In response to the flood of inquiries about what, exactly, a 5-Year Plan should look like, following on last week’s post, Why You Need a Five-Year Plan, I am sharing the plan produced many years ago by my first Ph.D. student, who is now an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at an R1 institution.
This student was the rock star of 5-Year Plans. (As far as I know, she may still be! I will check with her to find out. She is on a major research leave fellowship in the field this year, and I haven’t been in close touch). I first encountered her as an undergraduate student. She began working with me then on an independent study, and then proceeded on to graduate school with me as her advisor. She finished her Ph.D. in 7 years, and this included lost time from a switch of institutions when I moved to take my second job. From her earliest days in graduate school, she had a 5-year plan. She updated it annually and always shared it with me.
The plan I reproduce here dates from about her 3rd year of graduate school. 2003 shows a series of deadlines for submission to the major conferences in her field—the Association of Asian Studies and the American Anthropological Association. November of 2003 shows the multiple deadlines for dissertation fieldwork fellowships. June and July 2004 show her preliminary exams, and August includes her proposal defense (this followed the requirements of the program). August 2004 also shows that she is finishing a book chapter (her first publication), and moving to Japan for fieldwork. December of 2004 shows deadlines for dissertation writing grants to take up the following year, after return from fieldwork. I believe, although I can’t exactly recall, that JPN: Genders, which appears in Dec. ’03, then in June ’04, and again in September ’05, was a refereed journal article that she was working on.
You will note that 2006 and 2007 are mostly empty except for continuing major conference submission deadlines, and an anticipated defense date. This was typical, and as these years drew closer they were filled in.
I’m not 100% sure what all the colored arrows refer to, but they seem to refer to time “chunks,” as in, “time in the field,” “summer,” and so on.
In sifting through the many reactions to the 5-year plan idea on facebook and twitter and in the comment stream to the post, I have gotten the impression that for many readers, the 5-year plan feels like a large, epic, “major life goals” kind of endeavor.
But as you can see from this example, it’s really more of a “stay on top of deadlines” kind of endeavor.
And now, let me be perfectly clear.
Staying on top of deadlines is exactly what allows a person to achieve huge life goals.
Yes, I’m quoting Thomas Edison: ”success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration.” The people who succeed in getting into the national conference are, first and foremost, the ones who actually remember to submit the proposal to the national conference, by the deadline, properly formatted.
One of the most important outcomes of the 5-year plan is that you never miss a submission deadline for a conference or a funding opportunity. As you learn of new conferences and funding opportunities, you simply add them in, without losing track of the other deadlines. You also plan out a publication schedule, and put your own deadlines for submission to journals there in the plan. And money racks up, and publications rack up, and networks rack up, and voila, the cumulative effect 5 years later is—an epic CV that gets you an epic job offer, or tenure.
This student obtained, in total, some $200,000 of research funding in graduate school (in cultural anthropology–a field that does not have massive grants), in addition to her basic TA funding package. She had several publications before finishing, and secured a tenure track position at an R1 institution in her first year on the market. She is solidly on track for tenure, and this past year she won another major research fellowship that gave her a year’s leave time for new fieldwork on a second project.
While many people certainly accomplish these things without a 5-year plan in an Excel grid, I am confident that in this student’s case, her prodigious level of organization kept her on track, productive, and out ahead of the competition at each step of the game.