Do we really need to see ourselves 10 years ahead?

Yesterday was 10th August. Exactly 10 years ago, I was gearing up for a presentation on SAP HANA at the SAP World Tour in Melbourne. As a senior consultant at Infosys, it was a huge responsibility for me, and my managers had immense faith in me, which added to the pressure.

Eventually, the presentation went well and the feedback was extremely encouraging from all quarters. I knew that this also meant I would get a stellar rating in the following appraisal cycle and possibly, even a promotion. However, that day became a milestone day in my life for reasons other than what I would have thought back then.

If someone would have asked me that day – “Where do you see yourself ten years from now?” I would have probably replied, “Giving another presentation on behalf of Infosys at another SAP World Tour event”. But that was not to be! Because the very next day, after my return, a night of sickness and introspection sowed the seeds of changing my career path in my head.

Within a matter of a few hours, there was a huge shift in where I wanted to stand. I realised that my feet were at my work, but my heart elsewhere. By the time I had taken the decision to resign, I was no more the corporate employee with a plush and grueling job in essence. I had become a woman who wanted to explore various facets within her, and move towards her true calling.

And that’s why, I believe this stereotypical question – “Where do you see yourself 5 years/10 years from now?” is pointless. It’s all about NOW! What are you passionate about now? What are your aspirations now? What is your vision now? What matters to you the most now?

Humans are ever-evolving beings. I strongly believe that we have an ocean within us if we truly get down to diving inside. We are full of surprises and quirks, and talents and desires. I agree that we need to have goals and plans when it comes to our work, but we also need adaptability, intuitiveness and the capability to reinvent ourselves from time to time.

I think the past one year has truly shown us the mirror. COVID era has proved all the more that we are not made up of ‘plans’. We are made up of our ‘innovation’ and ‘resilience’ and ‘redesign skills’. We are made up of our willingness to mould ourselves and grow with changing times.

As someone who is extremely passionate about all the work that I do, I am not taking away from the importance of having a perspective to foresee oneself few years down the line. But that doesn’t define us and we need to acknowledge that one doesn’t have to know this to be a visionary or a successful professional.

So, can we please stop asking this oft-repeated archaic question and using it to judge someone’s performance/prudence in an interview or otherwise? As a friend of mine from the HR discipline pointed out in jest, the ones asking this question probably themselves wouldn’t know what life has in store for them the next day!

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