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Why You Need a Five Year Career Plan and How to Create One

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

You would like to reach your career goals faster, wouldn’t you? You just want that senior position next year or be promoted to a more supervisory position because you think you are far better than your manager!

Believe it or not, if you write your goals down on a piece of paper or just any other medium like on a sticky note on your iPad, your chances to get your goal significantly increase. This is a better approach than letting your dreams drift aimlessly above your head.

So, if you are at the beginning of your career or already employed for a while but not even close to where you want to be, a 5-year career plan is an indispensable strategy for your professional advancement. Creating a step-by-step career path will concretize your goal and serve as a guide and motivator along the way.

What is career planning?

Career planning is about deciding what you want to do in your future. It's not a one-time thing; the whole process needs to be thought through again and again as circumstances around us are likely to change.

Everyone's career plans are different. Nonetheless, you should start by thinking about your values and skills. This can be your starting point for finding career opportunities and pursuing a career you want. Career plans can include assessments, testing, coaching, formal education and professional development.

SMART Strategy for career planning

This article provides detailed steps for creating a 5-year career plan. The actions at each step are based on the SMART strategy (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound). We divide the strategy into two parts:

A. Tips and elements to consider in a 5-year career plan.

B. Plan for each year.

A. Tips and elements to consider when making a 5-year career plan.

Think it through.

Before you create a plan, think about what position you want to achieve in the coming years. This will give you an overview of everything you need to learn and experience to reach that position. Be specific with your goals, as this will give you direction.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) Goals Strategy is the best to use for your five year career plan.

Analyze any obstacles.

Is your current position suitable for the job you want?

Do you have all the skills to master and succeed in your dream career?

If not, then you need to make the necessary changes quickly.

You may need to change your current job, but consider your financial situation and proceed wisely. Next, get rid of habits that you see as potential obstacles to achieving your goals.

Set a time frame.

Set a realistic time frame, rather than over-promising yourself that you can complete multiple tasks (such as mastering the multiple skills) within a deadline.

Set short-term goals that you can accomplish in the time you have. However, make sure these goals serve as milestones on the way to a more important goal.

Stay in touch with key people.

Most employers today do not just rely on candidates' resumes and cover letters when hiring. Employers want to know from their shortlisted candidates if the job has a good reputation.

Therefore, you should have a well-optimized LinkedIn profile. Stay in touch with key people in the industry over the years, participate in their social posts, share trends in your field, etc. You need to network constantly.

Polish your technical and soft skills.

You should master the relevant technical skills required for the current and future jobs you aspire to in the next five years.

Take advantage of any appropriate opportunities, including continuing education courses, part-time jobs, or volunteer work.

In addition, you also need to improve your soft skills especially emotional intelligence to accomplish your goals. So work on your soft skills as well, such as effective communication, public speaking, negotiation, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence and organizational skills.


B. Plan for each year.

When you get several tips at once, it can be overwhelming. Therefore, in this article you will find a suitable sample schedule that you can follow.

Year 1 - Outdo yourself in your current job.

If you have a job that supports your desired position, make sure you become the highest performing employee.

Reach out to your supervisor as needed. Keep track of your performance appraisal. Ask for a raise at the end of the year.

Year 2: Spend time honing your skills.

Once you have improved your position, focus on learning skills that will help you stand out from the competition.

Take advantage of opportunities to further your education and determine how much time you need to spend on it. Depending on your work schedule, choose the best possible advanced training.

Year 3: Seek a promotion.

Ask your team leader or supervisor for feedback on your work. Gather all evidence of exceptional performance and apply for openings for higher positions.

You can apply to the same company or to another one you think is better. Although, finding your dream job may be a daunting process for many, you should be determined to be promoted within the time frame in your plan.

Year 4: Build a professional network.

In the 4th year, you need to build your professional network.

Focus more on a LinkedIn presence and contacts with industry associations. Make time to attend industry events and meetings. If you are offered a leadership role, do not hesitate to accept.


Year 5: Showcase your accomplishments.

After following a perfect schedule for the last four years to reach the position you want, now it's time to show what you have got. Gather all the feedback and evidence of your consistent efforts and great results.

Enhance your portfolio by mentioning all the tasks you have excelled at over the past few years. Apply for the open positions you are interested in.

Make career planning a regular event.

Take some time to review your 5-year career plans. Evaluate your current job and rethink your goals. We think, the best time to do this is during the Christmas season.

Keep a record of your achievements.

We often lack a work history, but this information does not only help to build up a resume but is also helpful in preparing for the future.

Learn the art of describing your achievements as well as your achievements as your career goals. You may keep a journal or create a portfolio that you build each time you accomplish something.

Keep an up-to-date LinkedIn profile and resume.

It would be best if you spent some time updating your LinkedIn profile and resume. If you do, you'll be prepared in advance when an opportunity comes along your way.

You significantly increase your chances of drawing recruiters' attention if you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile because talent managers are constantly lookout in LinkedIn for the perfect candidates for their companies.


Why is career planning important for companies?

Your company's Human Resources department should encourage employees to make career plans. If your HR helps them take a step toward career success, the company can retain employees and increase their engagement. It helps reduce workplace burnout as employees pursue bigger goals that go beyond their daily tasks.

Companies that ignore their team members' career plans could limit their development and cause them to look elsewhere for opportunities. By putting formal procedures in place to plan their careers, the management shows them that the company cares about their progress. Employee loyalty grows over time, as does their potential to advance professionally.

Recommended books for career planning:




To advance your career, you need to set firm goals and work towards them. You may be passionate, but if you do not make a plan with realistic goals and a time frame, you will be disoriented.

So make sure you come up with a solid 5-year strategy, write it down or record it at your computer, and move forward with purposeful steps. If you consistently move in the right direction, you will get the results you want.

Disclaimer: The links mentioned above are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission from them at no cost to you when you purchase from them. Regardless, I only recommend products I believe will tremendously help my readers.


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