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Why this former politician says you need a five-year plan

Why you definitely need a five-year plan. Source: Getty

What’s your five year plan?

It’s a question most of us would have encountered in a job interview, or from a nosy family member over Christmas lunch.

But do any of us really have one?

The common argument against five-year plans is that they’re daunting, time-consuming, and too far away to be realistic.

While that may be true in some respects, former leader of the NSW Liberal Party, Kerry Chikarovski, says it’s the best way to get your wheels into motion, and reach your career goals.

Five-year plans kicked Chikarovski into gear

Chikarovski, or Chika as she’s affectionately known, always dreamed of being a politician.

But after studying law, opening her own legal practice and teaching part-time at the College of Law until her early 30s, she realised she hadn’t pursued her dreams at all.

It all came to a head one night while ironing her kids’ school uniforms.

"I'm 34 years old. All I've ever wanted to do is be a politician, and I'm nowhere near my goal,” she said, reminiscing on the night.

That was her turning point.

The next day, she phoned her local member with one request: “I want your job.”

He had some actionable advice: “'I’m going to retire in four years or five years time. I think you need to work on a plan, and you can have my job, and I will work with you."

Suddenly Chika found herself on track - all she needed was a plan.

“So I had a five-year plan. I don't know whether you all have five-year plans, but I had a five-year plan.”

That plan, she explained, was to spend the next three years building her reputation, gaining more skills and hone her focus as a politician.

“It's really important.

“I mean, I had been focused, but not properly focused. When I made the five-year plan, it actually got me into action - I started to do things.”

But be prepared for career plans to change

The reason Chika never divulged the last two years of her five-year plan was because her plans were made redundant.

As plans often do, they were changed.

“[Her five-year plan] was fantastic until John Dowd decided to resign as the local member four days before Nick Greiner called the 1991 election.

“So my five-year plan at that stage was about eight months in - not as well-advanced as I'd hoped it to be.”

Rather than backing down, Chika took her opportunity and ran with it.

In a “mad rush” Chika nominated for the pre-selection on a Monday, and the following Sunday was up against an existing minister.

While normally in preselections aspiring politicians are expected to meet politicians, introduce themselves and explain why they’re well-qualified for the job over weeks or months, Chika had six days.

“I was actually on the phone talking to people, and that was the best I could do.”

But it was enough.

“I got 22 votes on the first round, but I got 26 on the second round, and I won the preselection.

“So I was teaching at the College of Law, [then] I was suddenly thrown into an election campaign.”

Be open to opportunities

Chika’s five-year plan was turned on its head, but that doesn’t mean she never needed a plan in the first place.

“I would say - about any five-year plan or any career plan - be prepared for an opportunity.

“And that's what I did.

“Instead of saying, ‘Oh, I'm not ready. Maybe I'm not good enough. Maybe I shouldn't step up.’ I said ‘Absolutely, I'm stepping up. I'm having a go’.”

How can I make a five-year career plan?

There are loads of ways to form a five-year career plan.

University course finder GetSmarter says a good place to start is by asking yourself exactly what you hope to achieve in the next five years.

It can be big, but not too blue-sky. For example, “I want to be an editor” would be a good long-term plan.

Then, setting short-term goals like career objectives can help you achieve that bigger goal.

These shorter-term goals can be role description, salary bracket and working hours. For example “I want to write for a media company, earn $60,000, and work nine-to-five.”

GetSmarter advises to regularly evaluate your plans – because again, plans change. This means continuously checking and realigning your goals with what you define as a career success.

If that means you decide you now want to start your own magazine, you should re-evaluate your shorter-term goals.

And, most importantly, stay committed to your goals.

“A career plan is a road map to a more successful future.

“Set yourself apart by defining the direction your career will move in, the decisions you will make, the milestones you need to achieve, and where you want to be.”

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