5 Ways to Write a 5-Year Plan When You Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings

woman writing five-year plan on laptop

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 19, 2024 at 7:19PM UTC

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is certain. We have certainly been through the wringer — career-wise and personally — and now, we’re faced with a new wave of COVID: Omicron.

In the midst of all the uncertainty, employers are scrambling to determine the best course of action for their businesses. Meanwhile, professionals at every stage of their careers are wondering the same thing — about their careers and professional paths forward.

When you’re dealing with chaos, how do you formulate a plan? When you’ve been asked to do so in a professional context or you simply want to create a guide for yourself, here are the steps to take.

1. Take into account a range of options.

Especially if you’re just starting out in the career world, at a time like this, it’s critical to be flexible with your plans and consider many different options. Look into multiple paths and related options. 

If you’re more advanced in your career, think about how multiple trajectories can correlate to your skillset and experience. Be creative; for example, a publicist might consider a communications or copywriting role. 

2. Review career projections from trusted resources.

There are plenty of reliable resources that can provide you with statistics on the labor market for specific occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for instance, offers 10-year projections on whether the need for professionals in given roles with increase or decline in the coming years. It will also give you critical facts about work in the field, such as the skills you will need.

Armed with this data, you will be better equipped to make informed decisions about how to devise a well-crafted five-year plan.

3. Identify transferable skills for a variety of roles and industries.

Part of creating a solid five-year plan involves understanding how you will need to upskill to keep up with the market and demand. Committing to lifelong learning, after all, is important for every industry and role. 

Because technology is steadily advancing and occupations are evolving, you will need to look beyond your current competencies and knowledge and anticipate the skills you might need across industries. In other words, reflect on the types of skills that could be transferable to advanced positions in your field and beyond.

4. Ask for advice.

Nobody said you have to craft your plan solo. In order to create one that reflects the current landscape and accounts for changes that might occur, talk to others who have experience in your industry. That might be a manager, a mentor, a friend or a colleague. While they can’t predict the future and the unexpected, they can tell you how they have dealt with uncertainty in the past and are coping with it in their careers today.

5. Be flexible.

This is a time of great upheaval. During the course of the pandemic, we have all been forced to pivot and make difficult choices in the face of a dramatically changing landscape. That’s why flexibility is so important.

Yes, you will have setbacks and encounter obstacles — that’s true of everyone. But remaining flexible is key to overcoming them and persevering in uncertain times, professionally and personally.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for making long-term career plans in times of instability? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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