Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s a question that interviewees across industries have likely faced. For the most motivated among us, the answer is often clear and easy to provide. No matter your aspirations, surveys report only 10% of people end up in their dream positions.
Clearly, even the best-laid plans can go awry. Paths to success are often winding and bumpy, and your desired destination may even shift along the way. With proper focus and diverse tools at your disposal, dreams will go from within reach to firmly in your grasp.
What will success feel like?
The same survey on dream jobs had even more disappointing news to offer. Over a third of those who did reach their “ideal” position found that it did not live up to their expectations. Another third of those who didn’t meet their goals wish they had done more. Both groups were left feeling dissatisfied. How can you know when you’ve truly reached “success?”
There’s value in constantly striving and being a lifelong learner. After all, settling for society’s view of success won’t bring about a sense of personal fulfillment. But just as a novelist has to eventually stop editing his plot, a satisfied worker needs to eventually declare, “Mission accomplished!” and settle into their workplace.
Personal career goals can be harder to track in terms of accomplishment and achievement. If you’re looking to see where you stand, consider the following questions:
- Does my work bring me a sense of purpose and achievement?
- Are there skills I’d still like to develop in order to be a more effective worker?
- Do I have interest areas or passions that I have failed to utilize or explore through my work?
Skills, industries and workers evolve. It’s only natural that your idea of success can — and perhaps should — change over time. A well-crafted life plan can keep you centered on whatever path you choose to take.
What should a life plan chart towards?
Not every worker has to rise through the ranks to become a CEO and find themselves within Forbes magazine. Maybe you’re working because you’re already feeling ready for retirement! Perhaps you’re biding your time and earning capital to eventually break off and start your own venture. Success will look different for every leader.
You can’t chart a route without knowing your destination. The first step in figuring out how to reach your dream spot is identifying exactly where that dream spot is. Take into account factors like:
- Your desired salary
- Your ideal size of a team to be a part of/lead
- Your perfect work-life balance
When planning for the future, it’s important to have a healthy balance of long-term and short-term goals. This will break up your workload and also keep you motivated with small accomplishments along the way. Concentrating too hard on one long-term goal makes detours and changes in plans a lot more difficult to adjust to.
These crucial short-term goals are where the oft inquired-of “five-year plan” comes into play. And while you may be able to come up with a snappy and impressive answer during an interview, actually executing that mission can be a lot easier said than done.
How can I make and execute a 5-year plan?
Unless your job title is rapid, you may doubt your abilities to effectively predict the course of your career. If you think back to where you were five years ago, it’s likely that you didn’t fully anticipate being exactly where you are today.
Despite the unpredictable nature of this task, there are some steps you can take to create a plan. If followed, you can feel confident not only in your goals’ structures but in your ability to achieve them. Here are three steps to follow for your five years:
1. Narrow your focus
Leaders rarely want to limit themselves. As a result, when making plans or setting goals, it’s natural to attempt to leave a door open for new opportunities. When you are accustomed to constantly striving for new heights, you never want to tie yourself down.
When goal-setting, however, a specific and attainable end is crucial. While you may be tempted to simply write, I hope to feel happy, you will be left with no measures for evaluating your success. Opt for phrasing like, I hope to feel satisfied in my work by achieving a strong life balance. I want to give my all at a full-time, 40-hour per week job, while spending no more than four hours per week on work each weekend.
2. Track industry trends
As has been established, a lot can change in five years. Staying up-to-date on your industry’s projected trends can assist you in determining where you’ll fit in.
Is your industry growing? You may aim to move to a larger company that will offer more opportunities in terms of salary and professional development. If your industry is shrinking or shifting focus, you’ll want to prioritize diversifying your skillset and maintaining your value within a company. Plan for the future that seems to be approaching.
3. Keep a record
Your five-year plan does not need to include a table of contents or an appendix. However, there is tremendous value in keeping a reference-ready document of your goals. Whether you’re a visual learner who would benefit from a storyboard or mind-map or a fan of bucket lists, these records will:
- Remind you what you’re working for
- Allow you to easily track your progress towards your goal
- Serve as tangible evidence of your hard work and success
Having your end goal in mind is essential. A clear picture of where you hope to be heading will keep you privy to valuable networking opportunities, professional development and coursework that can elevate your career.
After all, there are always more opportunities to grow, change and gain confidence in the direction you’re heading. To strengthen the course of your path, we have a suggested next step.
Earn a leadership certificate from Syracuse University
The Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University offers an online Women as Business Leaders course. Over eight weeks, you will learn from groundbreaking women in business and gain the confidence to create an action plan to advance your professional development as a woman in business.
In collaboration with GetSmarter, Syracuse University has developed a self-paced, accessible course to help you forge your own career path, fulfill your ambitions and be visible to the next generation of female business leaders. Not just for women, this course also gives managers and co-workers the opportunity to grow. You’ll gain a fresh perspective on gender equality and greater appreciate the advantages of a diverse workforce.
Register online today to earn a certificate and priceless skills to take your career to the next level. Or, visit GetSmarter for more career advice or to browse other courses.