HUM 275: The 3 X 5 Plan

Your three destinations.

Imagine that you are venturing out on an ocean, where there are any number of islands that you can steer towards. Each island is a potential career destination for you. You are going to map and explore three of those islands, according to the following rules:

Island 1: this is the most obvious island you could land on – the most obvious career path you can envision for yourself. It has to be an actual job/career (“live off my parents while playing video games in the basement” is not an option.

Island 2: this is the thing that you would do if, for some reason, landing on Island 1 isn’t an option.  (Important proviso: Island 1 contains all the career options related to that path. So for example, if Island 1 is “go to an ivy-league law school and get a Supreme Court clerkship,” Island 2 can’t be “go to a lesser law school and get a job as an associate with a local firm” or “work as a paralegal until my LSAT scores improve.” All careers involving the practice of law are contained on Island 1. Island 2 needs to be something completely different.)

Island 3: this is the career that you would have if you didn’t have to think about money.  It has to be an actual JOB (not, say, watching Netflix and playing with your cat), and you have to imagine that you’d put in 40+ hours/week pursuing it, but you don’t have to imagine yourself earning a livable salary doing that thing.

What are your three islands?

The Plan

We contain multitudes. A single plan for the future is never enough. Who can say which path will lead to happiness? Who can know what new knowledge will change everything?

Mapping three possible futures helps you think flexibly and creatively about your transition from this moment right now to your life after college. Think hard about the three potential islands your life could unfold on.

You will devise a plan for existing on those islands for the next 5 years, up to December 2025.

What you will hand in:

A document (pdf or doc or docx, please) setting forth these three plans. The form your plans take is entirely up to you, so long as it includes all of the elements listed below for all three plans.  Some possibilities to consider:

  • Chart
  • Map
  • Timeline
  • Outline
  • Flowchart
  • Year-by-Year Calendar
  • NOT a cut-and-paste document that follows the elements sequentially listed in this exercise. It’s YOUR future; give it a distinctive shape.

You will EMAIL your final document(s) to me and the rest of the class, and you will respond to at least two of your classmates with supportive/helpful reflections on their plans. It’s going to be a tough winter. Let’s make connections and help each other where we can. You’ll find the email addresses in the email I send you with this assignment.

Complete the following steps for EACH of your destinations (islands).

STEP 1: Endpoints (December 2025)

  • Imagine three potential versions of yourself in the winter of 2025, depending on which of those islands you’re living on. If you’re having trouble formulating three separate visions, think about questions like these. Note that I say, “think about,” not “answer.”
    • How much money will you be making?
    • Where will you be living?
    • What sorts of people will you be working with?
    • What kinds of problems will you be solving?
    • What kinds of information will you be working with?
    • Which of these questions strike you as most important or relevant? (That’s a clue to recognizing your broader goals.)
  • How you go about describing each of those endpoints may vary from island to island (for example, salary may be a significant element of one scenario but not another – that’s okay).

STEP 2. Process

Reverse-engineer the time between now and 2025 to bring about each of those three endpoints.  You MUST include the following for each of your three endpoints:

  • Short term steps. This means
    • One or two concrete things that you would do by the end of May 2021(next spring) to advance your towards each of these three goals
    • One or two concrete things that you will do by the end of 2021 (next December) to advance towards each of your three goals.
    • Be specific! “Get an internship” or “network!” or “volunteer” is not helpful.  Identify a specific opportunity you would pursue, specific people to contact for an informational interview, concrete ideas you have for demonstrating leadership.
  • Intermediate goals: What do you want to have accomplished two and a half years from now in order to attain that endpoint? Think about where you will be in May 2023.
    • What do you want to have accomplished by then?
    • What experiences do you want to have had?
    • What additional skills do you want to have acquired?
    • What do you want to be doing in that moment that moves you towards your endpoint?
  • Relevant past experiences. What significant past experiences, interests, or activities do you want to draw on as you go forward?  What threads or themes from your life up to now do you want build on in each version of your future life?  How will you do that?
  • Obstacles. For each endpoint, identify the obstacles that you see yourself needing to overcome. These can be concrete and personal (“I’ll have to stay within a hundred mile radius of home to help my family”), abstract (“I have a hard time believing I could have the discipline to pull X off”), structural (“I’m not sure this industry is going to survive COVID”) or anything else you fear would interfere with your plans.

STEP 3.  Unknowns. 

  • What are the main pockets of uncertainty that you see when you look forward along these three paths that you have sketched out?  What two or three specific things would it be helpful for you to know more about (that is, concrete information about the world, not powers of clairvoyance) in order to advance towards each endpoint?
  • How will you go about getting this insight? Again, be specific. “I will network with people” doesn’t really move you forward. “I will look for midsize consulting companies in or near my hometown where I might have a connection and try to get an informational interview to learn more about entry-level jobs in the consulting business” is an actual strategy.

Email me and the rest of the class your plans (one document or three – whichever you prefer) to get to your three islands.  You will find the email addresses for your classmates in the email that I sent you with this assignment. Respond to at least TWO classmates (and cc me) with constructive/supportive reflections.

(Return to main course page.)