Occupational Wellbeing: Where do you want to be in 5 years?

“Five years from now, where do you want to be?”

Quite the daunting question, right? Last year, I heard this question a lot… A little too often if you ask me. Oh yeah, I should probably introduce myself – my names Sarah York, I graduated from Wake in May, and am currently the Wake Forest Fellow in the OPCD. I am an often-mistaken extrovert (but a true introvert), an optimist and 24/7 future-dreamer, who loves nothing more than crying joyful tears from a good book and cycling to a killer playlist. I find true happiness in speaking into the potential of each person I encounter – especially to young adults who may believe they don’t possess any. Yet, I’ve discovered I have a bit of a crippling need when it comes to my future-oriented thoughts, all due to this idealist mind of mine:

I need meaning in everything.

From the papers I write, to every conversation I have, even the way I sign my emails… I seek a sense of purpose in all things. Yet, I desperately strive to live in the present moment. And you see, when this question continued to arise in each conversation I had last year – I felt stuck. Actually, to be quite frank – I felt paralyzed. Paralyzed by the options and choices and constant decisions on the horizon… With none of them sparking a sense of excitement or adventure or, most importantly, purpose.

I felt more pressure to pursue a fancy title and big-name company than to find purpose and joy in my future work.

And hear me loud and clear: Nothing is wrong with landing a big-name corporate job or dreaming of Wall Street. You don’t have to sell all of your things, fly across the world, and work in missions to have “purpose” (and nothing wrong with that either!). It’s all about intention and the question my wonderful mentor, Allison McWilliams, Assistant Vice President of Mentoring and Alumni Personal and Career Development, has asked me,

What is your WHAT?

Through the Fellows program, and specifically in my office, I have been surrounded by inspiring and passionate people who show me what it means to truly answer that question. One person in particular, Dr. Michael Lamb, assistant Professor of Politics, Ethics, and Interdisciplinary Humanities and Director of the Program for Leadership and Character, has completely redefined how I approach the often daunting question stated at the beginning of this post.

Not too long ago, Dr. Lamb and I sat outside Campus Grounds, while he intently listened to my mind’s conflict with the need for purpose against the world’s desire to achieve status… And he paused, digesting all that I said, and told me to ask myself three things:


  • What are your gifts and talents?


  • What are you passionate about and committed to?


  • What does the world need?




When thinking about next year, or five years from now, or even that summer job your parents are asking you to line up… I hope you feel the excitement, and also the courage to ask yourself these three questions Dr. Lamb gave me. Lastly, if you’re a senior like I was six months ago, allow me to leave you with something, to be quite honest, I regret not doing:

Be present. Yes, ask yourself these questions and think of the goals you’d like to accomplish and reflect on your experiences, but all in all, be present. Because before you know it, this “family” of friends you’ve found, and this place that has become home, won’t be with you in wherever life may lead. Hug your friends tighter, remind them of their worth, thank the professors who have taught you, and give gratitude for this magical place that is Wake Forest, a second-home that encourages us to never stop dreaming.

Before I go, in the spirit of Occupational Wellbeing, let me leave you with one more question Dr. Lamb asked me that beautiful fall day outside Campus Grounds,

Often we ask ourselves, “what would make me happy?” when rather, we should be asking ourselves, “What would you regret not doing?”




Sarah York

Wake Forest Presidential Fellow

Office of Personal and Career Development