When was the last time anyone asked about your five-year plan? Most likely, it happened during your last job interview, and you haven’t thought of it since. But why not? A five-year plan creates a road map from where you are now to where you want to be in a few short years. As you would on any road trip, you’ll stop at different locations along the way to refuel, possibly hit a few roadblocks and need to reroute, but eventually, you’ll end up safely in the destination of your original choosing.
So, why five years? Bill Gates was quoted as saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.” Five years is a realistic middle point. It’s short enough to develop goals that feel attainable, yet long enough to put in the work to make your big dreams happen.
Before you get to work, take some time to consider the future you’d love to live. There’s no point of setting a goal of becoming the VP of sales if you don’t also consider how that will affect your family life, what type of responsibility comes along with the position and whether it will change your physical location. As adults, we don’t often allow ourselves time to daydream. Here’s the permission you need to lose yourself in fantasies of how you want to look, feel, act and be in five years’ time.
What do you want your annual income to be in the future? When you’re dreaming up career goals, know that your finances will affect every facet of your life. Think about how much money will go toward vacations, retirement, donations and other expenses. Remember to be realistic with your monetary goals, but don’t settle for too little, either. As a hard worker, you deserve to be compensated.
What would you like your title to be in five years? Regardless of how long you’ve been at your current company, consider the opportunity for growth. Everyone’s goals are different. Some people want to work their way up the totem pole to a high supervisory position. Others enjoy their current position and have no interest in changing careers. They may want to work on more meaningful projects over time or take on additional responsibility that doesn’t come in the form of supervising their peers.
Your career trajectory and long-term personal plans depend on each other. For example, do you want to have children? If so, make sure to factor in any leave time and expenses like childcare. Similarly, how would a spouse or partner’s career affect your own? You may be working opposite shifts and looking to change this in the future.
Do you have to travel for work? If so, will you still want to do it in five years? Maybe you live in the city, but your long-term goal is buying a house in the country. Will the commute be a strain on your career? What if your company relocates or asks you to move permanently to open a new office location? The accompanying big promotion may be part of your five-year plan, but can you uproot easily?
The key to creating a five-year plan and addressing these four goals is to know yourself well. Understand what’s important to you in life and what direction you’d like to take. You aren’t in the action stages yet; you’re simply dreaming of the life you’d like to have. Once you’ve plotted out your career road map, take small steps toward achieving your goals.