When I’m helping clients prep for job interviews, this question is often asked and I can tell you that the “What’s is your 5-year plan?” is a dreaded question for most! In this post, we are going to talk about the pros, the cons, and how to handle answering this question during an interview. Let’s go!
In my 20s, if you asked me about 5-year planning, I would’ve told you that you absolutely need a 5-year plan and how important it is to follow it. During my 20s my 5-year plan included buying a house, traveling through Europe, graduating from graduate school, and securing a job as a school counselor. Check, check, check, and check!
Then, in my 30s my 5-year plan was to have 2 babies, become more involved as a school counselor and just enjoy time with my kids…and that’s when I began to realize that my 5-year plan was no longer in the same control I once had in my 20s. A quarter-life crisis, a change of heart, or whatever you want to call it, something shifted in me. I started a private practice to pay for infertility treatments when infertility was definitely NOT in my plan. Losing babies through miscarriages and having twins wasn’t in the plan. Leaving my job as a school counselor to grow a private practice, hire employees, and get acquired was also not in my plan. Going back to school for a 2nd master’s degree was not in my plan. What. the. hell was happening to my beautifully executed planning?!
Growth was happening. I was given many opportunities from the universe to grow mentally, emotionally, and physically in ways, I did not imagine. I was completely blindsided. At first, the growth was freakin’ hard. Part of me missed the satisfaction of staying on track, having a routine, and reaching the milestones of my 5-year plan. Yet, another part of me was learning to trust that things were happening for me in some weird way.
This brings us to the pros of the 5-year plan. If you give yourself some space to think about what you want, it can be a cathartic experience. Sometimes we live life day by day and so thinking about possible destinations for ourselves can provide some motivation and excitement to look forward to.
Here are the top 3 pros to planning this far in advance…
- Knowing the path: When you know what you want, you can begin to fill in the gaps to how you can reach that destination. I recommend using SMART goals to fill in the gaps which you can read more about here. If you want a more holistic planning tool, learn how to create a vision board here.
- Routine: Once you have your plan and know the steps to reach your goal, it’s easier to set up a routine. Routine provides consistency, and consistency means there’s less to worry about. Think Mark Zuckerberg and his closet full of the same hoodie.
- Confidence: There’s a certain level of pride and confidence in knowing where you are going and then getting there. When you know where you are going, take the steps to make it happen and it does, it just feels great to check it off the list, celebrate or do a happy dance. The closer you get to reaching the 5-year plan goals, the more it boosts your confidence to reach them and motivates you to set it again for the next 5. This confidence can also contribute to building your self-esteem and helping others reach their goals as well.
When you give yourself space to think of what you want for the next 5 years, there can be a lot of positives. It helps you be a better contributor to the outcomes you want as opposed to going with the flow for others in your life or living in survival mode.
The pros are all pretty sound, so what are the cons? Well, you saw in my personal story that in my 30s growth and change took the front seat to my precious 5-year plan. This could happen to anyone at any time and when it does, just like you give yourself a place to think of a plan, it can also be important to give yourself space to adapt to change, whether it’s from the inside out, or the outside in.
Here are the top 3 cons of the 5-year plan…
1. Inflexibility: Being dedicated to a plan is great, however, life happens, so sometimes sticking with the plan doesn’t allow for the changes that life brings. For example, if you work out every day and are training for a marathon, but find yourself dating someone who you now see during your running time, this can create feelings of frustration in sticking with your daily plan to reach those goals. Or maybe you are on track for a promotion and now you have a baby on the way, so you aren’t sure if you want the extra responsibility at the same time as a major life transition.
2. Fixation: I find that when clients are fixated on a particular plan or path, they have a harder time when they find themselves growing away from or out of their plan. The fixation on reaching the goals of a plan literally set one up for feeling like a failure if they find themselves no longer interested in specific parts of the plan for various reasons. Sometimes, our priorities shift, or we find ourselves drawn in a different direction and that’s ok. I’ve worked with countless ambitious people who struggle with this when they are on the promotion track and suddenly find themselves drawn to entrepreneurial opportunities. The plan doesn’t have to be fixed, and we do not have to fixate on anything in it. Our 5-year plan can change as we do.
3. Missed Opportunity: This one ties into fixation because when we are fixated, we may miss important opportunities in our life path. For example, I was working with a client who had left her full-time job as an accountant to continue her side hustle of gourmet brownies full-time. She felt very confident about her 5-year plan to grow her brownie business from her garage so she canceled her attendance at a networking event that was previously scheduled to get ahead in her accountant role. I kept nudging her to still go to the event to stay open to opportunities that could align with her current work until she finally begrudgingly said, “Fine, I’ll go!” At our session post-event, she had multiple brownie orders from accounting firms tripling monthly revenue for special events and found someone who started a marshmallow business as a side hustle to collaborate with on business ideas. Opportunity for the win!
Our 5-year plan doesn’t have to be a rigid, strict, format that we must follow through on for a complete 5 years. It can change as we do, as our goals evolve as long as we listen to what our gut tells us and embrace what we want instead of what we don’t.
So knowing all these pros and cons, how do you answer the interview question, “Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?” This depends on how comfortable you are answering this and what your professional goals are. As Alice says in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”
My advice is to keep things professionally focused and catered to what you may want your future growth in that particular company to look like. For example, you may say, “I’m really excited to learn in this position, however, I am open to opportunities to grow, specifically into the _______________ role.” Or another route maybe, “I’m happy to start here and stay open to other opportunities for growth in the company come my way.” You can always turn it to them too, “Based on my skillset, where do you see me going in the next 5 years?”
A rule of thumb here is to research the company prior to your interview so that you understand what future roles you may have interest in. If they are a start-up, you could always mention that you would be happy to help develop the role in the next 5 years to whatever the company’s needs end up being as they grow. You see, this isn’t a question to fear, after all!
So there you have it, the pros and cons of creating a 5-year plan! Everyone operates differently, so feel free to make a personal, professional, or combined 5-year plan if it suits you. If you are more free-spirited and your plan is to just stay open to whatever comes your way, go for it flower child! My advice is that in whatever you choose, you let go of the idea of “sticking to the plan.” From my personal experience and clients’ experience, I can say that the more one lets go of the strictness of a plan, the better. Allow yourself the ability to adapt to change, and stay open to opportunity while expecting greater possibilities to present themselves, and they will happen.
Now, that is real manifestation in action! Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by the unexpected. Think of your plan as something that will evolve as you do over the next 5 years. Who knows who you will meet, how your goals will change, or who you will become. Whatever your plan becomes, allow your intuition to guide you as well as a little fear, yes fear! Being uncomfortable is where change happens, so push yourself a little in the way of the unexpected and I’m pretty sure you’ll find yourself exactly where you are supposed to be. ❤️✨