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Picture It! 6 Ways To Harness the Power of Career Visualization

Picture It! 6 Ways To Harness the Power of Career Visualization

There’s a lot of talk about visualizing your goals these days – the idea that, if you can see yourself accomplishing a goal in your mind’s eye, you can ultimately bring it into your reality. Athletes have long been visualizing their way to success, and studies have shown that the process is applicable in a variety of different arenas.

Fifteen years ago, when I was transitioning out of a performing arts career – trying to figure out my next move – a mentor suggested I start visualizing my ideal new work scenario. I didn’t know exactly what that was at the time, but I knew I wanted to do something that would provide support to others the way it had been provided to me. After much introspection and outside counsel, I developed a picture of myself helping people navigate their way through their own career transformations. I began taking steady action towards that vision, and have now built a wonderfully fulfilling vocation in Career & Professional Development.

[Related: Thought Vision Was Just Fluff? Think Again.]

Visualization helped me make a huge career shift in my life for the better, and I’ve seen it do the same for my coaching clients. I recommend these 6 tips to help you harness the power of visualization as you embark on your own career journey:

1. Create Your Picture – Take even just 5 minutes a day to imagine your ideal new job and how happy you’d be to have it. If you don’t have the exact picture in mind yet, that’s okay. Just start the exploration process and you’ll gradually fill it in – like completing a jigsaw puzzle. Start by asking yourself these questions:

When am I most in the zone...when my actions seem to flow effortlessly and I lose track of time?

What does my preferred workday look like? 

Am I at a desk or out in the field...working by myself or collaborating with others?

Brainstorm by yourself, with a coach, or with friends and family who know you well, and write it all down. Personality assessments such as Strengths Finders or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can also be extremely helpful for honing in on the type of work that suits you best.

2. Take Action - Some think that visualization is akin to waving a magic wand to make the perfect job appear. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! It’s about picturing yourself doing work you love, and then taking continuous action toward it – knocking on doors and leaving no stone unturned.

3. Exit the Comfort ZoneAlong with action comes risk-taking. In the immortal words of Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” It’s time to dare to step into uncharted territory, and to be okay with it feeling scary.

[Related: Goal Attainment: Making Your Goals Tangible and Achievable]

4. Be Consistent – Do something towards your vision – something ‘out of the box’ that scares you – everyday. Perseverance is key.

5. Be Confident – Have faith in yourself and your ability to reach your career goals. If you waiver, ‘act as if’ you’ve got the confidence. It’s okay to fake it until you make it.

6. Be Flexible – Be prepared for your picture to change as you go. Leave room for pleasant surprises.

It may take some time, and even outside coaching, to develop the picture of your dream career, but it’s well worth the investment. Visualization is a powerful ‘activating’ tool in the career transformation toolbox, and I encourage you to put it to work for yourself!

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money, the British online magazine – The Rouse and More Magazine online. She is hosting and producing an online webisode series called: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women. She hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life- on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.