Developing a Personal Mission Statement

My direct supervisor is fantastic. She is incredibly well versed in management, leadership, psychology, and librarianship and it’s a pleasure to work for her. My position is relatively unique in the world of academic librarianship because I work for a large university on the campus of a local state college. There are (soon to be) six other librarians in the same position at my institution, and we operate as a distinct sub-group from the librarians at our main campus location. We meet monthly either in person or via online meeting software to discuss issues/concerns, share ideas, and how to make our work more valuable to ourselves and our libraries.

Again, I feel fortunate to have this team to bounce ideas off and interact with. We have a meeting in early November that will last most of the day, and our supervisor has tasked us with developing our own personal mission statements as librarians. She provided us with a worksheet to help us develop these statements. I tried to search for the mission statements of other librarians and found a dearth of them. I found three from school librarians that were published at the same time, which makes me wonder if they were in response to a workshop or conference. I did find one site that from USC that discussed “Your Philosophy of Librarianship” which was helpful, but was written in the context of their specific promotion requirements.

They provided a slide show and I found this slide to be particularly relevant to my quest to write my own mission statement:

Slide
I did some research on personal mission statements, and again found nothing from libraryland that was useful or relevant. That’s okay, I think it’s important to pull in research from various fields when digging in to a topic. I found quite a few articles on helping students develop personal mission statements in courses like Business, Academic Success, Medicine, and others. One article in that vein was particularly interesting and it discussed a very specific six step process that the professor used to elicit mission statements from his students, although there weren’t enough specifics for it to be helpful in my own statement development. (Citation: Douglas, M.E. (1994). Matching personal mission statements with corporate mission statements. Journal of Management Education, 18(2), 241-245.). I appreciated how the author made it clear to his students that they should seek employment with organizations whose mission statements align with their own.

I think it’s important to know why you are doing something that takes a significant amount of time, thought, and effort. Of course, my supervisor provided some rationale when assigning the project, but I wanted some other perspectives. I should mention that the actual assignment is to print our statements without identifying information so we can pass them around and try to figure out who wrote each one, the Psychology undergrad in me can’t wait for this! A 1992 article from Training & Development stated that “A mission statement can help keep you from investing time, energy, and other resources in activities that are inconsistent with where you want to go.” (Morrisey, G. L. (1992). Your personal mission statement: A foundation for your future. Training & Development, 46(11), 71-73). I like this statement because it gives a real sense of purpose to the activity and makes the case that spending time now to develop a mission statement can save time later in your life.

The same article points out that the process of crafting a personal mission statement is as important, if not more so, than the end result. I am a firm believer in the power of self-reflection, as evidenced by this blog, and I feel strongly that the process of crafting a mission statement is valuable to me as a librarian and as a person. In fact, I intend to do this twice: once with a focus on myself as a librarian, and again on myself as a whole. The article also discusses the importance of having input from others once you’ve done the process on your own, and I think the way this particular exercise is structured will do just that. We have the opportunity to be reviewed by our peers, and have the experience facilitated by someone who can help bring the pieces together.

Another article I consulted was by Dr. Robert D. Ramsey from a 2003 issue of Supervision. (Ramsey, R. D. (2003). Do you need your own mission statement?. Supervision, 64(12), 12-14.). I liked this article because it was short, motivational, and contained the author’s personal mission statement. Ramsey provides a list of questions that a mission statement should answer and a list of ten aspects of a good personal mission statement. He discussed creating physical reminders of your mission statement (posters, wallet cards, etc.) and how this effort is designed to “keep the map of your life in full view along the journey”. His personal mission statement is comprised of one short statement, a list of areas to act on most directly (vaguer than goals but similar), and ends with a list of personal affirmations. One of his affirmations struck me as the key to this whole exercise: “I will put my ladders against the right walls”. One cannot do this until one knows which walls are the most personally meaningful and significant, and a personal mission statement seems to be the best way to elucidate this.

The final article I consulted examined more than personal mission statements, and focused on the use of various self-assessment tools by faculty to enhance their work. (Trujillo, J. M. (2009). Understanding who you are and how you work: the role of self-assessment. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 1(1), 10-16.) The author starts with a discussion of personality, interest, skills, and values inventories including one of my favorites: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I have participated in workshops based on the MBTI at other places I’ve worked, and I think it’s a telling and valuable tool. I just recently re-tested myself and I am solidly an INFJ, although my I isn’t as strong as it used to be! Measures such as these are a good first step because they are a more passive form of self-reflection that can lead to greater self-insight.

The author discusses other types of self-assessment that aren’t as relevant to this discussion. Her section on personal mission statements doesn’t add much to the previous literature; however the focus on academia is helpful in my case. Two of the tips she provides that I especially liked were to keep it positive and make it encompassing of your personal and professional lives to make sure they aren’t contradictory. She also refers to an online mission statement builder from Franklin-Covey, and I gave that a try. It’s a series of questions relating to various aspects of a mission statement. When you finish the exercise you get a summary of your responses that’s worded to reflect a traditional mission statement. This exercise was a good starting point for me, along with answering the questions that appeared in the aforementioned articles.

I haven’t yet written my personal mission statement, and I intend to share it on the blog when I do. I have been working on an essay for a faculty publication here, and in that essay I write about my personal ethos of librarianship. I think this is different from a mission statement, to use traditional lingo I’d see that as more of a vision statement. It is and will always be a work in progress, but here’s where I am with it right now: The central focus of my personal ethos of librarianship is that my role is to educate others on the information landscape. This includes discussions on curiosity, the power of authority, engaging in scholarly dialogues, and clearly elucidating ones information needs. I will keep this in mind as I synthesize the different exercises I’ve completed into a personal mission statement, and I look forward to sharing it with you when it’s ready.

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One thought on “Developing a Personal Mission Statement

  1. Pingback: Personal Mission Revealed | Digital Carrie

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