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Bad bosses, however, are just one bump on the long road that is our career.

Over the past year, one set of concerns has been recurring in my discussions with young professionals: How do we go about constructing a successful and happy corporate career? Where do we begin? What should we have done? What can we do now?

If you have ever faced or are facing these concerns, let me start with the good news. You are not alone. The two most prevalent feelings amongst professionals are Uncertainty and Dissatisfaction

Fact 1: Most young people do not know what they want from life.

Fact 2: Most older people feel dissatisfied with what they have got from life.

“Wow!”, you say, “I thought only I felt this way. Are you saying that most people feel like this?” Sadly, yes. These are consistent findings of myriad research studies across the world.

In the words of renowned sociologist Dr. Gilewicz, “…young adults don’t know what to do with their lives because families, schools and colleges (with some exceptions) neither encourage them to have this inquiry nor do they provide enough opportunities and/or tools to facilitate it. At the very best they educate young people for an occupation, but they do not prepare them for life…”

An extract from, “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?” by Professor Raghunathan of UT Austin – “…being financially secure and professionally successful should be a great basis for happiness, but it’s perfectly possible to have all these things and still be pretty miserable…because they are easier to measure, we tend to chase money and recognition rather than mastery and impact, which is a sure recipe for dissatisfaction…”

Now that you are feeling a little better, let us explore what you need to build a successful and happy corporate career.

You need to answer three questions. These questions (and their answers) can change your life forever. They can lead you to an amazing and meaningful career. They can make every day one of joy and fulfilment. In this article, we will cover a brief overview of these questions and their answers, while each question will be covered in depth in the subsequent articles for you to truly learn and benefit from.

The first question is : Who am I (What do I want)?

Answering this question helps you discover your PURPOSE or MISSION.

All of us have come across and know about company mission statements. Such a statement acts as a framework that informs the organisation’s culture, its people, their behaviour and their practices.  It explains the organization’s reason for being, and answers the question, “What business are we in?”

A personal mission statement is a bit different from a company mission statement, but the fundamental principles are the same. Steven Covey (in his book First Things First) talks about developing a mission statement as “connecting with your own unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.”

Your mission statement is your unique identity – it describes who you are, what motivates you, what and what is really important to you.

It articulates what success looks like, to you.

It crystallizes your aspirations, hopes and dreams.

It reveals your real purpose, your true north.

It integrates the various parts of you, drives focus, and defines your “Why”.

Writing and living your mission statement guarantees you meaning, significance and happiness.

Let me share with you a practical and real mission statement. My wife (who is an amazing baker) wrote hers many years ago. “I want to spread joy. I want to bake the perfect cake for each occasion, that will deliver an amazing experience as well as create an everlasting memory.” Ever since she decided that this was her mission, she has not only become a master of her art, she has found true joy and fulfilment.

The second question is : Where do I want to go?

Answering this question helps you describe your DESTINATION or VISION.

Just like your mission statement discovers your WHY, your personal vision describes your WHERE. Where am I going? Where do I want to be? Where is my dream destination?

Says Theresa Quadrozzi, life coach, “One of the first exercises I do with clients is to have them envision their ideal life, as if a fairy godmother granted their every wish and they woke up in the morning to find that they’ve all come true. This helps shift them out of a pessimistic, fear-based world, into possibilities, into hope, into what can be.”

A personal vision defines your ideal social media profile. It crystallises your dreams.

It gives you clarity. It removes ambiguity and doubt.

It allows you to know where you are and recognise when you detour.

It allows you to balance your life.

It helps you filter out distractions.

It inspires you to focus forward without looking back on past regrets.

A personal vision gives you control. It allows you to drive your choices and decisions, rather than leaving things up to chance or allowing others make decisions for you. You are in charge of where you are going, making it easier for you to get exactly where you want to be.

My wife, in her personal vision, said, “I will be the first person my customers think of or recommend, when the topic is cakes (for any occasion). I will hear, even after 5 years, my customers telling me that they fondly remember the cake I made for them. I will constantly improve myself and learn new recipes and techniques, so that I can always deliver even more delicious and beautiful cakes.” She has followed through and has scripted her own destiny. Every cake she bakes is better and more beautiful than before. She has published her own cake book, “Baker’s Dozen”, teaches other aspiring bakers, and has brought joy into thousands of homes. Today, she has more than 2,000 glowing testimonials from grateful clients.

The third question is : How do I get there?

Answering this question helps you construct your ROADMAP or STRATEGY.

Once you have discovered your WHY and you have described your WHERE, your career roadmap helps you design your WHAT, decide your WHEN, and determine your HOW.

Your career roadmap will have three parts – tangible and quantifiable goals and milestones; realistic timelines; and the resources you need and the actions that you will take.

A roadmap is your GPS – it charts out the route to achieving your vision, it gives you the correct directions and the coordinates to follow.

It helps you figure out how to get there. It also gives you a way to determine how far you have come and how much more you have left to go.

It helps keep you from spending time on tasks that won’t bring you closer to your goal.

It helps you identify and focus on your priorities.

It gives you all the tools to achieve what you want.

Having a roadmap ensures that you will have no regrets when you get to the end. Once you have a roadmap, you can be confident that you will not be looking back and asking yourself “what if.”

My wife’s roadmap is straightforward. She lists specific goals she has to achieve every year. She learns all the time, online, and offline. She constantly stretches herself, trying new recipes and combinations, trying to find the perfect texture, the ultimate favour, the ideal filling. She writes a regular blog. She participates in fairs and exhibitions. Step by step, she has built her business from nothing to a point where the waiting list for her cakes exceeds 2 months and more. In traveling this journey, she feels and has always felt an awareness of purpose, a feeling of recognition, and a sense of fulfillment.

The answers to these three questions will change your life.

Who am I? Where do I want to go? How do I get there?

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

By Venkatraman Sheshashayee

Venkatraman Sheshashayee (Shesh) is an engineer by profession, an alumnus of DMET Kolkata and IIM Bangalore, has 33 years of professional experience in shipping, manufacturing, services and offshore logistics. He is a master in building greenfield companies, turning around distressed organizations and transforming stagnant operations. As a corporate leader, Shesh has created US$ 1.5 billion in realized value, mentored and coached over 600 professionals. He runs a boutique advisory that helps MSMEs, Start-ups and Professionals achieve their vision. Shesh runs ‘CEO Chronicles’, a popular blog that has been read and shared more than 100,000 times so far. He is a very seasoned writer based out of Singapore.