Five Year Career Aspirations

  • So I'll be doing my annual performance appraisal in just under a month with my manager. He sent out a spreadsheet with some of the usual stuff on it but what was new to me was the section titled "Career Interest - Please identify both short and long term career aspirations."

    The short term section was titled "Within one year" and that's no sweat for me since I've seen it before. I'm a DBA, been in the IT/IS field for about 5-6 years, just started at this company 7 months ago so I'm still learning the systems and such. I know that in the next year I want to have a much more comfortable understanding of the systems, the business and since we'll probably be upgrading to SQL Server 2008, do some training on it and get comfortable with it.

    It's the long term goals that I've never seen before, the title is "Within 5 years". Now I can think back to December 2004 where I was fresh out of school, was just about to start my first non-student-placement job as a programmer for a contracting company in Sudbury. Newly married, living in a tiny apartment, etc. I had a rough idea what I wanted in the next 5 years, which was to make a decent career out of all this computer stuff.

    Flash forward to today, I'm somewhat recently separated, living in my house outside of Toronto (renting out the one in Sudbury to a newlywed couple), have a great career after changing companies 3 times and I realized I don't know where I want to go from here. I achieved the goal I sort of set back in 2004 and now I should really make a new 5 year plan.

    Do I want to be a manager in 5 years? Not really, my technical skills should still be good then and I'm the youngest (28) here with no psychological need to boss others around. Would I like more responsibility? Sure, like managing some projects would be just fine once I get my feet on the ground. But all in all, I'd be happy with the status quo for a bit. That might just be because of all the radical changes from this year (separation, layoff, move, new job) and some desire for stability for a change. I might have a totally different outlook in 6 months or a year.

    How do the rest of you pros approach figuring out how to answer the question "What do you want to be doing in 5 years?"

  • Ian, I don't think they are looking for war and peace here.

    I think you have answered your own question in the last paragraph - remaining in the technical sphere, advancing into a senior role amongst your peers and taking responsibility as the technical lead in projects. Careful how you phrase that bit or they might think you want to be a project manager.

    Be honest about what you want, not every one has to want to be a manager, but remember its your appraisal so this is a chance to show yourself in a good light, they will be looking for people to show initiative and a desire to develop, especially amongst younger employees such as yourself. Only older, well entrenched employees can get away with stating they wish to continue where they are (which is a perfectly acceptable aspiration unless your HR department is totally up itself).

    As someone who has changed jobs 3 times in 5 years they might be looking for evidence you intend to stay and are worth investing in, so personally I would emphasise that aspect.


  • Thank you for the feedback. I had forgotten about my director's concerns about me having changed jobs so frequently when I was at the interview. I believe I will emphasize the fact I want to remain here and grow into some form of technical lead role. As the sole DBA, that shouldn't be difficult to imagine.

    I was talking to one of my coworkers the other day and he said that I can actually be "promoted" to a management level but just not have people report to me. I think it's more of a pay scale kind of thing. In that case, I'd then report to my boss' boss (the IT/IS director) so that would actually be reasonable if I did want to transition into a management role later on. For the time being though, I like reporting to my current manager. He's a really great guy and easy to get along with. Our director is a good guy too, but then again, if he wasn't I don't think my 5 year plan would involve this company!

  • pleasure Ian, hope it works out.

    Shame there wasn't more response, but you can never tell with a public forum what will elicit responses.


  • I think George has some good advice, and be fairly honest. If you don't plan on staying there, I wouldn't write it down, but I might have a sidebar with the director.

    Really think about what you want to do. Develop software? Manage systems? Take it easy and coast? Once you have those goals, think about how to get them phrased into your current company. If you want to leave and go work for MS building SQL Server, aim for more goals in that sphere across the next few years.

    If you want to run a team, or try it, say that, handling projects that are larger (time or dev-resources) in your day to day.

    I've rarely had trouble being honest, even if that was that I didn't think I'd be there five years from now. Doing a good job is appreciated and the reality is that often people won't be there in five years.

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