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How to plan your next five years

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

Often asked by interviewers and feared by applicants, reciting your five year plan isn’t the easiest question to answer. Most of us struggle to make and follow through with even short-term ambitions - R.I.P. Gym Membership 2012.

So, it’s really important to come fully prepared for what is fast becoming a staple of the Human Resources interview bible.

However, as well as appearing well-organised, determining your strategy for the next five years will enable you to dust off the cobwebs from the crystal ball, and actually get a hold on your future.

If you feel overwhelmed at the very idea of mapping your journey for the next five years, know that it’s all subject to change: whatever you decide now isn’t set in stone, but it can shed some light on the general direction you’d like to take.

Determine what you want

Are you motivated by rising up to the C Suite? Do you want to become notorious for being a thought leader in your field? Or, do you simply want to enjoy your profession, in positive surroundings, with an ample renumeration package?

Of course, you can also have all three (expect many a sleepless night getting there!), but by setting priorities, and understanding your immediate drivers, it will help you settle on a starting point and a finish line.

…and then what you don’t want

Understanding your motives and drivers can sometimes come across as a slice of amateur psychology. Switching priorities is only natural in life, and what motivates you one day, can drastically shift the next.

Considering what makes you happy in a personal setting can often aid decision making in the workplace. However, what’s often easier, is to determine what you don’t want from your professional life. For instance; does the idea of management excite you, or fill you with dread?

Do spreadsheets give you a headache? Are you the only person who seems to prefer a solo mission to collaboration? By drawing up a list of things that you don’t want, the fog will start to clear, and will reveal a few clear options.

Set micro-goals

Having goals is important. They provide focus, a sense of accomplishment, and can ground you to your mission if ever it gets derailed. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and your long-term objectives won’t be complete in a week.

To make great strides, you must first lay the foundations.

Simply put, micro-goals are your long-term ambitions broken up into bite size chunks, easy for the anxiety monster to digest. By breaking up lofty desires, long-term goals will seem more attainable, and can provide you with a yellow brick road to the emerald city of your career. Goal number one? Make it something achievable that still requires effort.

The idea is to set conquerable tasks without carrying the overbearing weight of overthinking, overstraining, and overworking yourself.

Expect the unexpected

The last few years have been a rollercoaster of uncertainty and surprises, to say the least. While you may have created what seems like a bullet-proof plan for success; all your best laid plans may not come to roost as predicted.

It could be for the best: an exciting opportunity through a new connection could see your path take a turn in a new direction previously unexplored, but shrouded in potential.

However, it could also come in the form of a personal matter that threatens to throw you off course. While it’s impossible to prepare for the unexpected, how you react to changes in both your personal and professional life will determine if you sink, or swim.

By maintaining your composure, you can calmly choreograph the chaos of an unexpected life event, to play perfectly into your existing five-year plan.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients and Candidates in the capital.

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