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Returning to STEM
Returning to STEM

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3 Setting your goals

Thinking about your return to work can be a bit bewildering with so many options, so it’s important to have an idea of where you want to go before you start planning specific steps. A good place to start is with a vision statement, projecting yourself into the future and imagining yourself as you wish to become.

Crystal ball
Figure 3 Crystal ball

In her book Playing Big (2014), Tara Mohr suggests that it is your inner mentor, the person who you really want to become, who will guide you better than any external mentor to defining your own criteria of success and to taking your next step to achieving this.

Activity 2 Vision statement

Timing: Allow approximately 30 minutes

You might want to find a quiet place to carry out this activity and a peaceful time without disruption when you can spend as much time as you need to make the most of it. Imagine yourself in five years time (if you want you can choose a longer timescale, maybe ten or 15 years). Don’t get distracted by negative thoughts for the moment, such as how you have got there or what obstacles might get in your way. Allow your mind to really imagine yourself in the future.

Think about how it feels.

Where are you?

What do you hear and see?

Who are the people around you?

What are you doing?

Write down your thoughts and feelings and then try to condense this into a long-term vision statement. Think carefully about how you phrase this. It’s important that you believe in your vision and are motivated by it. Be as specific as possible – the more focused your vision, the better. It should be inspirational, clear, memorable and concise. Your vision should be a long-term goal that will take some time to achieve and it might seem unbelievable and unrealistic today. Don’t be afraid to aim high and discover what it is that you deeply want.

In 5 (or 10) years time I am…

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Here are some examples of the completed activity:

Vision statement 1

In five years time I am working in a stimulating job that I really enjoy and where my engineering background is well utilised. I am a member of the product development team in which my contribution is important and I command a good degree of respect from my colleagues. I am flourishing personally and professionally and have plenty of opportunities to develop my career; including pitching to clients. The environment I work in is pleasant, close to home, and the company for I work for recognises the need for a contented workforce and is amenable to me working from home for some of the time.

Vision statement 2

I am the project leader of a plant genetics laboratory, in charge of a small group of research technicians, postgraduate students and postdocs. I am an integral member of the laboratory respected by all staff for my in-depth knowledge of my chosen discipline. The staff and I communicate well, with the result that each person is aware of where everyone else is heading in their work. As a result, all the staff are empowered and enjoy their research. The laboratory has a relaxed feel but each week we have a dynamic group meeting to reflect, set targets and improve practice. I ideally leave work by 5 pm each day.

Vision statement 3

I am self-employed as a web developer. I have a good income from my business and although I have flexible working hours I work hard and efficiently. Being able to work online means I am free to work in any location. I also get to choose my clients and will have a degree of freedom and independence. My previous experience in company employment will aid me in providing a professional service and I am a member of a professional institute, which ensures my training and expertise is constantly refreshed. I am confident but realistic about my skills and experience and I’m organised with a list of work in the pipeline.

You might like to share your vision statement with a friend or family member. This step of sharing your vision is a small step but one that takes courage. The wishes and hopes we have often stay in our heads, yet formulating and sharing them with others is usually the first step to achieving them.