Don’t underestimate the power and the value of a professional mission statement. It lays the foundation of your most important values, goals, and aspirations. It also signals to prospective employers, investors, colleagues, and connections that you are a thoughtful and purposeful professional. It might be the deciding factor that triggers a job offer, promotion, or referral.
Making your professional mission statement an intrinsic part of your LinkedIn About section is one way to communicate your sense of purpose. It adds context and elevates your profile beyond a simple recitation of your past positions and responsibilities.
Defining the Professional Mission Statement
Mission statements come in two flavors, corporate and personal. We’re all familiar with corporate mission statements. They send a message to both employees and customers about what the company stands for and the principles that drive the business.
The personal mission statement is a well-known way for us as individuals to capture our guiding principles. It’s a way for us to reflect on our goals and set forth the paradigms and priorities we want to live by.
A professional mission statement is somewhere in between these two concepts. A professional mission statement incorporates and focuses on who you are in the context of your career. It includes the values and principles that span the main areas of your life, and it is specifically geared towards the impact that you want to make in your career.
Drafting a professional mission statement is another way of thinking more strategically in a fast-changing career marketplace
There are four primary reasons why coming up with a professional mission statement is a good idea:
Why You Do What You Do
People want to know what motivates you and what you stand for. The professional mission statement is perhaps the best way of making that point in a concise, energized, and meaningful way.
People often ask what gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction, or how you see the impact of what you do. As you grow and advance in your career, the professional mission statement addresses this question.
Maybe you are feeling stuck in your current position, trying to upgrade yourself to a more strategic or impactful role, or in the middle of a career transition. Creating or updating your professional mission statement can help you become more certain and more confident in your direction.
Defining Who You Are
Differentiate yourself from your competition. We live in a crowded and noisy career marketplace where it’s difficult to stand out. Very few professionals understand or are willing to spend the time crafting an effective mission statement. They rely on their resumes and the listing of past positions to define their value to prospective employers.
By digging a bit deeper, and sharing your mission, you cut through the noise and help others more easily and readily understand what sets you apart from others who generally do what you do.
You are more than just your skills and your prior roles.
Making You More Relatable
Resumes and LinkedIn profiles are often mechanical, third-person descriptions of your work history. You have to go beyond them to activate your network. Your professional mission statement is a way to reach out and connect with prospective network colleagues on a more personal level. It’s a great way of sharing what is truly important to you. Your statement will attract those who resonate with your way of looking at life and business. It will spark conversation and help you to bond with like-minded colleagues and prospective allies.
Getting Aligned with Employers, Clients, Partners
Remember that everyone in the career marketplace is looking to meet talented, skilled, productive, effective, and aware individuals. More people are looking for ways to say “yes” to you than you might imagine.
What is often lacking is a sense of how you, as a new hire, would align with an organization’s culture and working style. Hiring managers can be hesitant to bring in someone who may have all the right skills, but might not be a fit personally. References and positive social proof are helpful, but you want to make a strong impression in your own words.
Your professional mission statement is a great way to give them a clearer sense of what it would be like to work with you every day.
You may also find that your mission statement is an asset as you search for compatible companies where you feel that you can do your best work. If your mission and their mission are aligned, it could accelerate and streamline the recruiting process.
Paradigms of the Professional Mission Statement
Stephen Covey, the educator and author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” outlined a series of key core paradigms. Each of us lives by our own unique combination of these paradigms. They include concepts like being marriage-centered, work-centered, money-centered, family-centered, and more.
Covey encourages us to reflect on the core paradigms that drive us in all aspects of our life, from the personal, social, and professional.
We need to look at the various roles we play and define how we want to live and grow in those roles. In the end, the mission statement reflects who we are (and want to be), what we want to do (or contribute), and what we want to leave behind through our achievements.
I’ve adapted the core paradigms idea to categorize how we as individuals prioritize our relationship to our jobs, careers, and the businesses we work for. Note that, just as with Covey’s paradigms, we can share orientations to more than one paradigm. But we will likely focus more directly on just one or two of these:
You prioritize being an engaged and responsible member of a team. You look for career opportunities where you can lend your particular expertise to enhance and complement the team’s work.
You value collaboration and inclusion. You believe that team synergy is the most effective and productive way to get things done.
You value communication and want to both include and be included in all relevant information exchanges.
You feel most comfortable working in a group setting and feel energized and stimulated by working in the midst of a vibrant office where lots of personal interactions can occur.
In contrast, working remotely is not really your style It’s something you can do, and will do when you need to concentrate on a particularly thorny deliverable, but it’s not your preferred way of working.
