5 Years from now, who will you be?

One of the tools I use when giving career guidance advice to recent graduates and working professionals is the “5 years from now essay”. A variation for the younger students is: “5 years after your graduation”.

In history, when China was building its economy, it had these 5 year plans that outlined their ambitious goals. If you do not build up your vision to a level so clear that you literally see it, you will probably never get there. What you can imagine, you can possess. 

Sometimes when I ask someone to write this essay, they only devote a day or two to the exercise. Building your vision is more important than the individual plans and steps you will make towards that vision! Give it your all!

Now let’s look at how to write this essay.

Step 1: Zero in on your interest

Before we even talk about you writing this essay, you should be at a point where you have at least a hazy idea of your target area in the vast universe of available careers. If you do not, then there is another exercise for you which we will look at in a separate series.

This step is thus about zeroing in on your core interest. Perhaps now you can see why it is wise to break this into 5 year periods leading up to the greater vision, the career landscape is continuously shifting. No one can claim today (2018) that they have 15 years’ experience in Android App development, because Android was launched in 2008. Similarly there are other fields which have recently  become very hot like Data Science and Artificial intelligence. Many Universities, even the renowned ones, do not yet have programmes for some of these fields.

If you know that you like writing, take a good week  researching about specific careers in writing. Do a thorough job and write short points about each option, be serious, this is your life we are talking about! For each option: look at the things you like and the things you dislike or even hate.

This research doesn’t care about whether you are already working or you have been in your field for 10 years, just sit down and do it! Remember, the career landscape is continuously shifting and only those who plan ahead will rise to the top!

Step 2: Pick a day or at most a week in the year “5 years from now” and write about it

Having zeroed in on your career interest, write about a normal day or week in that year. Remember this is a narrative essay, we are not yet looking at how you will get there, we are just building your vision within your imagination so that you can see it and run towards it.

This essay should focus on the work you will be doing, it should portray your values. It should not focus on the money you will be making.

Some questions which you should answer to yourself in this essay:

  1. What would I focus on if every career option in the world had the same financial rewards?
  2. What would I choose if there were no limitations?
  3. What will I enjoy most in my work?
  4. What will I dislike?
  5. What are my values? Examples of values are:
    • Variety
    • Adventure
    • Team work
    • Risk taking
    • Prestige
    • Influence
    • Helping others
    • Leadership
    • Routine
    • Fun
    • Independence
    • Security

Values differ from individual to individual and also generally should be the basis of your career decisions. For example if you value helping others, that might mean some options like Fireman, Doctor, ... appeal to you. The same is true even within one specific career option. Whilst job descriptions and titles change, your values generally will remain the same, so watch for them, they are key to your success, they drive your passion! Know them and use them!

The essay should show a work life balance. You career does not exist in a vacuum, so try to show some other values surrounding your work life.

When you take away the noise made by the focus on salaries and economic or geographical limitations, what you have is a vision driven by passion. And when passion is in the equation, good money can be made no matter what you have chosen. Perceived limitations can be overcome to get there!

Example Essay:

Today is 22 February 2023, I am just so elated. Not because it’s a special occasion as such, but I’m doing exactly what I love, I’m living my dream. As with other groups, that I have trained, it has taken us sometime to get here but when I look at each of them: I am excited about what their future holds.

When I launched this hands on career guidance center and training facility, it seemed like climbing Mountain Everest, but passion kept me going. So here we are! This group in front of me is just as uniquely composed as the others. Some of the students, like Suzie the primary school teacher, have come very far in both confidence and skills, I am sure that when she goes back to her work place she is going to do wonders with her own students.

Then there is that English Linguistics Major: imagine, in this country a Linguistics Major learning programming! Thinking outside the box for sure, she will do great. She tells me that in her pursuit of a career in blogging she intends to not only take the programming and web development courses but will also do some online courses in marketing.

Oh I’m getting dreamy again, I should wind this lesson up and prepare for the career guidance talk scheduled at Jameson High later today…

“Ok guys see you tomorrow!”, I shout, rushing to the car park. The drive to Jameson is a breeze, I like to arrive early so that I can measure the excitement levels of the group and see exactly where I must start from. Today they have given me the form 4’s. I like this group more than the others because they still have a lot of flexibility in terms of decision making. I have insisted on a separate session with their parents as well. It has been my experience that although students become more informed after our sessions, the parents out of both concern and ignorance will shoot down their children’s choices, and so will begin a long frustrated journey towards a less than average career.

After setting up my colourful paraphernalia, everything is now ready,  I walk to the podium and begin my speech, “Zimbabwe is a place where many people are educated, but few have life skills, a country where every student knows a lot about many things but not much about any one thing.” I have their attention now so I continue, “My mission today, should you allow me, is to guide you from your future backwards so that you can make the most of your education and experience along the way to your future. After all, every journey begins with a destination in mind!”….


The above exercise may seem a bit silly for an adult to do, but if you do it, you will be surprised at the clarity you will get!

In the next article we will look at some tools that you can use to plan your steps towards the vision you built in this exercise!

Author: Edmore Munedzimwe