Why the Five-Year Plan No Longer Exists


Do you know where you want to be in five years? Ten years? What about 20 years from now?

See, the thing about the five-year plan (or whatever quantity of years) is that it’s no longer relevant in today’s job market or to this generation of young professionals. It’s an outdated, obsolete idea. Today, there is nothing wrong with job hopping, or changing your dream midway through — or scrapping it all together. In fact, it’s more common for young people to change companies than to rise up the ranks in the same one.

But, this antiquated idea still remains. There are many young professionals that feel the pressure to stay laser focused on a plan, not realizing that this tunnel vision could shut the door on bigger, better opportunities. Recruiters and hiring managers are still asking about five-year plans. People that you speak to at networking events ask what the end goal is. Yet, everyone knows that there is no place for clearcut career plans anymore. If there were, we would all be Mark Zuckerberg by now.

A few months ago I helped to plan an event for high school and college students on how to network like a pro. There were groups of students paired with young professionals who helped them craft their elevator pitches and feel confident in themselves and their abilities to show their value. In one group, there was a high school student who expressed tremendous concern over deterring from her five-year plan. You could see the pressure she was giving herself plainly on her face and in her demeanor. Meanwhile, she had yet to ever experience college. And by that I mean she hadn’t even taken her SATs.

I can count so many people who had a clear direction in mind post-college, and then they switched it up entirely. Friends who moved on to law, became artists and teachers, or took a new path completely different from their course of study and entry-level gigs. And, they’re happy. In a blog post from The Muse on why the five-year plan is no longer, Lily Zhang of MIT writes about how unplanned events shape careers and what career planning is all about, citing the Happenstance Theory by John D. Krumboltz.

Of course there are certain industries and fields that require specific steps, like finance and healthcare. Even if you want to jump into brand management, you’ll have to get your MBA unless if you choose a smaller company that requires less of a traditional path. It truly is all relative.

So why all the pressure? The five-year plan is dead, creating space and opportunity to live in the moment and pave the paths meant just for us. It sounds lofty but it’s true.

RIP five-year plan.


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