Make sure you're sitting comfortably. Let's begin!
If you already have your dream job, the following guide is not for you. You've reached the pinnacle of your working life, so you don't need any of our advice. You've fulfilled your working destiny and now all that's left to do is reap the countless rewards. Congrats!
However, if there's more you want to achieve, you've come to the right place. Visualisation can support your career progression and make the path ahead crystal clear. Want to know more about its power? In the following guide, we look at the science behind this technique, the benefits you can expect, and the simple approaches you can use to get started.
The science behind visualisation
Forget everything you've heard before now… visualisation isn't magic.
We're not talking about imagining your dream career and a recruiter calling you up the next day. Before we go any further into how you can make visualisation work for you, we need to do some quick housework. Let's take a look at the relevant research here.
The concept of visualisation rests upon the idea that when you imagine doing something, it activates the same part of your brain as when you actually do it.
Need a little help understanding what we mean? Okay. Picture yourself eating a delicious pizza. We're talking the cheesiest, tastiest slice you've ever had. Is your mouth watering?
That's the power of visualisation. And, luckily enough, there's science to back it up.
First up, one study suggests that certain mental practices are almost as effective as physical practices. The groundbreaking research compared actual gym-goers to a group of people who merely visualised doing a workout from the comfort of a chair. While those who physically worked out built a massive 30% of muscle strength, those who thought about working out increased their strength by 13.5%. Yes, simply by picturing exercising.
It's not merely about exercise, either. Research from Harvard found that when people thought about playing the piano, it activated the same parts of their brain as the physical act of playing the piano. Both of these activities caused grey matter to expand in their brains. To put that into simple terms, the above research suggests that you can achieve results - both physically and mentally - when you visualise yourself doing something.
As a disclaimer, that is by no means to say that visualising something you want will definitely make it happen. Sadly, we're not dealing with the supernatural here or the all-knowing forces of the universe. It's important to keep grounded when you're talking about what visualisation can do. It is merely a tool you can use when making decisions.
So, what is visualisation and how can it help your career?
Now that we've covered visualisation in general terms, let's talk about how it pertains to your career. In the research we've covered, the activity is a hobby - sports or playing an instrument. However, you can use visualisation techniques in your professional life.
If you've ever been confronted with the old “Where do you see yourself in five years?” interview question, you'll know the deal. Figuring out how you want your career to go can be tough. You may struggle to see past the coming weeks or months. So, how on earth are you supposed to know where your job will take you in years to come?
Career visualisation is exactly what it says on the tin. As we've covered above, you can use visualisation to work toward your general goals. The same is true when it comes to your job and where you see yourself in the future. Since many of us find it hard to envision where our careers are going, the techniques - which we will cover shortly - can help you out.
The benefits of career visualisation
Before we delve into how you can use career visualisation, let's talk about why you should do it. It's not simply about imagining your dream job and hoping for the best. No, there are some key benefits when it comes to using visualisation when planning your career path. If you're itching to give it a try, here's what you can expect.
Determine what you want from your career
Do you find it hard to decide what you want from your career? You're not alone in this struggle. In 2021 alone, 30% of UK professionals switched jobs, industries, or careers. It's perfectly normal to have no clue how you want to spend every day. In the infamous words of Baz Luhrman, “The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.”
If you fall into the category of an altogether “interesting person,” don't worry. That's a good enough place to start. When you use career visualisation, it can help you to unlock the inner aspirations that you didn't know you had. Essentially, it means going back to the drawing board. When you were a child, chances are, you had no problem envisioning yourself as a firefighter, a singer, a lorry driver… you get the picture. Now that you're all grown up, you can use visualisation to determine what it is you really want to do next.
Understand the steps you need to take
Once you've pinpointed where you want to be career-wise, you can start mapping out the steps that you need to take. Job paralysis happens when we haven't any idea what we want to do with our lives. That's a problem. However, when you have a clear view of your dream job, you can start breaking down the process of landing it. Take it step by step.
That may mean undertaking extra training, going back to university, or starting a new apprenticeship. Finding the right route for you can start to fall into place once you know what the destination is. That's not to say that it will be an easy journey. However, when you've visualised where you want to be in the future, you can start making an action plan.
Increase your career confidence levels
Are you down in the dumps when it comes to your career? If you're finding each work-day a slog, you need to do something about it. While any job can feel monotonous if you do it for long enough, there's a way to shake things up. When you start to use visualisation techniques, you can increase your confidence levels when it comes to your daily job.
Give yourself a quick motivation boost
While we're on the subject of getting yourself into a slump, here's something that you may not have considered. At times, merely finding the motivation to get through the day can be difficult. However, when you start visualising the professional future you want, that can change. Understanding that you can gain more from your work is half of the battle.
Having that future job in your mind's eye may help to give you the motivation you need right now. It's no longer about the short-term future - i.e. finishing the day in one piece - it's about the long-term goal that you're working towards. When you focus your energy and efforts on that, you should find that you get the spur of motivation you've been lacking.
