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How To Develop A Five-Year Career Plan: A Step-By-Step Guide

about 2 months ago by Rose Hunt

How To Develop A Five-Year Career Plan: A Step-By-Step Guide

5 Year Career Plan

​Most of us have been asked at a job interview where we see ourselves in five years’ time. Some of us might even have cobbled together a vague and ill-advised answer about wanting the job of the person in the chair opposite. But what if you could articulate your vision not only with complete conviction and certainty, but also explain the exact steps you’ll be taking to get there? Enter: your five-year career plan.

What is a five-year career plan?

A five-year career plan is a framework that outlines the professional goals you want to achieve, as well as the steps you’ll need to take to make your plan a reality. It might include long-term goals, as well as smaller, more short-term milestones. It will include an audit of your current situation, and a full outline of the person you hope to become. It should be an aspirational document that encourages you to become the best version of your professional self, and motivates you to keep going.

So, grab a notepad - or a blank Word document if you’re feeling extra fancy – and let’s get started.

1. Assess your current situation

It’s time to take stock of your professional life – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Are you working in a sector you can see yourself sticking with for the long haul? Is your work making you happy, or causing you stress? If your current job isn’t bringing you satisfaction, what’s missing? By conducting a full audit of the aspects of your current career you enjoy as well as the parts you don’t, you’ll be able to gain a clearer picture of what you should be focusing on moving forward. You’ll also be able to gauge any particular skills gaps or weaknesses that are holding you back professionally.

2. Visualise yourself in the future

Take some time to imagine the ideal version of yourself in five years. Do you want to become the CEO of your own company? Perhaps you dream of becoming a professional cat whisperer (hey, no judgement here). Think about the person you’ll be in five years: what’s your job title? What kind of work life balance do you enjoy? How much money do you make? Now’s not the time for self-limiting beliefs, so think big. After you have a firm idea in your head of the person you’d love to become, be sure to make thorough notes. After all, we’re 42% more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down!

3. Think about the skills and qualifications you’ll need

Let’s say that right now you’re a software developer, but you’d ultimately like to be a technical team lead. It’s time to start thinking about the things you’ll need to do to make this a reality. For example, you may need to work on your project management skills, or your knowledge of software architecture and systems testing. You may also need to develop soft skills that are crucial to leadership, which could involve taking a course or reading some books. Once you know what you need to do, start making a list. It’s a good idea to divide your list into categories – for example, ‘soft skills’, ‘practical skills’, and ‘formal qualifications’. This will be helpful when it comes to steps four and five.

4. Set clear, measurable goals

Before you start rehearsing your acceptance speech for that promotion, you’ll need to think practically. By now, you should have a list of categorised objectives you need to achieve. Next, it’s time to consider each one in turn and think about how and when you’ll realistically be able to meet them, along with how you’ll know when each one is completed. It’s worth using the SMART formula – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. For example, setting yourself a goal of completing a particular online course within the next six months ticks all these boxes, as does improving your communication skills by speaking up in meetings seven times within the next month. Keeping your goals specific with measurable KPIs is a great way to hold yourself to account, as well as know when you’ve achieved what you set out to.

5. Break down your goals into milestones

Researchers have discovered that there’s a significant correlation between the success of a project and how effectively progress is monitored along the way. It’s therefore a good idea to break down each specific goal into smaller milestones. For example, if one of your goals is to complete an online course, your milestones might include signing up for the course, and then completing each module and handing in your coursework. If your goal is to earn a promotion within the next year, you might speak to your manager about the specific objectives you need to achieve first, and make these the milestones you’ll tick off along the way.

6. Seek guidance

Developing a successful five-year career plan isn’t an achievement that takes place in a vacuum, so it’s a great idea to talk about your plan with others. Maybe you have a career mentor that will be able to offer advice and support, or maybe you want to share your aspirations with friends so they can give you a nudge in the right direction every now and again. Remember though that ultimately, this is your plan, and you have the final say.

7. Regularly re-evaluate

A lot can change in five years. Your professional interests and passions might alter, along with industry norms, job titles, and required skills. Your five-year career plan should therefore never be static, but fluid and dynamic enough so that you can easily adapt to changes when required. It doesn’t matter how much – or how frequently – you’re making alterations, just that you’re keeping it up to date with your preferences and progress.

Ultimately, creating a strong and dynamic five-year career plan could well prove extremely beneficial for your personal development and success. A well-thought-out plan will act as a roadmap for achieving your goals, as well as break them down into smaller, more achievable milestones. It will also be an invaluable tool in helping you stay motivated and on track, and to maintain a clear and tangible vision of the person you want to become in the future. After all, as a wise man once said, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.’

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