Big Picture Thinking for Young Professionals

Tips for developing big-picture thinking on the squiggly path to success.

By Linda Midigo

I left my whole life and Economics degree behind in Nairobi and travelled thousands of kilometers to the tiny, but mighty holiday island of Mauritius to pursue a 5-year Engineering degree. At the end of that road, I realized I needed to put things into perspective to chart the path ahead of me.

Often, I like to visualize my life 10 years from where I am, envisioning the kind of career I want and even the networks that I want to have. Life is full of uncertainty and no one really knows how things are going to eventually turn out, but with this kind of thinking, I have motivated myself to work towards my goals and map out the reasonable small steps that I have to take to achieve the desired goals.

As young professionals, it is tempting to live in the moment and take up random opportunities that present themselves to us even if they don’t exactly align with our predetermined goals. This is okay if what’s on the table is the only option. However, if you could choose, would said opportunity be in line with what you want for yourself 5 years from now? Perhaps, or perhaps not.

Remember: the path to success is a squiggly line.

To get us off on the right foot, let’s look at how to develop this big-picture kind of thinking:

  • Start journaling or vision boarding. When you put your thoughts on paper or visualize them with images, then you can easily identify where your plan is failing or how it can be shaped to fit the bigger picture.
  • Keep an eye out for distractions. There will always be changes happening around you that could shift your focus from the bigger picture. Identify habits that limit your big-picture thinking ability so you can scrutinize any new developments with wisdom.
  • Find a suitable mentor or coach to help facilitate your thinking. We’re fortunate to have such support at The Room through Pathfinders and other members who are more advanced in their careers. You can even use them as benchmarks to help you see the bigger picture.

Of course, there are challenges with this kind of thinking:

  • Other people around you might think your ideas are unrealistic or unachievable and that may make you feel like you’re going down the wrong path. Believe in yourself regardless.
  • You can become so focused on reaching point Z that you forget all about steps A, B, C and the rest. Make retrospection a habit.
  • The worst of all is losing your passion and drive to accomplish your goals due to hurdles along the way, some of which you can’t avoid. Remember: the path to success is a squiggly line.

As we tread this path, I encourage young people like me who constantly see peers with new, flashy job titles and companies to drown out any feelings of inadequacy and remember that our stories are so different. There is never really a timeline or manual for success. While others may get their big break right after graduating from college, others get it later on in their lives after they have had other careers. Both are okay.

Like Anne Sweeney says, “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”

Artificial Intelligence enthusiast and ALU graduate Linda Midigo is passionate about data science and how businesses can leverage intelligence software to make informed decisions. As a rising professional who is walking the path of self-discovery, growth and holistic development, Linda believes in the importance of sharing her journey with other young professionals and opening up about the mindset that gives her the freedom to face the future with confidence.

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