How to Develop a Five Year Career Plan

by Jennifer Kimrey

    "Where do you see yourself in five years?" The questions comes up during job interviews and employee reviews, and we often ask ourselves the question. The only way of answering is by developing a five-year career plan, one that considers where you are, who you are now and where you want to be.

    Know Where You Are

    In order to understand how to achieve your goals, you must first understand where you are now. This doesn't only lend itself to identifying your current job position. You must also consider the how and why of your current situation. What drives you? Is it financial gain, personal development or some variation of the two? How did you get to where you are now? What factors have influenced your career moves in the past? Understanding how you've arrived at the present will help you to progress in the future.

    Consider Your Personality

    With career growth come new and different responsibilities, 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? Depending on the position, a job you want to earn in the next five years may require you to 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 goals that you'll accomplish beyond a year. Your short-term goals should factor into your long-term goals, acting as smaller 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, then, 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 in a managerial role. 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. A drawback of developing a five-year career plan is that some 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 there's always an end-goal, one which you're committed to achieving, you'll always alternate routes to getting there. Assess and adjust your goals and objectives as your career plans progress or change.

    About the Author

    Jennifer Kimrey earned her bachelor's degree in English writing and rhetoric from St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. She's a regular contributor to the "Houston Chronicle" and her work has appeared on Opposing Views Cultures, The Austin American-Statesman, The Red Vault, The Western Vault and various other websites and publications.

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