Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
An interview with Jannike Stöhr


Jannike Stöhr tempted us at this year’s “What if…” conference to start a quest for our dream job. Jannike tried out 30 jobs over the period of one year, just to find “the one”. We talked with her about her many, many jobs, her findings and her future. Jannike was working in the HR department of a big company before she went on her job-hunting journey. So, what better way to start off the interview than by asking a typical HR question we all know and dread.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

(laughs) No idea, I don’t even know where I’ll be next year.

What I have learned is that there are things that you just cannot plan. If you want to see all the options that you have, then you cannot plan anything. I want to keep it that way as long as I can. Sure, it is necessary to have a plan to some extent, to have a few ideas about what might come next. But I never know if things will turn out as expected, and that’s why I am open to everything that might happen along the way.

Did you have a different attitude before your project?

A totally different one. I always thought I had to make plans and have very precise ideas about my future. That’s also why I got pretty nervous in the middle of my project. I thought: “Sometime soon I should really find my dream job.” Because also my savings only lasted for a year. I thought about writing my applications, so that I would have a job immediately after my project, and I was on the verge of falling back into old patterns… But that’s all nonsense. It’s important to have enough patience to withstand this uncertainty.

What’s your current job? In your blog it says „author“.

Actually, I’m already not an author anymore, because my book “The dream job experiment” is finished.

I think if you wrote a book once you are allowed to call yourself an author forever.

(laughs) I like that. In that case, I am an author. But I have some time off now and am just giving a few talks every now and then. After that, I am going to do a longer internship in Brussels, at the European Parliament. And after that, I will deal with finding a steady job again. A permanent residence would be nice – that’s something I´m really looking forward to. To have a place I can call “home” again.

Are you happy with your work life now?

Yes, I am happy. My future career path could be a bit clearer. I sometimes find it hard to have this faith that everything is going to be okay. But I have learned how important it is to withstand the uncertainty. And I am getting used to it. The bottom line is that I don’t separate my work life and my private life that much anymore. A lot of the stuff that I’m doing at the moment doesn’t feel like „work“, because I love doing it.

How did your friends and family react to your decision to take a year off, clear out your apartment and test 30 jobs all over Germany?

It wasn’t quite such a big shock for them because it happened step by step. And I had always been searching for something and always had lots of ideas. So, it wasn’t such a big surprise that I would do something like that. A very good friend of mine who I visited during my project, told me: “You are much more centered now. You have always been looking for something, and now it seems like you finally found it.”

How did you choose the jobs?

I wasn’t looking for jobs, I was looking for people. People who are passionate about their jobs. I wanted to find my place, and so I looked for people who had found theirs. This passion for what they do was the most important requirement.

What was the job that impressed you the most?

Every job had its own charm. When you learn from people who love what they do, you learn to see a job from their perspective. One job that particularly stayed with me was that of a pathologist. This job changed the way I looked at my project and also the way I lived my life. I overcame my urge to plan everything and I learned how our bodies work. I understood that our organs are there to keep us healthy and that we can’t take them for granted. Since then, I changed a lot about my lifestyle: I sleep more, drink more water, eat healthier and exercise more.

Is there any job that you shouldn’t have done in retrospect?

(smiles) No.

You worked in online journalism as well as in organic farming. Did you feel a difference between working intellectually and working manually?

Definitely. It had a different feel to it when I came home after a day of work. When you work intellectually, then your mind just keeps on thinking long after you get home. When you work manually, you are totally exhausted when you come home, but you know that your work is done.

Is there an ideal way of work for people of our generation?

I can’t make generalisations. What is right for me doesn’t necessarily have to be right for the next person. It is important to be honest to yourself, as an employee, but also as a company. This already is an enjoyable way of working.

Do you plan on doing similar projects in the future?

(smiles) I have many ideas, as always. But I am done with testing jobs for now.

Find Jannike’s TEDxVienna talk in the video below.

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About Verena Ehrnberger

Verena works as a data privacy legal expert and studies philosophy at the University of Vienna. Always juggling multiple projects, she is seriously addicted to coffee.

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