You prioritize the production of actionable data and documentation to drive productivity. You are focused on developing a close working relationship with your manager. You believe that supporting them and their strategy is key to the team’s success, the organization’s success, and ultimately to your success.
You seek alignment with your manager’s point of view and place a lot of importance on understanding their goals so that you can effectively support them.
You value the views and insights of your teammates, but at the end of the day, you frame their input in the context of what your manager is directing you to do.
While the Team-centered person is more comfortable in a flatter hierarchy, you favor the more traditional pyramidal reporting structure. For you, when you are aligned with the team or the organization’s mission and direction, this is the structure that makes the most sense.
Information flows up and down the hierarchy in a more ordered and less confusing way than in a flatter structure.
While you seek input and offer your own insights, you are most comfortable working head-down on your deliverables. Remote work is fine for you since it allows you to really concentrate on getting things done.
You are focused on and fascinated by the product or service that you and/or your team is/are responsible for. This focus finds its inspiration in the utility and need for what the product you are working on can do for your clients and customers.
Your focus is on understanding and aligning the product, its utility, and its market. Your role could be in product development, product management, branding, marketing, or distribution. But regardless of your role, your primary motivator is the product or service.
Through this lens, you are solution-focused and seeing your functions and the work of your teammates in terms of how they can support the product. You believe that the product is key to your team’s and your organization’s success. You align your thinking and your priorities around what is good for the product or service, and how it can be improved.
More broadly, you see business success in product terms. While others may look for positions based on personal and reporting relationships, you have to feel a connection to the product if those relationships are going to work.
You prioritize process and completion in your work. Project-based work has a certain symmetry and consistency that you find appealing. You try to find the right balance of milestones and deliverables and enjoy the rhythm of completing these steps and continuing through to completion. You want to make the project successful by focusing on quality, schedule, and budget.
Your work with your team is key, but only insofar as it serves the delivery of the project. You love solving problems that relate to delivering milestones, running sprints, or other variables of the project management process.
Product and organizational structure are important, but the heartbeat of the project management cycle is what really sustains you. That structure is essential for you to feel connected to and purposeful in the work that you do.
If you are management-centered, you are macro-focused on the running of the overall business. You want to understand and have a hand in the organization-wide systems, protocols, and practices that tie everything together.
The other paradigms are all important to you, but you seek to find the best combination of strategies and tactics that will apply to the organization as a whole.
Management-centered individuals may advance through product or project-centered positions. But they bring the management-centered focus with them and apply its broader perspective as their defining paradigm.
C-Suite managers, business owners, and entrepreneurs require this kind of far-ranging vision, along with the adaptability to develop and calibrate tactics and strategies to keep all aspects of the organization working and flowing productively.
You prioritize the broader community and culture of the entire organization. This goes beyond the team-centered paradigm in that it focuses on the engagement of the organization’s whole human capital infrastructure.
Typically, you will find yourself in traditional HR and people-oriented roles. However, a community-centered orientation can also play out in tandem with the other paradigms. You are primarily in the community-centered paradigm if your primary concern is the growth and well-being of your co-workers.
The team-centered paradigm focuses on getting the work done through the team’s collaboration. In the community-centered approach, the cooperative state of the entire team is a prerequisite to the organization achieving its success.
Call to Action: What is Your Paradigm Mix
Which one of these work-oriented paradigms best describes how you see the world of work?
As I mentioned above, you likely won’t neatly fit into just one. But they can give you a framework to help you better define your professional mission statement.
Take some time to begin crafting your statement based on the top one or two most resonant paradigms.
Talk about what motivates you in your work through the lens of these paradigms. List the most important regular principles and practices that drive you. Share the goals you are working to attain, and what you are looking to achieve in the future.
The Takeaway: Your Mission is Your Roadmap
Recruiters, employers, partners, investors, and colleagues all want to know what to expect from you. Your professional mission statement is the clearest, most direct way to calibrate their expectations. It also reminds you constantly of what you stand for. It lays out what is most important for you. It’s your beacon and your North Star as you evolve through new experiences and new opportunities.
Leaders Are Always on a Mission
A professional mission statement digs under the surface of your accomplishments and reveals the values that drive you. It is an eloquent way to advocate for what gives your work purpose and meaning. And it is an indicator of your capacity to lead by defining a set of principles that are more important than you are.
Leadership is all about motivation. Having your own sense of purpose and mission is going to be key to attracting, inspiring, and guiding other people who will want to join you on that journey.