear of rejection.

Like Suzanne, taking the time to think about your answer to why you’re here on the planet – to articulate your mission statement – will serve you in many ways.

Being in alignment

As was true for Suzanne, when you’re doing a piece of work that’s in accordance with your mission, you may find you have such heartfelt connection with what you’re saying and the people you’re speaking to, that there is no room for self-consciousness or performance anxiety.

Wellspring of energy and inspiration

If you’re in the midst of a career search, a mission statement reminds you of the wellspring from which you draw energy and inspiration to find or create the work that’s right for you. It links together those times in your life when you’ve felt most vital and “on purpose”, restoring you in times of confusion or discouragement.

Guidance for decision-making

In practical terms, a mission statement will guide and corroborate your process of decision-making. Like the North Star, it’s a point of reference as you move through the stages of your search, helping prioritize the factors on your “want” list and sort through opportunities as they appear. It will support you in resisting what’s easy in favor of what’s important.

The format of a mission statement

A mission statement contains three elements:

What is my purpose?

Why, or to have what impact?

On whom? (Individuals? Groups?)

It completes this sentence: “I am here to _________ so that _____________ for _______________” .

Examples: “I am here to promote justice so that there will be greater economic opportunity for the disenfranchised.” The first phrase, “to serve justice”, refers to the “what”. It may represent a top priority in this person’s life, a value, or a calling. It can have an action orientation (“promote justice”) or a feeling orientation (“I am here to inspire leaders…”). The “why”, or “so that” phrase refers to why it matters, or to the impact that action or quality will have. In the example, “I am here to inspire leaders to bring out the best in people”, the impact is implied rather than stated: “…so that people contribute their best.”

Creating a mission statement

To arrive at a mission statement that’s empowering requires that you commit time to creating it. People often find it useful to actually schedule some personal retreat time, leaving the familiar daily obligations and distractions for a day or two. Once away you might prepare for the writing phase by taking a walk, doing some inspirational reading, or sitting quietly for a period, inviting the left brain or intuitive part of yourself to join in.

Reflect on what matters most to you. What do you want to contribute? What will bring you fulfillment to leave behind, at the end of your life? What do you most want to be remembered for? The more specific you can be, the better the statement can guide you. Even if you start with generalities now – “I want to help people” – you will be able to make them more specific over time. In giving thought to what impact you want to have, and on whom, it’s often helpful to start by ruling out certain groups. You may know, for instance, that you don’t want to help people with terminal illnesses, or people who can afford to pay high prices for help.

Just remember you don’t have to “do it right” immediately. Once you’ve started, creating a mission statement may take on its own momentum, so that you find yourself thinking about it unexpectedly, or recognizing elements that should be included in decisions you make.

A word to the modest:

Here’s an important caution for those of you who are shy about THINKING BIG about yourselves. What you’re here for is big! In one sense, it’s all there is. But it’s also not a solo endeavor. Whatever your purpose is, you’re standing on the shoulders of some who have gone before you, and you’re preparing the way for those who follow. So beware of false humility, and beware of those pessimistic inner voices that say you’re being grandiose. William James has given us a fitting definition of a hero: someone who acts as if what he or she does makes a difference. Your mission statement is your claim to heroism. Be bold!

2005 © Nina Ham All rights reserved.

Nina Ham, certified coach and licensed psychotherapist, has created Success and Me: A Game of Self Discovery(TM). The Game(TM) is a facilitated group process, lively and down-to-earth, that guides players in creating personal success visions to serve as a compass for navigating life’s complexities and challenges. To learn more, go to Or subscribe to her free e-zine for articles and tips on creating sustainable success in career or business,

Source by Nina Ham

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