How to make a 5-year career plan (and why it's so important)
It may seem like a lot of work to make a 5-year career plan, but it’s hard to get where you want to go without a clear roadmap. Instead of just taking whatever job comes along, it makes sense to take the time to evaluate what you like to do, where you want to live, how much money you’d like to make, etc. and then make thoughtful decisions that will help get you there. As you begin making your plan, be sure to write down how you will reach your goals and be willing to revise as new opportunities present themselves.
So how do you get started?
STEP 1: Set goals Most career coaches recommend you sit down and figure out some goals. What hours do you want to work? Do you eventually want to become an executive chef at a large hotel or own your own restaurant? What kind of leisure time do you want to have? How much money do you want to make? Do you want to work in a resort or a smaller establishment? Set your priorities and break your long-term goals down into short term decisions that are stepping stones to reaching the next goal.
Of course, your goals have to be somewhat realistic and measurable. Being the next Gordon Ramsey in 2 years is probably not attainable. Instead, perhaps you’d like to be chef de cuisine within the next seven years – that’s attainable and measurable. Similarly, a goal of “being happy” or “living in a nice place” is not specific enough.
STEP 2: Evaluate your current situation What are your strengths that relate to your goals and what challenges lay ahead that might get in the way? Do you have the skills you need or will you need to get further education, or maybe a certificate? Do you need to move to a smaller place to save some money or can a family member help out? And remember to be honest with yourself not only about your strengths but also about your weaknesses.
STEP 3: Identify your interests It doesn’t make sense to plan for a future job without thinking about what you really enjoy doing. Take the time to meet with people who are already doing that job and ask about what it’s like. You may find that the job isn’t what you thought and you’d be happier moving in another direction. Make a list of all the things you’ve accomplished and enjoyed working on so far. Look at all parts of your life, not just work and then select the top seven most important items. Imagine what job you would do if money were no object.
STEP 4: Start planning Here’s where you sit down and come up with the steps you need to take to begin meeting your goals. They should be actions that can be completed in a short period (no more than several months) and be realistic. You’ll also need to set a timeline for each step. Of course, there will be times when you don’t meet a timeline because of unexpected events, but try to stick to the plan. Remember, you’re investing in your future and these steps are helping you get there. Keep track of the dates you planned to complete each step as well as the actual date you’ve completed it.
STEP 5: Stay committed Once you’ve devised your plan, share it with mentors, friends or family and allow them to support you along the way. This plan is your road map to your future success. By taking charge of your career choice and moving purposefully in the direction of your dream job, you will set yourself apart from the masses and achieve the milestones that get you where you want to be.
Career planning five years ahead can seem time-consuming and a little intimidating, but mapping out your career plans will equip you to notice when great opportunities match up with your plans and move you forward toward your goals. However, your five-year plan is not cast in stone and you should be willing to re-evaluate it regularly to see if it’s still the right path for you. Your plan will help you know steer toward what you value most and give you the tools you need to seize the moment when you can and track your progress toward the ultimate goal.