I was recently asked where I see myself in 10 years.
Since moving to the UK a year ago, I have tried as much as possible to avoid such questions. Before moving abroad, I knew exactly what my career path was. It was such a great plan that I could pretty well plan when we would buy our first house and have our children. However, when I left Canada for the UK, I could barely plan the upcoming year, let alone what I wanted to do afterwards. Thomas was starting a degree in Oxford meaning that there was a good chance that I would stay in the UK for the next four years. When instead I accepted an offer to study in Taiwan for a year, my very rudimentary (and ill-defined) three-year plan was squashed.
Now, I was being asked what I was going to do in TEN years. As I babbled my way through a generic (and unsatisfying) answer, I realised that my career choices depended not on what I wanted to do, but where I ended up.
Whether I live in Canada or internationally, my career prospects vary greatly within the same field. Do I want to move to Switzerland to work for an international organisation? Do I want to stay in London to work for a consulting company? Or do I move back to Canada to take up a job with the government? These are all things that I would be happy to do, but how am I supposed to pick just one of them?
My ten year plan also doesn’t just depend on me anymore. I can’t just decide that my future lies in Switzerland regardless of whether or not they need my mathematician hubby. I have to juggle between Thomas’s job prospects, my own, and where we want to live. There are too many variables in this equation (see what I did there) to give a clear answer under pressure.
To be completely honest, recently I have toyed with the idea of dropping everything and moving onto a little chunk of land somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The reason why this idea is so appealing is because it would enable me to avoid having to make any big decisions. Instead of filling my days with questions about my career, job prospects, and updating my resume, I could stick to easier decisions like which plants to grow and what kind of bread to make. Deep down, I know that I won’t be satisfied with this kind of a life, because I want to make a difference, but who doesn’t day dream at least a little about avoiding life’s big questions.
Fundamentally, no one knows where they will be in ten years and the ones that do know will either change their minds before then or they picked one of those stable careers like nursing or becoming a doctor. For the rest of us, especially those trying to incorporate international experience into the mix, we plan a year at a time and adapt to our environment. Isn’t that what going abroad is about: learning as you go, adaptation, and short term planning? I know exactly what I’m doing in the next year and the opportunity going to Taiwan represents is more valuable than a ten-year plan.