Vision plan

Create a 3-step vision plan

More than pie in the sky

by Stith Keiser

Kate Knutson, DVM, owner of AAHA-accredited Pet Crossing Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic in Bloomington, Minnesota, has a successful practice today—but she didn’t fare as well on her first job after veterinary school. She lasted all of 92 days.

Talk with other successful doctors and technicians, and you’ll hear similar stories over and over. Why? Because while people leave jobs for various reasons, many departures arise from the same root problem: failure to create a clear vision of where people want to go in life and how they want to get there.

Looking back, Knutson admits she made a lot of mistakes.

“I did everything wrong,” she says. “I just forgot that I was going to set goals and that I needed a vision. I basically took the job that offered me the most money, and it was a really bad fit.”

These days, Knutson takes the time to write and update vision plans for her practice and for herself.

“When I think of vision, I think of what it is I want to accomplish. When I think of vision planning, I guess I break it into two parts: my vision for my professional career and my vision for my personal life, and how those two are going to interface with each other,” Knutson says. “I’m a person who tends to work a lot, so my personal and professional [lives] are very much intertwined. I think for people who want to have a more balanced lifestyle, it’s very important to have two separate, articulated statements.”

Write your vision plan in three easy steps

Step 1: Know your values

Most future veterinarians and technicians worry more about passing boards and finding a position that will pay enough to cover their student loans than about their values-based expectations for their first job. The result can be a costly loss of time, money, and self-esteem.

For instance, had Knutson spent more time thinking about her personal and professional future and discussed those wishes with her first employer, both she and the practice owner would have realized there wasn’t a fit.

“I was asked to do things that did not resonate with my core values. I was asked to lie on a surgical record. I saw pets being placed in what I considered to be an abusive situation. Even though I hadn’t paid attention to them when I interviewed for the job, my core values [kicked in],” Knutson says. “I would go to work and vomit because I was so freaked out and upset.”

Today, Knutson makes it a priority to discuss core values with job applicants. Because all graduates won’t be so lucky, it’s a good idea to know what your values are before you interview for or accept a job.

Step 2: Determine your vision’s scope

Although Knutson opts to write two vision plans—one personal, the other professional—it is possible to merge your career and personal hopes for the future into one document.

To begin the process, make a list of how you’d like your future to be. There’s no need to write long, intricate sentences—bullet points are just fine, though you can certainly write more at this point if you wish.

If you’re writing two vision plans, make one list of everything you’d like to occur in your personal/family life and one list of everything you’d like to occur in your career. If you’re writing one vision plan, a single list will suffice.

Step 3: Write your vision plan

Some people write vision plans that begin with, “To do X, I will . . . ” and others adopt a different style. Don’t get caught up in how your vision plan should look. Rather, summarize the list, or lists, you created earlier into a few short paragraphs that inspire, compel, motivate, and excite you.

Share your vision plan with a friend or mentor if you like, but don’t start editing and finessing the text to please someone else. This vision plan is your guide. It reflects who you are, what you value, and where you want to be.

"The point of vision planning is to find a lifestyle and a job that works for you," says Kristin Raboin, DVM. “Studies show that people who enjoy their jobs are more productive at work and have happier lives outside of work. Dream jobs don’t always come along serendipitously. Establishing core values, setting short- and long-term goals, establishing a job wish list, and learning how to communicate these ideas can help you create a timeline and a vision.”

Now, put your vision plan to use

Okay, now you’ve written and reviewed your vision plan and you’re pretty happy with the way it sounds. So, what do you do with it?

If you frame it and hang it on the wall, odds are it won’t do much good. Instead, use it to put important decisions in context.

There’s a good chance a strong vision plan will give you an edge while you’re jobhunting because interviewers will likely be impressed by someone who knows who she is and what she wants to do with her life. But even if it doesn’t help you snag the job of your dreams, a strong vision plan will help you avoid the job of your nightmares.

Above all, be sure to update your vision plan as necessary. Don’t feel locked into fulfilling a vision you created years ago when your values and circumstances may have been different.