Think long term

In the face of constant change, planning horizons are shorter than they used to be. However, only thinking quarter to quarter is a trap that may rob companies of their ability to see around the bend. Best-in-class companies create processes designed to treat strategy as an annual cycle rather than a one-time, static event.

4 reasons you need to think long-term in your career

1. There is always something new to learn

The days of leaving university and thinking you’re done learning is long over (if they ever even existed, that is). The rapid pace of technological and societal change means there’s always something new to learn. And with a fresh batch of young people entering the workforce each and every year, there is no way you can afford to be complacent in your knowledge.

2. Time is precious, but also plenty

Time is undoubtedly precious and we shouldn’t waste it.Sometimes in our youth, we can forget how much time there really is in a career. For a 25-year-old, reflecting back 10 years sees them in school; for a 55-year-old, it takes them back to 45, a point where they’ve probably been established in their career for some time. At retirement age, someone could be reflecting on 40 years or more in a career. Time is undoubtedly precious and we shouldn’t waste it. But that shouldn’t stop us from realising there is also plenty of it, and that we therefore need to plan our careers accordingly.

3. You can’t plan short unless you plan long

Think about where you would like to be in 10 years. A new job? Working for that firm you’ve always dreamed of? Now bring your mind back to the present. What can you do to make that imagined “you” a reality? Well, you could do this course, get in touch with that person, look for opportunities in this area, et cetera. The point is, anything you want to plan in the short term can only be so if you have some idea of where you want to be heading. Otherwise, how else would you know what your next step is?Knowing for certain what you want from the future isn’t needed, but you at least need to have some perspective on the rough direction you want to head. Otherwise, all your day-to-day or year-to-year goals will be exercises in reaction to the past, rather than action towards the future. Take some quiet time to reflect on where you might want to go.

4. Career development is fuelled by compounding gains

The speed at which your career can develop is in many ways tied to how it got to where it is now – that is to say, the fast growth you might experience in your 30s, say, is fuelled by the legwork you did in your 20s. It’s a bit like a bank balance; even if you only get a 2 percent return each year, the compounding of interest means that in absolute terms you’re gaining more from that return percentage each and every year.There’s nothing stopping you from having a dramatic career change later in life, but the downside is that all your experience in your previous field may count for naught – the massive sum you built up in the metaphorical bank account can disappear.

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