Students and Vision Boards

How Students Can Harness Vision Boards to Land Great Careers

If you’ve chosen a major, or even if you haven’t, figuring out how to get where you want to go in your future career is no easy task.  Creating a business- and goal-oriented vision board can help.

Chances are if you’re familiar with vision boards, it’s because you heard a celebrity endorsing the almost-magical powers of these colorful, image-laden posters.  But vision boards are not just for the rich and the famous, and they aren’t magic. Anyone — even, and especially students — can harness them as a useful tool for attaining goals.

A vision board is a representation of your aspirations in life whose purpose is to depict and lead you to your desired future.  In other words, it’s a way to help you in your career planning, career goals, and first job search. A vision board is literally a board that contains images of what you want to attain or achieve. It’s a concrete item that can help you stay focused on your goals.

Here, we offer some tips for how students can use vision boards for career planning.

Think about what you want out of your career

The first step in creating your vision board is deceptively simple.  You should just be able to quickly come up with a couple career goals and go from there, right?  

Well, not so fast.  Your vision board won’t help you if it’s not an accurate representation of things that you really, truly want to achieve.  So take as much time as you need to come up with a list of what you would like to have in your future career. Are you looking for a career that will allow you to travel?  Would you like to eventually lead and manage others? Perhaps you want to have the opportunity to impact your local community.

You can also do this in reverse — by considering what it is you don’t want.  Maybe you hate working with numbers or have decided that you really don’t want your first job to be in your hometown (hey, we won’t fault you.)  

Once you’ve come up with a list of goals and aspirations for your future career, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Clarify your vision

Vision boards work best when they have direction.  Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of what you want out of your career, let’s narrow it down a bit.  

Your vision board can help you picture your goals and how you’ll reach them.  You can focus it on either broad aspirations, such as achieving a first job that lets you travel frequently, or on more specific desires, such as landing a job in the nonprofit sector in San Diego.  It’s completely up to you which approach would benefit you best at this point.

It’s also important that your vision board represents goals that you believe you can achieve, and that it depicts steps you’ll take along the way to getting there.  This is crucial to keep your board from becoming simply a depiction of pie-in-the-sky dreams that you may or may not realize — after all, the point of a vision board is to help you attain your dreams, not to simply provide another way for you to daydream in class.

But, that doesn’t mean you should aim low!  If you dream of being an executive someday, why not put that on your board?  If you want to work overseas, who are you to say it won’t happen? Your vision board is not the place to shoot down your aspirations.  It should be a place to celebrate your career goals and a helpful tool to remind yourself of how you’ll achieve them.

Amy Latta, a coach, speaker and author based in St. Louis, uses a vision board and encourages her clients to do so as well.  One trick she swears by is incorporating some things she wants, but already has, into her vision board.

“Those other things become much more attainable when you realize you already have half of it,” she said.  “You already have so much that you do want. You’re less likely to say that you don’t think it’ll happen or that it’s too hard.”

Create your career vision board

Now it’s time to tap into your inner collage artist/kindergartner.  So grab your glue stick and let’s get started!

You can use a variety of bases for your vision board.  Poster boards work well, but you can also use a large white board or chalkboard with magnetic clips, or any sort of large frame or board to which you can attach a lot of pictures.

Next, you’ll need at least a couple of magazines or newspapers (yes, the old-fashioned kind with real ink) and a pair of scissors.  Start flipping through them and clipping any images that can represent the career goals you want to depict on your vision board, as well as the steps you’ll take to achieve them.  For instance, if you’re going to include on your board that you want to attain a marketing job in Boston and one way you’ll do that is by projecting confidence in your interviews, look for images that represent marketing, confidence, and Boston.  The range of images for these three items is huge — maybe you’ll find a picture of someone in a Red Sox cap, a product with a successful marketing campaign or a confident-looking professional in a business suit.

Don’t limit your images solely to pictures, either.  A headline or a colorful graphic can be just as useful a representation of your goals as a photograph.

Spend as much time as you need finding the right images for your career goals.  Perhaps you’ll dedicate an entire evening or afternoon to this exercise, or maybe you’ll work on it over the course of the week.  Either way, you’ll have more success using your vision board if you feel that the images are good representations of what you want to achieve.

Using your vision board

Like any other project to help you reach your goals, a career vision board is useless if you don’t actively use it.  Once you’ve completed your board, identify a place to hang or mount it where you’ll see it every day. This could be on your door, next to your bed, on the fridge — anywhere that you’re likely to look at it.     

Once a day, take a look at your vision board and spend a minute or two reminding yourself of your career goals and how you’ll reach them.  This should be a positive, fun exercise. Keep the focus on what you want to achieve, rather than dwelling on past failures and outcomes you want to avoid.  The idea is to direct your concentration and attention to your goals on a regular basis so you’ll be more likely to reach them.

Silvia Mordini, a writer and happiness coach, uses vision boards and attests to the importance of doing this regularly.

“We can’t hit targets that we can’t see,” she said.  “You have to see what you’re aiming at. Creating a vision board is the bulls-eye.” 

You will probably find that over time, your career goals change and that your board may no longer be an accurate representation of what you want to achieve.  And that’s OK! If you take an architecture course next semester and discover that architecture is your true passion, don’t be afraid to change your vision board or create a new one to reflect that.  A career vision board should be an evolving entity — just like you and your career goals.