The term “vision statement” refers to an explanation, usually in written form, of what a person or business wants to be or get done at some later point in time. It identifies goals, providing direction to activities and motivating people to move forward. People often confuse it with the mission statement, which simply explains an individual or company’s purpose for existing and which is more present-based. Although people usually associate it with businesses or other groups, a single person also can write one, especially to orient academic or career choices. Constructing them is fairly easy if a person fills out a basic formula including a time frame, objective and method.
A vision statement is a description of where a company or individual wants to be in the future. It also explains what the person or business wants to do or get done. These types of statements are usually short, with many being just one sentence. It is common for people to use them on business websites or company materials, as well as on resumes and applications.
These kinds of statements are important because they indicate the primary goals an individual or business has. They don’t always lay out a precise plan for how to achieve those goals, but by outlining objectives clearly, they make it possible to come up with strategies or techniques to move forward in a very specific direction. Their main purpose therefore is to orient everything a company or person does.
Vision statements are aspirational in nature because they always show where to go or what to do. The implication when someone writes one is that it is possible to achieve whatever dreams are listed. People can use them as a reminder that it’s not necessary to be stuck doing the same thing or to remain in the same place. This can generate even more ideas, dreams and goals and greatly increase both creativity and productivity.
Comparison to Mission Statement
People often confuse these descriptions for mission statements because both are based on the values that an individual or group has. This is partly because they sometimes get combined, depending on how concise someone is trying to be. The two terms are not interchangeable, however, because they have core differences.
Mission statements are always present based, talking about why a company or person exists and what they want to achieve in the here and now. They express the philosophies and principles behind any activities that are done, or they talk about what makes a service or product better than others, emphasizing quality. Geographical location, what is produced and who benefits usually are clearly defined. People usually write them because others want to get a sense of what the individual or group represents. In most cases, they don’t change very much over time.
By contrast, vision statements always look toward the future and describe where the group or individual wants their principles and philosophies to lead. They are designed to be internal, giving direction or inspiration to the person or group that created them, rather than to others in the community. The statements can change over time as new goals and objectives develop, but people usually write them in such a way that they can last for at least a few years.
As an example, a mission statement for a cell phone manufacturer might read something like, “Our company strives to produce affordable, high-quality mobile devices that fit into the contemporary lifestyle and hold maximum functionality.” The purpose or what the company does—make phones—is clear. The vision statement for the same business might read, “Big Phone Manufacturer aims to lead the mobile phone industry in both market share and sales as the nation’s largest mobile phone brand.” Here, the business explains what it wants the result of making phones to be.
Use by Individuals, Schools and Employers
Most people associate these explanations with a corporation or other organization, but individuals also write them for their personal benefit. The most common reason for doing this is to clarify what the person wants to do in his education or career. In fact, academic and career counselors recommend writing one as a way to provide some guidelines for the type of degree and work that might be suitable or make a person happy. It is relatively standard for people to put one at the beginning of their resumes.
Some schools ask applicants to complete a vision statement, often asking for students to expand their answers into full essays that include their experiences and motivations. Employers frequently ask for one from potential employees they’re interviewing, often phrasing the request as “Where do you see yourself in x years?,” “What do you want to accomplish in your career with us and beyond?” or “What personal and business goals do you have?” In either case, a leader makes the request to measure a person’s ambitions or skills and to figure out whether a person’s personal aspirations are a good fit to the school or company.
How to Write One
Coming up with a good vision statement starts with reflecting on the core values and purpose in the mission statement. Then a person has to think about where those elements could take him in the future. It’s best not to worry about how practical the content is at first, because people or groups often come up with new methods or technologies that let them accomplish what initially might look impossible.
Once someone knows where he wants to go or what he wants to do, he can use a basic formula to get a rough draft of the statement. The formula is: “In x years, [company or person] will [activity or achievement] by [techniques or strategies].” The last part of the formula often develops later and is sometimes left out entirely, because people have to do some research and analysis to see exactly what options are available and might be best. Many people see this section simply as problem solving, because it essentially asks, “How can I do what I’ve said I want to do?”