“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
– Gloria Steinem
As we near the year’s end, you are no doubt going through the motions. Each day you work through your to-do list with the singular goal of staying on top of things. There is no time to reset or realign, and if there were, you wouldn’t have the energy. So you continue going through the motions as each day blurs into the other and your motivation slowly disappears.
How do we know this? Because we feel it too. So, to renew our energy for the remainder of what has simply been an extraordinary year, we spoke to APAC Inclusion and Diversity Leader at Amazon Web Services, Lauren Jauncey, and Grace Papers executive coach, Amanda Meehan, about how to create a professional vision for the future, why it’s important to have one, and who to communicate it to. As feminist activist, Gloria Steinem once said, “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Getting clear on your priorities today, will set the tone for the rest of 2020. Contrary to popular belief, it’s far from over.
The Power of a Professional Vision
Lauren Jauncey has three daughters, a husband, and an impressive job in Singapore working for one of the biggest tech companies in the world. This didn’t happen by accident. While working at Australia Post and before she had three children to raise, Lauren created her professional vision.
A professional vision is one of Grace Papers’ signature tools. It provides people with a deeper understanding of their values and a consciousness of their gifts, talents and abilities. It also provides people with an opportunity to reflect on their achievements and space to really imagine their potential. Once people take the time to map out their professional vision, they reemerge with an agency that comes from knowing just how talented they are. There’s also a newfound confidence that comes from knowing where they want to go.
“It’s going through that process of really articulating what you want and being brave in doing that,” said Jauncey. “When you’re very clear on the elements of a role and a career that you would like it to have, it helps you assess the opportunities around you as to whether they’re leading you towards your professional vision or leading you away from it.”
Part of Jauncey’s vision was to work in an international position while her children were still in primary school. She spent the next few years at Australia Post, before becoming a consultant in the diversity and inclusion space. Earlier this year, she was appointed to APAC Inclusion and Diversity Leader at Amazon Web Services and moved to Singapore just before the pandemic hit.
“This opportunity actually came through a personal network. So in doing my vision, I shared that with my husband and I shared that with other people who I’m very close to,” said Jauncey. Her husband’s best friend, who works for Amazon Web Services in Melbourne, told the AWS recruiter in Singapore that Jauncey was interested in an international job opportunity in the diversity and inclusion space. Soon Jauncey was going through the Amazon recruitment process.
“Don’t be afraid to put your vision out there, because you know what? There’s a good chance it’ll come true,” said Jauncey. “It’s not that I’ve powered through and tried to get to that vision. It was more that I put it out there to the world. Through a fortunate series of different events, I’ve landed this job.”
Fostering Sponsorship and Communicating your Vision
The diversity and inclusion leader believes a professional vision cannot be fully utilized without a strong network. Every major job opportunity she has received has come through a personal connection.
“I think it’s really important that we stay connected with our supporters along the way,” said Jauncey. “You develop a whole range of supporters through your career at all different levels of leadership. I’m always really careful and conscious of keeping connected with those people.”
Sponsorship is a two-way relationship, however employees often make the mistake of thinking they have nothing to offer the relationship. In fact, research from Harvard Business Review reveals men are 46 percent more likely to have a sponsor than women because women often see the process as ‘using’ someone to get ahead. In reality, sponsors are usually leaders, and all leaders need followers. Leaders also need people who can pass on information about different levels of the organisation. So don’t underestimate the power of your role in the relationship – and continue to invest in it.
“I always think of sponsors as the ones who advocate for you when you’re not in the room,” said Jauncey. “You need to build that trust and you need to build those stories with them. So you can’t just decide that you want someone to be your sponsor. You’ve got to earn that trust and earn that right. They need to know and feel confident that they can talk on your behalf. So think about the people who know your work and know what you do really well and utilize them as your sponsors.”
Once you have sponsors you can rely on and reach out to, communicate your professional vision to them. Jauncey would not have her current position without communicating her professional vision to her current network.
If there is fear around speaking about your professional vision, remember this valuable piece of advice from Grace Papers’ executive coach Amanda Meehan: “The beautiful thing about a professional vision is it can’t be judged, because they’re your values, they’re your professional assets. You’re not telling anyone that you’re good. You’re telling someone what you’re proud of and who you are and the values you hold. And none of those things can be judged because they’re yours. So there’s something in making sure you do, in fact, share it on that basis and with the confidence that it can’t be judged or belittled or challenged in any way – because it’s just you.”
So as we head into the last few months of 2020, what active steps can we take to reinvigorate our approach to the rest of the year and set ourselves up for 2021?
Write your professional vision: A professional vision is a grown up way of answering the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up and why?’ It’s a bit like a career navigation system, anchoring you to your values and your family’s priorities, while still enabling you to stay true to the dream of what your career could look like. Doing this now will present your potential and help you look forward to 2021 with the agency and ability to go for the things you want. It will also help you de-prioritise the things that aren’t leading you toward your vision.
Define your ‘work-life’ blend: As most of us are still working from home, now is the time to define how we would like to work going forward. Maybe that is 100 percent at home or 100 percent in the office or a blend of both. Take the time to envision what will work going forward, so when the time comes to make your case, you are ready. “Let’s be really strategic about creating our ‘work-life’ blend and let’s define that now,” said Jauncey. “Let’s not get sucked back into, ‘Oh yep, everyone’s back in the office now. You’ve got to have bums on seats. That’s the way that work needs to be.’ We don’t have to go back there. We’ve got this beautiful opportunity to reset ourselves and define what that looks like.”
Communicate your vision to a sponsor: Don’t let the fatigue of 2020 hold you back from communicating what you want and where you want to go. If you’re feeling tired, anxious or stressed, chances are your sponsor is feeling the same way. Don’t ignore it, address it. Use it as a point of connection and then discuss where you would like to go (in spite of the uncertainty 2020 has provided) and seek out their advice on how to get there.