Should you have a 5 Year Plan for your Career?

If you retrace your steps, you will find that your desires, choices and plans regarding a career path have evolved through the years. Very few people end up doing exactly what it is they thought they would do when they were 6 or even when they left college.

The idea is almost as true as saying that you wanted to be a pilot when you grew up. Very few of us have the same aspirations we had when we were children. And it’s also true to say that just as few of us want to do the same thing in our early twenties than we did in our early teens. It’s part of what makes the classic “where do you see yourself in five years?” question so difficult to answer.

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So is there any point to having an x-year plan for your career? The simple answer would be no. Although a number of “motivational speakers” and “career consultants” may tell you different. But here’s a couple of reasons why a 5-year career plan may not necessarily be useful.

Things change

No one can predict the future when it comes to career plans but this one thing is guaranteed; the world will not remain constant over the next 5 years. It will continue to evolve and most of the changes that will occur in your industry or in society as a whole will be directly out of your control. So while it may seem good to have a career plan over the next few years, it is recommended that the plan is flexible and not altogether narrowed down to specifics, so you can comfortably accommodate changes without feeling like the carpet has been pulled from under your feet.

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It presents a false sense of confidence

Paul B Brown writes about a false sense of confidence arising from a well detailed career plan that could blind you from seeing opportunities when they arise or even noticing major changes in your industry when they occur. And this would happen because you are on a tunnel vision path with your straightjacket career plans.

What you can do instead will be to:

  1. Extricate yourself from cultural determinations of success. Define success on your own terms and you will not need a career plan to get there.
  2. Get an insurance plan. Whether you already have a job or you plan to run your own business, an insurance plan helps protect your business and career interests especially as far as finances, risks and compensations go. Consider your professional indemnity insurance options to ensure you are protected from life’s swings and roundabouts.
  3. Write down practical steps you can take to achieve your career goals whatever they may be. Not a straightjacket plan, just steps you can take that can be subject to change as the need arises.
  4. Conduct reality checks from time to time. Ask yourself honest questions about steps you have taken and changes that have occurred in your industry then make plans to adapt to those changes.
  5. Take advantage of opportunities as they come. Sometimes you may have to digress in order to progress. If opportunities arise outside the scope of what you may have written down, do not be quick to discard them. Assess their relevance to you in the long run then dive in.

Life changes you

The way we go through life, and our experiences will profoundly change how our careers pan out. If you were to find love and marry in your late teens, you might find yourself with children in your mid-twenties. This will completely alter the playfield in how you view career options.

Having kids reduces the likelihood of wanting to move for a promotion or career prospects. Conversely, a lack of roots and only having obligations to yourself could potentially give an individual a greater amount of scope to change their career more drastically later in life.

The thing to remember is that aspirations don’t have to be static. Let them change and evolve as you move through life.

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