When I work with people on their career plans, I’m often asked what I mean by creating a long-term plan. Does this mean you’re supposed to detail out what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life? Impossible!
I had a client a few years ago who had a career plan for the next 25 years. Seriously. Personally, I find it challenging to map out five years.
The neat thing about a 25 year plan, though, is that it gave him some useful direction on how to make decisions. In his case, he wanted to be managing something like a 5000-person research and development organization, so there were quite a few steps to take from being an individual worker to a manager of that scope. He worked out what would be the logical steps it would take, and the knowledge he would have to gain.
As luck would have it, of course, the universe didn’t cooperate with his plan. Several months into our relationship, he received a job offer from a different organization for a role that wasn’t part of his plan. The neat thing about having the long-term goal was that it helped him to evaluate the opportunity:
- Does this help take me toward the long-term goal?
- Does it help me to develop knowledge and skills which will be useful?
- Does it help me to build relationships and influence that I’ll need?
When the opportunity appeared to look attractive in regard to these questions, he realized that taking advantage of it would be useful, even if it meant having to rework his long-term plan.
Would I recommend that everyone create a 25-year plan? Not at all. “Long-term” is meant to help you project out your desired future a little bit further than is obvious. Often that means three to five years, but it depends on how fast things are changing in your environment. For some, one year is a big stretch.
Look for the next change you expect or desire, and then look one step beyond that.
The reason for doing this exercise is that it helps you to make better decisions today, and to respond to unexpected events. When a challenge arises, you can decide which reaction will not only serve you better today, but over the course of years. When you see an opportunity, you can test its value based on the short-term attributes, as well as whether it supports your larger goals.
What does “long-term” mean in your world?
by Carl Dierschow