I’d rather shit in my hand and clap myself to sleep then create a 5-year plan. It’s not that I don’t want to think about the future; I do. All the time. Maybe a little too much in fact. But if you’re like me, the idea of sitting down, and articulating exactly where you want to be in your career 1,825 days down the track is about as appealing as a sober Tinder date.
Sure, you have a rough idea what you want to be; a couple rungs up the ladder, on more money and greater job satisfaction. Get it together sugar tits, those things would be sweeto-buritto but that’s hardly a plan and you know it. I don’t need to lament the necessity of goal setting in order to achieve results. You can’t swing a snarky meme over to your best girlfriend without some Gen-Y Annie Oakley waxing lyrical that goals should be specific and measurable. But if you’re not A-type, this doesn’t come so naturally.
You know a plan is necessary for growth, progress and achievement so it’s time to stop thinking making a 5-year plan sounds like something reserved for a girl named Chelsea who got good grades, studied law, and has a giant stick up her ass. It’s not, and you need one. I’m going to do you a big ol solid and give you the least A-type personality way to write your 5-year plan. You’re welcome.
The irony of how I discovered my plan was not lost on me. The company I work for has a mentoring program. My mentor was a lady who joined the company a mere few months prior. I had a choice between a lady with whom I exchanged sassy quips, or another I didn’t know so well. I chose the latter. Things might have turned out differently if I hadn’t. My mentor was a placid Serena Van Der Woodsen type: sharp, likeable and strikingly blonde. My mentor asked during our first meeting, where I saw myself in 5 years.
In the first instance, I didn’t have an answer. She told me her’s: corner office, corporate job and managing a team. Hearing that made me realise what I didn’t want, ie: none of those. It took me a moment, I gave myself permission to give an honest answer and said, ‘wearing workout clothes, at a local cafe, writing’. Being honest about what I wanted, was the biggest relief.I was so afraid to admit to everyone and myself, that I’m not cut out for corporate land of the WIP and I sure as hell do not want to wear anything that requires ironing. Two weeks later, I handed in my resignation.
Now your turn. Breath deeply- no seriously, breath deeply. And again. Breath out for a long as you can. Good. Now if you want to figure things out, this is your chance. No one’s here to judge you. Above all, be honest with yourself. Picture it. It’s 2018 and you’re on your way to work on a Wednesday morning:
1. What are you wearing?
As someone who continued to shop for clothes well into my redundancy, it’s safe say I care about clothes. I have more mid length-skirts you can throw a high-neck singlet with and a decided colour palette. So the uncanny image I had of myself on an early morning stroll to the local cafe in workout clothes offered a telling (rose gold) frame in which I saw myself.
Now I don’t know if you picture yourself wearing simple tailored pants with a silk shirt or a modest jersey skirt paired with a tailored lightweight jacket, but I’m willing to bet your favourite weekend anorak that how you want to dress in five years says something about the person you want to be.
2. What’s your motivation for working?
Prior to resigning, my motivation for working was the dolla, dolla bills. Naturally, I wanted to build a career, work my way up and gain a sense of achievement. But that sense never came, so I would turn up each day- a necessity to get dat dough. The dough rose, but I was still hungry. The motivation to express myself, explore ideas and create was eating at me. For me, working a job for money was like eating a croissant for hunger: in an hour, I’m looking for something else to nibble on.
If you have a partner or a family, maybe your motivations are different. Providing for them could be the priority, in which collecting a paycheck would leave you full. Maybe you’re motivated by your clients, who need the service you offer. Or you could want to accumulate wealth and prestige, symbols of security and freedom in your eyes.
Your motivation for working will give you the direction in which you should go. Ain’t nobody working in accounts if their motivation is self expression.
3. What kind of people are you surrounded by?
You don’t get a medal at the end of the road (of life) for putting up with assholes, people who don’t make your heart happy, or at the very least treat you with respect. Believe it or not, you can choose who you surround yourself with. So choose: intelligent people, creative people, wise people and kind people. Or in my case: baristas. God, I have a weakness for babes bringing me beverages.
Sure, not everyone you come across is going to be just like your unassuming but brilliant Managing Director, who is just at home speaking to the receptionist as he is to a director. There are companies out there that foster a culture that requires even the most misogynistic manager to employ basic courtesies. Find them. Again, no points here for putting up with suited turds.
4. What do you want to look back on, 5 years from now and say were your greatest achievements?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a singer and an actress. In 5 years time, I’ll be 30. While I no longer dream of parading back and forth on a stage emphasising each lyric with a melodramatic scowl, I don’t want to completely disappoint that chubby little kid zealous she was destined for stardom.
Think about your 11-year-old self, and why you were so excited to grow up. Don’t get caught up on the occupation you stated plainly when adults asked; focus on the image you had then of your older self. What can you do in five years that will make your eleven year old self so proud? No ribbons for participation anymore champ, this is the big leagues aka your life.
I used to think a 5 year plan was a list of job titles you wanted to earn. A linear path in which you wanted your career to follow. But life isn’t linear, and putting one job title after the other can seem as arbitrary as choosing subjects in high school. Way more powerful than a job title is a clear image of what you want, for yourself, your company and your achievements. Diane Von Furstenburg once famously said, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be”.
So, decide who you want to be and you’ll know what to do. Now go get em tiger.