Why do so many professionals live their life by ‘default’?

I was working with a group of mainly young accountants yesterday delivering 2 workshops on networking skills. As part of this workshop, I ask them to write down a 5 year career goal.

What was interesting that in the discussions, many of my delegates felt that having a 5-10 year career goal was unrealistic, as it was:

[quote]Too early to say what they wanted for their careers[/quote]

This is, sadly, quite a common viewpoint from young professionals, as my co-author Jo, regularly found that when she worked with young lawyers, they found it difficult to think about much beyond the next couple of years. It’s the ‘I’ll get a training contract and then think about the next step’, then the ‘I’ll get qualified and then think about the next step’, then the ‘I’ll get to manager/associate and think about the next step’….

However, in our view, if you are going to go for partner AND still have a life, the earlier you start thinking about the 5-10 year vision for your career AND life, the greater probability that you will achieve the career recognition and the life outside of work that you want.

It pains me to say this that I am now in my late 30s. My children are now 5 and 6, but many of my peers have very young children or are still waiting to start their family. In my 20s, I didn’t know that a women’s fertility starts to drop off a cliff at the age of 37. The Daily Mail is full of stories now about career women realising they have left it too late to start a family. Any female who wants to make partner, and start a family, in my view, has to be thinking in their 20s (often when many of them feel it’s too early to think about this) if they want to start a family and how their career will need to flex to accomodate this. For example, this may necessitate a move to a different firm who is more likely to embrace family-friendly working – or even choosing to specialise in a technical speciality that doesn’t have large peaks and troughs in workload, such as the deal lead environments.

Although I’ve chosen to focus on the female angle here for an argument to think earlier about your long term career vision, I think that the need to do this thinking earlier applies to men as well as females. However, I tend to find that men are more likely to have this long term career vision established much earlier in their career. Perhaps it’s because their gender means they are more likely to be loyal to their career than their firm (it’s the opposite for females).

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wheel of life tool copy 200pxCreate career action plan copy 200pxIf you would like some practical help to think about your own 5-10 year career vision, how about downloading our FREE guide to writing your career action plan, or completing the wheel of life exercise to help you think about what you want from your work AND life in the long term [/box]

Charles Green, one of our experts for our fast-track to partner masterclass series advised readers of ‘How to make partner and still have a life‘, in the foreword, to think about the hard stuff and what they want from their life. His advice was:

[quote]don’t choose to live your life by default[/quote]

In your view, why is that Charles Green, Jo and myself are seeing professionals reluctant to identify and commit to a 5-10 year plan and vision for their career and life outside of work?

[TSQ42012]

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