The reading and work I’ve been doing on marketing is more interesting than I expected. It’s requiring me to take stock of my strengths, identify areas where I could use some help, and—the hardest of all—set long term goals. It’s easy for me to set goals for myself in the short-term because I’m organized and I love lists. I can look at my calendar and plot out what I’d like to accomplish in the next month, or even this coming year. But setting ten-year (or more) goals is considerably more difficult.
First of all, working outside of any institutional setting leaves me with no obvious road markers. Had I stayed in academia, I’d no doubt be working toward publishing a number of articles and books and securing tenure. Since my career change, however, I’ve had to chart an entirely new path. Skills such as “organization,” “time management,” or “forecasting,” are no doubt necessary, but they are insufficient tools for this journey. What enables us to set achievable goals ten years down the road is being able to imagine a future self that carries the weight of reality.
Unfortunately, we tend to focus exclusively on “life skills” when we try to get young people to commit some goals to paper. But what’s going to happen after they’ve plotted out their high school and college graduations? How do we encourage our youth to think about “work” as something so much larger (and more fulfilling) than a full time job? These questions do not fall into the domain of GED and job prep programs. We need programming that will complement their efforts by prodding youth to ask themselves who they want to be in this world. And by wrestling first-hand with this task for ourselves, we are better able to empathize with the challenges of young people trying to find their way.