“Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”
It’s the interview question I hate the most.
Where I actually see myself is to be remotely managing my portfolio of investments, successful start-ups and the build of my eco-friendly container-house from a hammock in the garden of my Nanna’s house whilst I holiday in Barbados.
That probably wouldn’t go down too well so I revert back to the more reasonable but probably less exciting answer which I hope conveys my willingness to graft year-upon-year in the hope of some incremental remuneration and an eventual promotion.
Anyway, regardless of any of that, I don’t really believe that a 5 year plan is either required or beneficial.
Why? Let me explain…
It’s nobody’s business but mine
It’s the business equivalent of asking ‘Do you plan to have children?’- socially acceptable but actually pretty uncomfortable for anyone who’s plans sit outside of societal norms.
It implies your current situation is one you should change
The insistence within a corporate environment of having a 5 year plan implies that where you are now is somehow inadequate… so inadequate that it will take you 5 years to get to a point where you really ought to want to be.
The thing is, this leads to a focus on the future – so much so that you can completely miss out on the joy of living in the present.
Carpe diem. YOLO. However you put it, I don’t want to wish away the next 5 years!
It can lead to negativity when you go off-course
When you have a 5 year plan and something changes which means the plan is not longer realistic or possible, it can feel like a monumental failure and a catastrophe beyond recovery.
Last time I had a 5 year plan, the end-game was to become a Barrister or Solicitor, working in the field of mental health and medical ethics. When I realised that wasn’t likely to happen I was devastated. My laser focus on that plan meant I was less prepared for life outside of that plan.
Since the 5 year plan had failed me, I decided to give it the boot. Did it do me any harm? I don’t believe so.
5 Years is too long
I don’t think 5 years is an appropriate time scale for a modern careerist to plan. Tech advancements and changes in the way businesses operate mean we need to be adaptable. If you’re mid-late 20’s, it’s likely that there will be lots of non-career life changes in 5 years, so is it really realistic to plan over that timescale?
I propose we think agile instead, and plan the next ‘career sprint’ rather than fixing on a point half a decade away.
Something 5 years away can be put off, but something 5 months away requires immediate action!
“So you don’t have a long term plan any more?”
I have clear ambitions and goals, and whilst these goals don’t change, the time and method of achieving them does – almost daily.
Ripping up my 5 year plan is not a display of weakness. It is not a failure. It is not naivety.
It is control, power, flexibility, adaptability and absolute confidence in what I believe I will achieve in-and-out of the office. Next time I get asked where I see myself in 5 years, I’ll try and remember that.