Here’s Why You Should Encourage Employees to Write to Their Future Selves

It may sound peculiar but it's very effective.

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

Self-appraisal is a powerful tool for employees, and we found a way to help facilitate this for our people. Several years ago, we partnered with Jan Torrisi-Mokwa, author of the book Building Career Equity, to integrate her philosophy of career equity into the firm’s performance management and career development processes.

Career equity is a framework that provides tools and strategies to keep people on a path toward doing engaging work and fulfilling the careers and lives they envision. This framework, which includes the concept of a three-year letter, has had a powerful effect on our employees as an acceleration tool for both professional and personal growth.

Writing a letter to your future self.

To attain the results we want, we must have a clear vision of what success looks like. Articulating this vision helps us make decisions toward achieving what matters most to us.

The three-year letter is how we encourage our people to express this vision. The letter is written in present tense, as though the writer has already realized success. It defines their vision of the future, both inside their role at the company and in their personal lives.

The three-year letter is not a meaningless exercise. Countless examples show that writing a letter to your future self can help you achieve your goals and help you make better decisions.

Employees are encouraged to share their three-year letter with their career advisor, a go-to colleague at the firm who is specifically invested in their career growth. The letter can be used as part of annual review discussions or while setting performance goals.

The three-year letter may even include leaving the company and fulfilling a different dream, such as opening a brewery — and that’s okay! We want to have those conversations to set up our people for success.

Employees may also consider sharing their letter with other people in their network, such as family, friends, mentors, and other co-workers who may be influential in their goals. We call this group a career board of directors, and we encourage our employees to cultivate this group as an important career resource.

Our employees are then encouraged to revisit their letter every few months to check in with the progress they are making toward their goals. The letter is a living document and can be updated as needed, such as when an employee experiences a significant life change or reaches a specific goal.

Blending the personal and professional.

We’re passionate about giving employees the chance to own their career and want them to utilize their time with the company as a place to grow and reach their potential.

Our culture is built on the belief that investing in our people and building the next generation of leaders is key to our success. We also know our employees will be happier and more driven if they find time for things that recharge them outside the office.

It’s standard practice for firms to implement an annual review cycle, but we wanted to take it one step further and facilitate a transparent dialogue with every employee on their personal and professional goals. An important component of the three-year letter is to empower our employees to think of their career and personal life holistically, rather than as two separate facets.

Towards a holistic approach to career development.

At its heart, career equity involves helping employees build a path toward the career and life they are aiming to achieve.

Owning your career by writing a letter to the “future you” is a powerful tool to help establish concrete goals and make a mental connection between present-day decisions and the future. It’s incredibly insightful to read it back after three years, and it can be motivating to see the goals you set for yourself come to fruition.

While we have embedded this concept into our talent development process, a three-year letter is something anyone can write. Have you written a letter to your future self, and did it help you achieve your goals? Let me know.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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