How to Make a Five-year Plan for Your Career

Building a successful career is ultimately about setting and meeting goals—to earn a certain credential, have a certain job or make a certain salary. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is a common interview question. Do you know how you’d answer the question and what it means for your career path?
To help them reach their career goals, many people create five-year plans. Here are some tips for creating one for yourself.

  • Really, where do you want to be in five years? Depending on where you are in your career, five years might seem like a long time or the blink of an eye, but set a reachable goal that you’d like to achieve in that time. “Be the CEO of Coca-Cola” probably isn’t realistic if you’re just starting out, but “manage my own team” could be good.
  • Work out a strategy to get there. Very simply, how do you get from Point A to Point B? “Get promoted” isn’t a strategy, but “Show leadership on the team” is.
  • Define your tactics. To build on the strategy example, what are some ways that you can show leadership? You’ll first want to understand which qualities a leader shows at work, and then find ways to implement them yourself. Volunteer for extra responsibility, be accountable, help others—all of those actions show leadership.

These tips are somewhat simple for a process that, depending on how you use it at different phases of your career, can be pretty complicated. While you’re developing or working through your personal five-year plan, here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Set short-term goals. Your plan may have a primary goal at the end of five years, but the best way to get there is by achieving shorter-term goals along the way. Those short and intermediate goals will help you stay motivated and on track, too, by making the entire process more manageable.
  • Consider things other than your career. Your personal concerns—whether they’re family, friends, social clubs, sports, etc.—are all factors to think about when developing your plan. Are you willing to sacrifice some of those things if you need to? How do the people in your life feel about that? And are they willing to help you succeed? You plan should take your entire life into consideration and try to balance priorities.
  • Always keep the end in mind. While working through different parts of your plan, you might find yourself frustrated, but don’t let small complications get in the way of your overall goal. You might instead find a way to work around them by adjusting a short-term objective, or you may see an opportunity to approach your end goal in a completely different way.

This advice can help you get started in working on a five-year career plan, but the best advice you’ll get is from a professional. Consider working with someone at your local Goodwill® as you build a successful career.