This post originally appeared on the author’s personal blog, CatchCareers.com on February 9, 2015.
The biggest lie young professionals believe about career plans is: that you have to have one. The second biggest lie is that the plan is set in stone and can’t be changed. Whoa, hold on; don’t X me out just yet. While having a general life plan is great, making a plan so solid and rigid that you do nothing else only diminishes the great world around you and wonderful experiences to be found if you let yourself have the freedom to explore. Here me out…
I started writing this blog at 25 and while still aimed at young professionals, I have found that the issues I face and the concerns I have in my career have changed over these 3 years. You are no longer fresh and brand-new to the working world, but not yet settled into exactly what your path will be. There are still many unanswered questions to your career path (please your ENTIRE life) and it can suddenly feel like you have to have it all figured out. This phenomena of “having it all figured out” (and it is all perfect) is further pressurized by social media and the onslaught of perfect photos and posts from friends, kinda friends, people you went to school with, and people you met once. THEY have it all figured out; great jobs, a significant other, a puppy, a baby on the way, a brand new home. There is nothing wrong with having or wanting those things. I want them. Most people want them. The problem is our need to put them on a timeline of life milestones we must achieve by a certain age. We become dissatisfied with our great lives when we focus on the things we haven’t achieved yet. And why, oh why, do we create these life plans and beat ourselves up when things don’t go according to plan? Isn’t the reason why life is so exciting is because we can just live it and enjoy it and see where it takes us? Why do we bind ourselves to this plan?
One of the hardest things in life is letting go. From that tattered old sweater you love, to a favorite menu item being discontinued, it is hard to accept that something that was once important to us is now gone. Beyond physical objects, there is also the letting go of emotions and plans, that is equally, if not more so, difficult. It can be heartbreaking to try to accept that something you craved or wanted will no longer come to fruition. Further it can be difficult to accept for ourselves that something we once wanted, we no longer want. Maybe this is why it is so hard to step back from the plans we made and say “this is no longer what I want, and that is OK.”
What do I mean by all this rambling? Well, 5 years ago at the age of 23 I was: scared of dogs, was SO done with school (who needs graduate school?), thought my life’s career would be in manufacturing, and thought I’d be all Carrie Bradshaw like in my singleness. Here’s a little update from 28 year old Christina: while I don’t want my own dog, I do love them now. I’m in graduate school and I love it (great decision to go back). I started dating, and it was wonderful. And I’m happily employed as a consultant in the finance industry, read: not manufacturing or even close to it. While I do have some new life goals at 28, it very well may be that 33 year old Christina has changed them. AND THAT IS OK. Life plans are NEVER FINAL and NEVER DONE.
Embracing the unknown scares us. Even acknowledging it really; we like to pretend it isn’t there. Plan the best you can with the knowledge you have now, and be open to letting new ideas, experiences, and plans into your world. It is ok if last year you hated sushi, and this year you like it. That doesn’t make you weak or indecisive. People change, grow, find new interests, and grow tired of old plans and activities. Isn’t that why life is exciting? Remember the saying “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” If we get so hung up on trying to live according to this plan we’ve laid out for ourselves, we miss out on the opportunities and experiences we didn’t see coming which can be just as, if not better than, what we planned initially. We may lose the chance at an even better life by trying to stick with our predetermined script.
Take Away: If you change plans or change course in your life, that doesn’t mean you are weak. It doesn’t mean you gave up. It doesn’t mean you are no longer destined for greatness. It doesn’t mean you failed or copped out. It simply means you grew and changed in your life and you need to refit your plans to best fit you in today’s moment.
Further Reading: http://www.careerealism.com/professional-development-plan/
Christina Kach is an Associate Consultant on the Continuous Improvement team for a financial services company in Boston, MA. Prior to this role, she spent five years at a Government Defense Company focusing on Lean and process improvement in a manufacturing environment, while also completing an Operations Leadership Development Program. Christina holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from Northeastern University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management, also from Northeastern.
Image source: MealsandMiles.com; 5 Confessions