One Step At A Time

Harish Vasudevan, April 11, 2018

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

If your organisation is like mine, you are in the midst of year end evaluations. Buried in the midst of the discussions is this bombshell ‘Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?’ or some version of it.

All received wisdom via books, speeches, essays is that one must be clear about ones goals and follow it with a passion. So it is expected that you have a clear answer to your boss’s question.

Yet many don’t. I certainly didn’t about 30 years ago when a famous man asked me ‘what do you want to do with your life?’. I didn’t when a less famous man asked me 2 weeks ago ‘so what are your plans?’

I look around me and see people doing things very well, which they didn’t expect to do 5 years ago. Certainly, if someone asked them ‘where do you see yourself 5 years from now?’ their answer wouldn’t be what they are doing today.

Of all the people I have spoken over my career, there has only been one person who was crystal clear about what she wanted to achieve and how she was going to achieve it. Crystal. Clear. 3 months after I had that chat, she quit, joined another company, quit and is now looking for a new opportunity.

Add to this, none other than Steve Jobs (the guru everyone likes to roll out to support their point) said ‘join the dots’. He didn’t set out to run Apple. or create the iphone. He successfully built on his skills, acquired over the years in multiple places and ended up where he did.

Add to it, the fact that things change so rapidly that what is a career opportunity today, may not be around in 2 years.

I strongly believe we should stop asking our young employees, or old employees, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years or 10 years?’

The question then becomes, what should we be asking our teams. Or indeed how should we be thinking of our own careers.

Borrowing from sports, namely cricket, most successful batsmen say they play their innings one over at a time. Gradually, over by over they build their innings. They don’t get in saying ‘we’re going to make a hundred’. Rather ‘we are going to get through this over’.

Small, simple goals. And bit by bit the end gets revealed.

I believe we can apply the exact same thing in building our careers. Ask the Question ‘What am I going to do next year?’ Obviously the answer needs to be something bigger, better, different from this year. For only that is progress.

Quite possibly doing that will require some new skills, or new experiences. Put that into your goals for the year.

And go out and do it.

Slowly, surely, bit by bit you will grow. You will be a desirably employee because each year you have done better than the previous. You have added skills. You have done new stuff.

And in five years you will be in a place that makes you happy.

Continuing with my theme of celebrating the little things, I put forward to you that a strong career can also be built by doing good things, one step at a time.


Harish Vasudevan | @harishvasudevan
Marketing. Technology. Books. Music. Laughter. Family. (not in that order.)
China. Singapore. Kenya. India. (in that order). WPP. IBM.