Does the idea of writing professional mission statement seem daunting? It doesn’t have to be! The term “mission” comes from an Old French verb meaning “to release” or “to send.” When you create a mission statement, you’re simply “releasing” or “sending out” a declaration of who you are, to yourself and to others.
The difference between personal and professional mission statements (and why you need one)
Many of us have heard of a personal mission statement. It is very similar to a professional mission statement in that for both, you have to reflect on your values and create a statement that is authentic and honest. Both also reflect a direction for your attitude and behavior.
Where the statements differ is in scope and audience. A personal mission statement is often broader (e.g. “to be true to myself”) than a professional mission statement and is designed exclusively for the benefit of the writer. However, your professional mission statement (or pmist) demonstrates what you are seeking professionally and the benefit for potential organizations you wish to work with, while also helping you remember what kind of work, cause, or field is most is most interesting or important to you.
Using your pmist in your job search
Concise, actionable, and memorable, your pmist lets you and the reader know what you “stand for,” what you are heading towards, and what you hope to achieve in your career.
Once you have a pmist, you can use it while preparing for and during interviews (to center yourself on what you’re seeking), note it in your cover letter (to introduce your primary objective to the reader), and even mention it on your resume (to demonstrate how you can deliver value to a potential employer).
For example, if you lead with a pmist at the top of your resume, it becomes a powerful way to engage a potential hiring manager and provides a focusing element for the rest of the piece. You brand yourself as a candidate who 1) can synthesize several key ideas, 2) knows what she wants professionally and 3) understands how her experience and interests can benefit an organization. In this age of 6-10 second resume reviews, the inclusion of an intriguing pmist can help guarantee a longer reading.
Start writing your pmist!
Here is a format that works well for a pmist. “To combine/synthesize/integrate/leverage (or similar verbs) my experience in _______ (a) with my interest in _______ (b) to _______ (c) for _______ (d)”
In this format, “a” and “b” are nouns reflecting areas of existing expertise and target career field, “c” is a verb representing how you would like to contribute to a company and “d” is an adjective plus a noun that encompass the type of organization that would be attractive to you. This format demonstrates to the reader that you know what interests you and that you are seeking to use those skills in a way that benefits the employer.
So a sample pmist might read: “To combine my experience in community service with my interest in activism to lobby for a progressive global cause.” Keep in mind that a, b, c and d may vary somewhat depending on your particular target audience. One technique that may be helpful in determining which a, b, c and d appropriately reflect your values is to jot potential a’s, b’s, c’s and d’s on notecards and mix and match various combinations until you find a union that resonates. The order of the statement can be switched, as well, so that the pmist might read “For a progressive global cause, to combine experience…”
The “interest” element, or b, can also be aspirational, exemplifying an area in which you might like to work but have not yet had the opportunity. It can also signal to the reader the direction in which you’d like to transition your career efforts, which would otherwise not be obvious.
Pmist in action
My personal pmist is: “To integrate my experience in devising client solutions with my interest in fostering career development to coach students/alumni within a dynamic, NYC-based higher education institution.” This pmist leverages my pre-career counseling experiences in sales, marketing, advertising research, and executive recruiting (the latter of which I did for 19 years prior to my transition into career counseling) and shows how I can apply them within a similarly client-service oriented environment.
In fact, I recently used this pmist to successfully make the aforementioned career transition. I placed it at the top of my resume to introduce my professional experience and discussed it in interviews when asked about why I wanted to make a career switch and how my previous work experiences would allow me to be effective in a career-counseling role. Because I was very focused on a specific goal, I had only one version of my pmist, but I could have changed the location or type of organization if I’d wanted to. When applying to positions of interest, I’d also included my pmist in my cover letters, typically in the first paragraph when introducing my objective in pursuing a given role.
In developing a pmist, you can define and clarify your professional values, which can only help in building your career. Especially if you’re in a non-traditional career, an effective pmist homes in on the relationship between your objectives and the benefits your background provides to an organization, which is what the “career courting” process is all about.