Lower your everyday stress and anxiety
Feeling stressed out? If your day job makes you feel all kinds of negativity, it can impact every area of your life. When you figuratively “clock off” for the weekend, you may still find that your mind wanders back to the workplace. You're thinking of all of the tasks you need to complete in the coming week, that awkward chat you need to have with your manager, and the paperwork that has been piling up for too long. It's a mental health minefield.
Career visualisation takes you out of the here and now. Rather than stressing about the next email you're going to send, it gives you the opportunity to figure out where you're heading. Much like a meditation practice, this move allows you to have a quick rest from the immediate pressures of your work in favour of considering what the future holds.
Start seeing the bigger professional picture
Are you guilty of small thinking? There's a whole load to be said for living in the moment. However, when it comes to your professional life, it pays to take a step back. Seeing the bigger picture means that you can start to plan and strategise. It's important to set aside some time to make sure that you're setting serious goals for the years to come.
Visualisation techniques to manifest your dream job
Want to get started with some visualisation techniques? If you're looking for a way to think outside the box, there are some strategies that you can try. While there are many different ways to visualise what you want from your career, we're going to look at some examples for beginners. With that in mind, here are some activities you can give a whirl.
Use some freeform writing exercises
First up, you might want to unleash your inner writer. Putting pen to paper often allows us to unlock inner thoughts, feelings, and desires that we didn't know we had. Before you get started with this one, you'll need to find a quiet place in which to relax and have some peace. Interruptions will ruin your flow. When you've done that, you should set a 10 minute timer and start freeform writing. You can use one of these prompts to get started.
“My dream job would be…”
“If I could achieve anything this year, it would be…”
“When I look back on my career, I want to feel…”
“Next year, I would like to…”
“My main goal in life is to…”
“The skills I am most proud of are…”
The key to this visualisation technique is not to judge what you're writing. The words that appear on the paper in front of you may surprise you. Let them come out naturally. You can try just one of the above prompts or give a few a go. Each one is designed to help you unlock how you feel about your current working situation and what you want to change.
Try meditating and thinking about the future
Want to take a more holistic approach? If you're already comfortable with meditation practices, you may find that this works for you. Set aside a few minutes each day to meditate and consider what you want from the future. You may find that it's helpful to do this in the morning, when your mind is fresh and before you start the working day.
Now, you can use a soundtrack to meditate or do it in silence. The key here is to give yourself the literal headspace to figure out what you want from your job. As you sit, allow your mind to wander freely from thought to thought. Rather than getting caught up in the stress of the day to come, think about where you want to be. Daydream about what your ideal job would be, if you were able to pick any position in the future.
Create some short-term goal cards
Back when you were at school, you might have used flashcards to help you study. You know the ones - we're talking about the small, colourful cards that you write on. Get yourself a pack of them from a stationery shop and try this visualisation technique.
For this one, you want to think about the small, short-term goals that you hope to achieve. These may well be the steps that you need to take to land your dream job. When you've written down your goals, read them aloud. With each card, close your eyes and imagine how you will feel when you've reached that goal. Do this whenever you need inspiration.
Create a vision board for your career
When you have an idea of your dream job, you can create a vision board. This can take on any medium you choose. You can make it on Pinterest or create a collage to hang in your room. The choice is yours. Your vision board should contain imagery (and maybe some text!) that perfectly illustrates the future career that you want. Here are some tips:
Pick out images that inspire you and illustrate your dream job
Make use of colours and textures to create the right vibe
Get down to the nitty-gritty details - be specific in each image
Use positive affirmations or quotes on the board
Create a complete image that inspires and motivates you
Once you've created your vision board, you can hang it somewhere prominent in your home. That way, you'll see it on a daily basis. Keep in mind that this board can change and be edited as much as you like. If you decide on a new plan, you can add to it.
Imagine you have already reached your goals
One of the most popular visualisation strategies is to imagine that you already have what you want. For example, if you want to become a Head Chef - but you're a Pot Washer right now - imagine how it would feel to take the pan by the handle. Close your eyes and picture the day that you take over as the undisputed king or queen of the kitchen. How will you feel when you finally get to set the menu? What emotions does that stir up inside you?
This particular visualisation technique is all about tapping into your imagination. Try to make the scenario as real as possible in your mind. Believe that you can smell the food around you, hear the sounds of the fryers, and see the dishes that you're whipping up. The more vivid your imagination, the more deeply you will start to feel these positive emotions.
Career visualisation is a savvy way to unlock your inner professional desires. If you feel as though your career has come to a stand-still, you can use the techniques we've just highlighted to get things moving in the right direction once again. Keep in mind that we're all unique and that what works for one person may not work for the next. Why not try out the approaches above and see which of them aligns with your personality?
Ready to take the next step in your career journey? To help you along the way, why not submit your CV for a free CV review by our expert CV writers? Iron out the creases before you send it off to recruiters and fulfil your vision faster!