Understanding Vision vs. Goals

Ah, “Career Vision” versus “Career Goals.”  Every MBA’s worst nightmare.

Is there a difference between a goal and a vision? Kind of yes, and kind of no.

Harvard asks: What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

Wharton asks: What goals are you committed to and why?

Here’s how they’re BASICALLY the same:

In both, you’ll deliver a clear path forward with respect to what you want to DO when you grow up. The open-ended feel of “vision” doesn’t get you out of that one! That’s the goals/vision aspect.

In both, you will tie aspects of your past to your career dreams, showing us not just where the itch comes from but far more importantly, demonstrating that that itch will lead to your ultimate success. That’s the “why meaningful” or “why committed” aspect.

But there is a subtle difference, too.

When you’re talking about your vision, you’re describing how the puzzle pieces to your life and career allllll fit together. The vision is in not just knowing what those pieces are (which is hard by the way—takes serious thought and clarity), but how they snap together to form a complete picture.

When you’re talking about your goals, you are describing the mission: “Here’s what I intend to accomplish.”

The only difference then, and don’t feel too compelled to stretch this toooo far, is that there is an art to conceiving and executing a vision, versus identifying goals and achieving those. With the vision and the career arc, you are truly demonstrating an ability to picture a complex timeline, and show that you understand how each node affects the next one. With the goals, you are mostly focused on those future nodes. Explaining why they’re there, and proving that you’ll nail them.

To sum:

Vision = (1) identify the puzzle pieces and (2) show how they snap together.
Goals = (1) think Mission: Impossible, identify the objectives and (2) explain the significance of achieving them.

And that, my friends, is how you understand vision vs. goals.  Now I’ll let you get to those essays….

The Tuesday Q&A: ‘What Matters Most and Why’