an interesting question, to which there should be no wrong answer.


i had my first review at work today. yes, i’m 27 years old and i’ve never had a real performance review before. i had ‘talks’ at my old job in New York, but that was because i was drowning and they kept trying to bail me out with hopes i’d learn to swim. (let’s just say i wasn’t quite ready for the deep end at that point in my life.)

overall, the review went well. we talked about the good, the not so good, and the inbetweens. (as a plus, we got word today that we were selected for a really spiffy awesome job in which i had a huge hand in the materials. bonus points for me!)

but my actual review is not the point of tonight’s musing. about halfway through, my reviewers (my pseudoboss and a super cool architect) asked me the age old question (in so many words), “what are your five-year goals?”

i gave the most honest answer i could – i don’t know.

let me be more specific. i couldn’t answer the question the way they wanted me to. they were looking more for how i could see myself fitting into the company after five years, whether i had dreams of taking on a leadership role, or exploring something new . . . and i was almost ready to spit out, “working for a newspaper.”

that would not have gone over well.

instead, i thought about it in the same terms they were referencing. what did i hope to accomplish and grow into at my current job? my mind went blank. i really didn’t know what to say. do i really want to be a leader? do i really want to do this same job with the same stressful hours sitting at the same messy desk in front of the same computer for years on end?

usually at the one-year mark, i’m itching to get up and go. or i’m trying to stay and it just doesn’t work out. this time, there is no terminus. there is only this indefinite amount of time and a never-ending stream of work. these are uncharted waters for me. i don’t know how i’ll react, or how to make staying work. in a way, that’s scarier than facing change.

readers (all four or five of you), do you have a five-year career goal? or even a five-year life goal? have you reached it at any point, or has it been revised time after time to keep you chasing the carrot?

i don’t know how to plan for the future – i’ve never had to do it before. is it really so wrong to live for now and let the future just happen?


2 Responses to “an interesting question, to which there should be no wrong answer.”

  1. 1 Jen

    A ship without a rudder becomes aimless and finds itself at the mercy of the sea. Overused cliche, yes, but it’s applicable. If we don’t plan and define ourselves and our life’s goals, we fall victim to the feeling of the moment, or the trend of the moment.

    A couple years ago, I just felt like driving. I didn’t care where, I just got in my car and drove. It was great for a while — enjoying the countryside flash by, listening to my iPod at full blast, stopping whenever I felt like it — but after a while, it got old. I needed to know where I was headed and what I was going to do when I got there.

    I’ve spent a lot of time merely reacting and surviving to my circumstances rather than creating and thriving. I prefer the latter.

  2. 2 SteveB

    Good post!

    First off — if your pseudo-supervisor is a mentor and not just a boss-type, you probably CAN have that conversation about career goals, even if the career in question moves you away from your current job. I’ve helped several employees move out of my group and into new jobs when they realize that the life of a bench scientist isn’t what they want– helping someone find that next “right” thing is very rewarding I think.

    I think not-knowing (exactly) right now is ok — and I think you DO have some ideas — and the challenge becomses reconciling your current situtation and the need to pay-your-bills with keeping the over-arching goals in sight. Don’t leave them on the horizon. You’ll never get there.

    And yes — I think your goals change all the time. Five years ago — my goals were mostly personal — I was coming out of the disaster that was my time with She Who Must Not Be Named (aka Vickimort), and I wanted to be-myself for a while. “Finding yourself” sounds so cliche’ but that’s what I needed then.

    These days — I’m more happy with myself than I’ve been in years — not-satisfied by any means — but right now my goal is to see something that I’ve had a hand in making help alleviate someone’s medical problem. That’s a big deal to me. Will I get there — not sure.

    Oh, and to make the perfect margarita. That too.

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