Updated 13 July 2020
One of the most challenging things about career development is sitting down to write a resume – and one of the hardest things about writing a resume is the personal mission statement.
This article aims to describe what a personal mission statement is, why you might want one and how you can use it, as well as all the steps you should follow to create a meaningful one.
With our help, you'll have all the tools you’ll need to write an authentic personal mission statement that will appeal to any business professional.
A personal mission statement is a short but effective summary that helps to define your core values and goals for potential employers or investors.
You might have noticed the corporate mission statements of companies and brands, although these days even schools have mission statements that advertise their ethos. The core principles of a personal mission statement are very similar, but it differs in that it sets out the plans and ideals of the individual – you – rather than that of an organization.
The aim of a mission statement, whether personal or corporate, is to answer the questions: ‘Who are you?’ and ‘What do you believe in?’
They can be short and punchy; for example, the US Army's is: 'Duty, Honor, Country' and IKEA's is: 'Create a Better Everyday Life'. Personal mission statements are usually a little longer, but the point remains that a few well chosen words have impact.
A mission statement is usually the first item on a resume and need not be any longer than a paragraph. Ideally, it should align with the contents of your resume. It could be a short quote that reflects your beliefs and personality, or a lengthier description.
Whether you want to include a personal mission statement on your next job application is an individual choice, but the act of sitting down to write one can be a valuable exercise. It will allow you to ascertain where you are in life, to clearly define your goals and to set out your aspirations.
Whether you are a recent graduate looking for your first position or a chief executive who feels like a change of direction, the act of drafting a personal mission statement can help you identify projects that you might otherwise have overlooked.
To summarize, here are five reasons why you should have a personal mission statement:
Now that you know what a mission statement is and its purpose, it's time to write one. Here are eight steps to help you get started:
Think about the main achievements of your life to date. These could be big or small. Write down what they were and how they made you feel.
Do they have any elements in common? What would you like your next success to look like? Try and answer these questions as honestly as possible. This can be challenging but it is the necessary first step to developing the structure of your mission statement.
If you can't think of any major life successes, why not think about a historical figure you admire. What are their key attributes that you would most like to emulate in your own life? These could be related to their personality, career or lifestyle.
What is most important to you? Is it honesty, integrity or a sense of passion for your work? Write down as many things as you can think of and then rank them in order of importance.
Once you have identified your top three core values, choose the one that is closest to your heart. If this is difficult, think about how you would like to be remembered after you die.
Think about where you would like to be in an ideal world; imagine how you could make a difference to your immediate family, your community, wider society.
Think about long-term goals rather than restricting yourself to short-term aims.
One of the most useful steps you can take is to get advice from people who know you and whose opinion you respect. Ask friends or colleagues their thoughts about your personal strengths and their ideas on your future development.
Include your goals for the next five years and your short-term priorities.
There are no strict rules about how long a mission statement should be, though most career guidance experts agree that they should not be too long. Aiming for a paragraph of three to six sentences is sensible.
Any mission statement that is longer than 200 words runs the risk of losing the reader's attention, thus negating the intention to be eye-catching.
There is no point in writing a personal mission statement that doesn't reflect your genuine passions and life goals.
If writing is not your forte and you are struggling to get your thoughts down on paper, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing a bit of research to find some examples of mission statements of successful people.
Of course, this doesn't mean copying sentences word for word, but it's useful to get some insights into how they are phrased and structured. There's a strong likelihood that you will find an example you like that could serve as a springboard for drafting your own.
It's worth spending time writing several drafts of your mission statement so that it reads as well as possible. As previously mentioned, it should be short and every word should count.
Don't forget to use spell-check. A good tip to highlight any grammatical errors is to read it aloud to yourself a few times. You can write it in one flowing paragraph or with succinct bullet points.
Here is a simple template to help you learn how to write a good personal mission statement:
'My aim is to use my [abilities/passion/charisma] to achieve [my goals], according to my [morals/values/ideals].'
'I aim to be known for [abilities/passion/qualities you wish to highlight] and as someone who always follows the right [morals/principles/ideals] to achieve [your ambition].'
Here is an early mission statement of Oprah Winfrey:
'To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.'
And here is Richard Branson's:
'To have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.'
As you can see, both statements are concise, descriptive and engaging.
If you have never thought about it before, creating a mission statement might seem pretty overwhelming. However, the answer lies in asking yourself the right questions, being honest in your approach, and being open-minded enough to look at the task from different angles.
Once you've crafted your mission statement and are pleased with the results, it's time to think about how to use it to showcase your identity to its best advantage. The most obvious place is at the top of your resume; you could also place it in the 'About Me' section of your website, on the intro to your LinkedIn profile or any other online bio.
Take your time and do your best. Even if you feel it could be a little bit better, remember that you can always revise it at a later date – and this is actually very important, as a mission statement that is not updated will quickly become irrelevant.
In fact, revisiting your personal mission statement later in life can be a very interesting and rewarding exercise to see how far you've come in your life journey. It's a good idea to make some time each year to review and update it.
Ultimately, your personal mission statement is unique to you; personal preferences may mean that you disregard some of this advice. Always remember that creating a personal mission statement is a journey that will hopefully help you arrive at a destination that is fulfilling and rewarding.
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