Career Planning is for Schmucks

The common method of career planning is to write your career goals for 5 years time, then to see what the differences are between your current situation and that vision, and planning on how you can bridge the gap between them.
But, I ask you in all honesty, how the fuck does one plan for 5 years time?!
5 years ago, I just returned from France. I hadn’t graduated from Uni. I hadn’t met my partner yet. I hadn’t lived in Singapore. I hadn’t started drinking gin. I hadn’t ever really seen a game of Rugby. I hadn’t worked a full time job. I never purchased a luxury item. I had never tasted Thai street food in Thailand. I hadn’t fallen in love with Batik fabric. I hadn’t started writing and connecting online with a crazy bunch of HR folk.
5 years ago, I joined in a model UN conference, just because HR should be interested in politics, and I dunno, maybe I always secretly wanted to study International something. I was Mexico, because, I dunno, I don’t really know enough politics to be a serious model UN player – but I’m a good partier – it seemed to suit me well. I met Canada, she has become one of my very closest friends. We went out to a club with France or something – I don’t remember, he was just a bit creepy and I’m pretty certain gay. But whatever, he hitted on me like crazy and I ended up ringing up a friend I met in (actual) France who happened to study at the same Uni as me in Australia. And he happened to bring along his housemate, who once saw me throw a huge tantrum out the front of a pub at 2am in the morning because my friend wouldn’t hurry up – he was not impressed by me. But that night, we got talking and something just clicked.
And a few months later, I basically clinged on to him for life moved in. Then we moved to Singapore for 3 years, and I met with his family, and lived with them for a while too. Then we applied for his Australian Permanent Residency, and a year later he got it. And then we actually moved to Australia, and for a second time, packed up our whole lives, said goodbye to our friends, and arrived to family (mine this time), no job, and not much savings.
So here I am, 5 years later, with life experiences I could never have planned. I wasn’t even that interested in South East Asia, and now my life is intricately linked with it. I wasn’t much of a writer, but now I feel bound to it, like it’s oxygen for my choking brain. I wasn’t much of an adult yet and the experiences that have formed the start of my adulthood have been completely out of my ability to create. It all just happened.
And that’s why I say the question we need to ask ourselves is not, “where do I want to be in 5 years?” We just simply will not, can not, and should not know. The question we need to be asking ourselves is “how can I open my life up to the next big thing?” Is it paying off debt to allow some financial freedom when the next opportunity arrives? Is it honing in on some skill that feels part of your fabric, that makes you you? Is it really nailing that part of your job that takes you to the next level of capability? Is it solidifying relationships that will support you during your next risky venture? Is it getting in a program of recovery to finally move on from a way of life that’s keeping you in bad habits? How can you open your life up to the next big thing?
Talk to anyone with an absolutely amazing career – the journey enriched their work, and they could only take the journey because they were able to say “yes”. Not some huge, life altering yes that tore them away from their children. I’m talking about a series of little yesses, because they were open to a series of events to occur, and then, you know, it all just happened. Life happened, and a career was strung together in the meantime.
Seriously, 5 year career plans are for schmucks. Developing whole lives (i.e. relationships, finances, spirituality, health, passions, work) is for the people going places.
My holiday in Singapore, that turned into 3 years.
Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

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  • 10 February 2014