This can be a tough question to answer in an interview or when your manager is talking to you about career development. What they really want is not an in depth look at the future you envision for yourself but to see how well your short and medium term goals match up to what your employer can provide for you and needs from you. Beyond a well crafted reply in interviews and annual reviews, its helpful for you to determine a five year plan for yourself. Before you can answer the question, you need to create a five year plan for yourself.
Five years is a good time frame for planning. Its not too far off into the future where its hard see how you will get there but its a long enough time to accomplish a bigger goal or two. Laying out a concrete plan helps make you accountable to yourself and brainstorming ways to make them happen will you help to actually start accomplishing them.
-Think about where you want to be five years. What will your life look like? Where will you be in your career? What do you want to accomplish?
Make these goals demanding but attainable. If the goals are too demanding you may end up discouraged before you even start. The goals should be challenging, if they are too easy for you to accomplish, you may feel bored with the process and are not moving towards the place you really want to be.
-Sort your goals according to priority. What is really important? What things would be nice to accomplish but do not feel necessary to you?
Label the goals you would most like to meet ‘A’ goals. Goals that you want to accomplish but are less important are ‘B’ goals. ‘C’ goals are things that would be nice to do but not important. Really think about what you care about and what is important when you are prioritizing. Make sure to sincerely rate these goals; this is your list and should reflect your own needs and preferences.
-Think of ways to accomplish each goal. What are different paths you can take to meeting that goal?
Take one goal at a time and write down any way you can think of to make it happen. Do not worry if you end up with a few silly or implausible ideas. Sometimes a silly idea can spark another great idea; do not waste time censoring yourself and just go with it.
-Once you finish your list of ways to meet a goal, rate them from ‘A’ to ‘C’ again. ‘A’ being the most useful or important and ‘C’ being the least helpful. Go through the list of ideas for each goal and sort them this way.
-Rewrite your goals and the ways you plan to accomplish them.
Look over your five year plan to make sure it reflects how you envision your life in the next five years. Make sure to revisit your plan now and then to see if you are working towards you are still working towards your goals. Update or make new plans as things change. Be flexible. As you start accomplishing your goals, you will surely find new things you want to do or change your mind on how important a goal is to you over time. A trusted mentor-it could be someone at work, or a former teacher or a current co-worker-may be able to help you see how realistic your goals are and may help generate new ideas on how to meet them.
Now that you have your own five year plan, you can share the relevant parts of it during an interview or annual review. An interviewer or your manager does not need to know every detail of your 5 year plan. Make sure to discuss the relevant parts of your plan with him or her but feel free to leave out some of your personal goals.
This article was written by Sara Stellfox. After working in contract and pharmaceutical laboratories, Sara changed her career path and is now a free lance writer and chemistry instructor at the City Colleges of Chicago.