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How to Make a 5-Year Career Plan ( Template + Example)

Perhaps you have already heard the quote, “A goal without a plan is just a dream,” this is true, especially in career goal setting. Having a career plan gives you a clearer perspective of the direction you need to go through to be a step closer to your dream job. And this is where the 5-year career plan comes in, as this method can help you turn your goals into a reality. 

What is a 5-year career plan?

A 5-year career plan is a long-term, strategic plan to achieve your career goal or dream job within the next five years. This plan often includes documented ambitions with timelines and sub-goals to achieve your listed ambitions.

Having a goal can vastly improve your career life. Goals align your focus, sustain your momentum, and motivate you to take action. In fact, a study shows that 14% of people who have goals are 10 times more successful than those who don’t. Creating an action plan allows you to structure your goals and make them more concrete and achievable.

Benefits of creating a 5-year career plan

Still not convinced that you should start to work on your career action plan and goal setting? Here are some benefits of creating a 5-year career plan that will surely inspire you.

  • Ensure that your action and decision align with your values. When you create a career plan, you get a chance to think about your career direction thoughtfully and where you really want to be headed—writing down your goals forces you to examine your routines, habits, and values. While doing this, you become more aware of your unfulfilling habits that are also against your values. Your action plan allows you to stay on your career path that aligns with your goals and what you really care about.
  • Helps you stay motivated. When you sincerely look at your career goals and break them down into smaller actionable steps, your goals become more achievable, encouraging you to complete your work efficiently.   
  • Makes you more focused. Sometimes, life can be overwhelming, and you can quickly lose focus and motivation when faced with challenges. This may lead to setbacks that can affect your career, and you don’t want that to happen. Deciding what you want to accomplish to reach your goal lets you focus on the more important tasks.  
  • Your ambitions become easier to execute and to understand. Looking at your goals from a broader perspective and pursuing them without having a plan can be stressful. Breaking down your ambitions into actionable steps ensures that you consistently take steps towards achieving your goals. It also reduces stress and anxiety because you are trying to tackle everything at once.
man in white dress shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on chair and planning career

How to make a 5-year career plan

Follow these tips to create an achievable and actionable 5-year career plan:

Evaluate what you really want for your career

Start by brainstorming what you really want in life in the next five years. Think of what will make you happy and feel accomplished. You can start by writing down what inspires you and any potential career-related goals. These can be anything, as long as you really want those. Write down as many ideas as you can because you can still narrow them down in the next steps.

You will be more happy and successful if you are in the career you really want. The steps below will help you figure out what you want as a career:

  • Assess your values, personality, skills, and interests. You can take self-assessment tools found online.
  • Identify the lessons you have learned from your work history. What you liked and hated the most about your previous jobs, the biggest challenge you’ve faced, etc.
  • Make a list of your career negotiables and non-negotiables. This will prevent you from inventing a wrong career. 
  • Based on what you have gathered from our first three steps, get information on different career paths and compare careers.

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Conduct a skill and experience assessment

A good starting point in assessing yourself is by creating a list of all your skills and experiences from the moment you started. Then, differentiate your previous responsibilities from your current responsibilities.

If you are transitioning to a new career path, then what you are currently doing should be related to what you want to do. But, if this is not the case, and you have identified your skill gaps, then a 5-year career plan can help you distinguish what next steps you should take to achieve your dream job.

Refine your career goals

Once you have all the information you need about your skills, experience, and what you want to achieve, the next step is to refine your goals. The best way to do this is by using the SMART goal-setting method. This is an acronym to help you guide your goal setting. It stands for:

  • Specific. Your goals should be specific and focused on your desired outcome.
  • Measurable. Should have specific criteria to measure your progress and outcome.
  • Achievable. This means that your goals need to be attainable and not impossible to achieve.
  • Relevant. As previously mentioned, your goals should align with your values and are relevant to your life purpose.
  • Time-bound. You need to have a clear timeline (start date and end date). This creates a sense of urgency and motivation.
man in white dress shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on wooden chair and writing his long term career plan

Draft your plan

At this stage, you must have already decided what goals you are going to pursue so that you will only focus the majority of your time and energy on those goals. These goals should be the most important within the five-year timeframe. Trying to accomplish all of your listed goals will just make it challenging to achieve them. 

Once you have decided which goals are the most important, you can start creating the list of steps that you need to achieve those. Write down the steps you need to complete monthly, quarterly, and annual targets. Doing this will make it easier for you to track your progress and accomplishments and maintain your focus and productivity.

Review and reassess your plan

Revisit your plan from time to time. So many things can happen within five years, and you continue to grow and develop as a person. For example, you might discover new skills and passion while you were taking career development online courses, which made you want to change your career path, or your interests and priorities can also change. 

It’s okay to make changes and revise your goals in your career plan as long as the outcome will still make you successful.

5-year career plan template and example

Here’s a template and example of a 5-year career plan to become a marketing manager:

example of a 5-year career plan

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