Most everyone has dreams about what they want to accomplish. In the perfect sense these aspirations are what get us up each day and keep us pushing forward. The fact one wants to be a really good kindergarten teacher sustains that person through what is sometimes the drudgeries of the required education. The fact someone wants to own their own business someday gives them the drive to work in the background of another business while they are learning the ropes. It can be hard sometimes, however, to hold on to the larger dreams when they seem far away and buried under the requirements of the day. This is why we all need a clear understanding of the difference between where we want to go ultimately and what it takes to get there.

Sadly, the omnipresence of social media plays a discouraging role for many in this pursuit. Both the propensity for people only to put great things about their life on their media feeds and the fact that on any given day one can see a gifted prodigy of sorts doing something amazing can lead a person to feeling that they are missing out or are not experiencing the success that others are experiencing. Although we may not like it the fact remains true that for most people the important achievements in one’s professional life are still earned and not given. This means that generally they don’t happen overnight but instead come in time as natural rewards for sustained efforts. This also means one has to have a defined perspective in order to have the type of patience it takes to achieve the most meaningful goals. This perspective has to include a healthy look at having both long and short term goals which align together to weave the tapestry of a meaningful career. One way to think of this is as having both a mission and a purpose to one’s life. These words are often interchanged but have two different meanings. A mission is something that has clear objectives and an end date inherent to it. A purpose is something more aspirational, something that is continually being refined and pursued. Here is how these two can apply toward your goals.

A mission is a season (can be months or years) where one has a deep focus on a specific set of objectives.

These objectives can be a very defined set of talents or skills to develop, utilize, or leverage in order to get one to their next defined goal. In one’s work this can serve to provide incentive to some of the drudgeries and routines. What one most often finds is the one who is trustworthy, efficient, and action-oriented are the ones who get the next leadership opportunities. The ones who gripe about their work while doing only the minimal amount to get by will be the ones who later also gripe about being overlooked for promotions. Staying steady and solving problems is what gets one noticed. Sometimes one will get overlooked and when that happens one simply has to buckle down and seek to demonstrate they should not be overlooked in the future. It’s this steady series of missions, of being the best one can at what is important in the current job that moves people ahead toward future opportunities.

So, if this is the way it works for most people then what role do the sometime drudgeries play? Why does one have to wait on opportunities to do more of what they want to do? Though not always fun there is great value and possible unseen opportunity in the “mission” aspects of one’s career. Here are a few:

  • It’s one of the best chances for problem-solving you will have. While it’s true not many entry level positions are empowered to change things a good organization realizes this is the front-line and problems and challenges presented here are ones that need to be solved. Many of the challenges here deal either with a large volume of processes or are the “face” of the company to a customer. In either of these scenarios if something is wrong it is ultimately costing the company. Watching, learning, and helping solve issues a manager may not be seeing is the first way most people get noticed. In this season simply taking a step back, watching, and learning how and when to speak into the processes can be part of one’s initial mission.
  • It’s a chance to connect with opportunities you didn’t know existed. Let’s face it, when one chooses a major they most often have only the broadest of understanding of what the ultimate vocation they are pursuing actually does. What a business most often values are the specialists who understand the niches and nuances. The best college education or corporate internship won’t teach one this. The first couple of positions in a company can expose someone to areas they didn’t know existed and skills they didn’t even knew they had. Strengthening oneself in these areas can be a difference maker in one’s career and choosing a couple of new skills to develop can be part of one’s season of mission.
  • It’s the chance to be mentored by someone in the organization. Internal intellectual property (or IP) isn’t just a legal term, it’s a reality and threat within every business. Invariable only certain people know how certain things get done and leave big gaps in knowing the processes when they leave. Spotting these and learning about them can be part of one’s short-term missions and can position one for opportunities as they come in the future.

In essence your missions are a series of seasons which connect together to reflect your purpose. That doesn’t mean every season’s mission is a perfect alignment to your overall purpose. In fact, sometimes the mission seasons are as valuable for teaching one what they don’t want to do before they get too deep into it as a profession. The important thing is for one to see each season’s mission as the opportunity that it reflects as it moves toward fulfilling a great purpose.

We’ll dive into that aspect in part 2!