How do I create a 5-year career plan? In this day and age, with people getting into careers in a very roundabout way, is this still a good thing to do?– Erin in Dayton, OH
A 5-year career plan should come from within. What I mean by that is tapping into your inner self, deepest desires, and values to identify your road map, because a 5-year career plan is really a life frame. Some of you may be thinking, “heck no,” while others are all in with a “yass!” Wherever you fall in that spectrum, let’s explore my take on developing your 5-year chart.
Where To Start
There are so many possibilities. The first step is to dig deep, understand your feelings, and recognize what truly matters to you. Create a mind map to visualize this exercise. You will fill in the blanks with the mother of all brainstorms. Go through the questions below.
- What do I want to be doing 5 years from today?
- What type of work will I be performing?
- What is my role at work?
- What are my responsibilities?
- How many hours will I be working?
- Who will I be working with?
- Where in the world will I be working?
- Where will I be living?
- What does my home look like?
- Who will I be living with?
- What activities will I be pursuing?
- What passions will I be feeding?
- How often do I spend time with family? Friends?
As you formulate your answer to each query, ask yourself the question at least three times. Do your answers change, even slightly? If so, keep asking the question to unearth the treasure in your unconscious. Embrace the challenge of finding something more, or anything hidden you need to bring to light. Keep in mind that the unknown is where everything you don’t have or want lives.
During this period of introspection, ask yourself why you are coming up with these answers. How do you feel about the observations? What emotions are generated by your gut responses? Why do you feel that way? Recording your feelings will help you tap into buried energy and passion. The method will guide you as you create your mind map.
The mind map you have created is a representation of your 5-year career plan. It’s the foundation you need to reverse engineer your intentions. You’ve got a picture of what you want. Break it into parts or the components you need to build the model. Explore paths that will lead you in the right direction. Examine the actions or steps needed to reach your ideal. Analyze if there is any specific order of moves that will facilitate reaching your goal. This process will result in your 5-year plan.
Now that you have your plan, it’s time to take stock and re-evaluate where you are at this point in time. Who do you know who could help you eliminate points along your journey or help you leap-frog forward? What changes can you put in place right now to lay your foundation? Revisit your current activities and look for ways to pivot towards your goals. When you reframe your here-and-now within your 5-year plan, it will be easier to identify endeavors that feed your design. And the clarity will make it effortless to let go of things that are holding you back.
Along your journey, you will encounter challenges, missteps, and surprises. More than that, your 5-year career plan will evolve and change, and you may end up somewhere unexpected. When you encounter these revisions, don’t think about what you are giving up. Focus on what you are getting in return.
Creating a 5-year plan is an incredible opportunity to gain a better understanding of yourself. But it’s certainly not a necessity. For some of us, myself included, we find delight and fulfillment in the journey, focusing on shorter term goals and seizing the chances that come our way. Either with or without a 5-year career plan, tap into your imagination, explore, and enjoy the adventure of life.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.