Planning is overrated.
May 13, 2012 § 1 Comment
In life, there are certain questions you dread being asked. If you’re a recent graduate, ‘What are you going to do next?’ sits near the top of the list. Because it’s not enough to have worked extremely hard in an academic setting for the last how ever many years. No, in order to fully embrace being an adult, you must now make significant decisions about your future. No thankyou.
Which brings me to last weekend. In the act of making space for a new bookcase, I unearthed some forgotten items in my bedroom; amongst them, the Student Careers Survey I completed in late 2010. Finding the form conjured the same anxiety I’d felt when we, as final year media students, were first given it over a year ago. At the time, the form represented all the worries I’d had, but not really acknowledged, about studying media at university.
After three years of hard work, I wasn’t going to be anything. I wasn’t going to be a teacher, a nurse, an engineer or a psychologist. All I really had was a glorified arts degree and luckily some practical experience in radio, but in an industry where it’s not what you know, but who you know, the chance I’d be following in the footsteps of many unlucky media graduates sentenced to work indefinitely in retail seemed pretty likely. Especially if the horrendous time I’d had trying to find unpaid work to fulfill a uni requirement was any indication. Thus, the prospect of planning a career that might never actually get off the ground was pretty daunting.
With a month until uni was over, I’d already decided I wasn’t ready to move into the big, wide world just yet. I was readying my Honours application and looking into other post-grad courses. That would keep me covered for 2011, but that’s as far as I’d planned. Needless to say, the first question on the survey, “Describe your long-term career objective(s)” was a bit of a stumper.
I’d like to work in…alternatively, I’d like to work in…I’d like the chance to…
Yeah, no definite answers from me. All is not lost though, because by complete coincidence I am currently doing some of the jobs I specified as part of my work in audio production. The fact that I’m doing these jobs so early in my career does suggest that back in 2010 I had no idea how long it would take to do the kinds of things I wanted to do.
And there lies the conundrum; I’ve managed to reach a “long-term career objective” in a very short timeframe. Did I do this goal-setting thing wrong? When specifying a “long-term career objective” are you meant to think as big as you possibly can? For example, I want to be the head of an international media conglomerate. Or are you meant to try for smaller, more manageable goals like being a community radio show producer? And say you do achieve your long term goal, but quicker than expected, what then? Back to the drawing board or is that you set forever? Do more long-term goals follow? Are you ever just content? How long are you able to bask in the satisfaction of reaching a goal before having to move on to the next one?
So many questions…
My survey answers on the whole are timid and non-specific. I like to attribute this to a general ignorance of the kind of work that is possible for a person with my skill set, rather than a fear of dreaming too big and failing. With that in mind, I think a lot of my answers can be disregarded because things have changed. As I’ve gained new experiences and put my hand up for different things, I’ve had to reassess, disregard plans and consider new possibilities.
So while there is value in having long-term career objectives, it seems important to keep an open mind. Long-term and short-term are all relative, and as I’m still testing the waters of the working world, declaring my own long-term goals seems a little pointless.
Up until this point, I’ve championed the mantra, “Well, it’ll look good on my CV”, which has served me well thus far. By having as many different working experiences as possible, I’ve put myself in a position where I can now tailor my CV in response to specific job ads. I have given myself options. I’m a big fan of options, which is probably why I’m so against restricting myself with something as stifling as a “Five Year Plan”.
Amidst all of this thinking, I asked my dad for his perspective. When I asked him where he saw himself in five years’ time. He replied, “Five years older.”
Amen to that.