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How to Develop a Five Year Career Plan

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"Where do you see yourself in five years?" The question comes up during job interviews and employee reviews, and maybe you've asked yourself as well. The only way to truly answer it is to develop a five-year career plan, one that considers where you are now and where you'd like to go.

Assess Yourself

In order to understand how to achieve your goals, you must first understand where you are now. This doesn't simply mean identifying your current job position. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why did you choose the current path you're on?
  • What drives you? Is it financial gain, personal development or some variation of the two? 
  • How did you attain your current position and status? 
  • What factors have influenced your career moves in the past? 

If you understand how you arrived at your present position, you'll gain some insight on how to progress in the future.

Consider Your Personality

With career growth comes new and different opportunities, so knowing what kind of job roles mesh well with your personality traits will help you avoid making poor professional decisions. Analyze your likes and dislikes, your hobbies and, most importantly, your personality. Are you shy or outgoing? Do you handle change well? Do you prefer staying in your office or traveling? Do you prefer giving or receiving direction? A new role may require that you step out of your comfort zone, so be prepared to either adapt to the position or find an alternate career path.

Set Your Goals

Setting realistic goals is a major component of developing a five-year career plan. This step requires you to make both short-term goals, those you want to accomplish in the coming year, and long-term goals, those you'll accomplish beyond a year. Use your short-term goals to make progress towards your long-term goals, it will help you make small steps in the direction of your end goal. For example, say your long-term goal in your five-year plan is to be in a managerial position. Your short-term goals could include taking on a leading role on a project, joining a professional organization or developing a new company process – all of which are goals that can help you develop the skills needed to be an effective manager. Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, relevant and time-sensitive.

Commit to a Goal, Not a Plan

Start checking short-term goals off your list by committing yourself to your objective. Be careful not to take the "plan" aspect too literally. If there ends up being a hitch in your plan, it can often be discouraging and feel like failure. However, if you always keep an end-goal in mind, one which you're committed to achieving, you'll always find alternate routes to getting there. Assess and adjust your goals and objectives as your career plans progress or change.