Five Year Career Development Plan:
Realistic Planning Enhances Successful Career Outcomes


A five year career development plan is often the ideal time frame to begin with for career development plans as it is a comfortable balance between being not too far out, yet far enough to allow time to accomplish reasonably ambitious career development plans.

Some people prefer to work with a shorter timeframe than the five year career development plan.
Albeit, any career development plan, despite it's length, should be broken down into smaller goals as this boosts success rates.


The purpose of this career development article is to provide you a framework for a five year career development plan so that you can design and accomplish your own career goals.

I have also provided a link to a sample career development plan that you can use as an example.


The concepts presented in this career development article can obviously be applied to a ten year career development plan or any other timeframe.

But when it comes to planning and time frames, I am reminded of the quote:

Most people grossly overestimate what they can achieve in one year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten.

A nice balance between getting things moving with your career development plans, but not being too unrealistic about what can be achieved in a given amount of time.


It's important to also allow a nice balance between our personal and career development goals.



What Should a Five Year Career Development Plan Include

The foundation of all career development plans, as with any planning is the writing down [or typing] of a series of steps that takes you from where you are now to where you want to be. [See below]

However before that can begin, the first and most important issue is to clarify where you want to be.

What does success look like for you in your career?
In your life?

I would like to challenge you to consider what success really means for you.
And how much of your current ideas about career success are programmed patterns of thinking.


In other words, thoughts that have come from the outside in, rather than from the inside out.
One of the hardest parts of creating a meaningful five year career development plan is this trying to separate ourselves from the success expectations of our culture.

I like John Wooden's description of success.
Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

-John Wooden

It's important to define our own idea of success and not accept society's ideas of what succes is without first critiqueing those ideas.

If you get only one thing out of this career development article, I hope it is this: that there are tremendous cultural and societal pressures on us to conform to the norms of what success is.



Finding the real meaning of success is about getting in touch with our core values as a person.
Consider some of these questions;
When I am lying on my death bed and I look back over my life, will I be able to say "I'm glad I dedicated my working life to doing that".

What things would I need to accomplish in my life for that statement to be true?
Or ask yourself the question 'So What', after picturing yourself achieving your career development goals.

What answer do you come up with to the 'So What' question, when you visualize your goals being realised.
This is is a great question to ask yourself if you want to find out how meaningful your goals really are.



Getting The Balance Right

Something else to consider is: are my work goals balanced with other aspects of my life?
For example, does my five year career development plan allow for a healthy balance between family, personal and career development goals.

Will I Consider myself a success if I achieve my career goals but sacrifice my family or health.

I don't believe it needs to be a case of either or.
You can have both.
But it needs to be planned and managed proactively.


Success = Identifying What You Do Easy

I believe there is always a correlation between achieving a sense of success in your career and working in a job where your natural giftings and inborn job skills are being utilized.

It's just not possible to achieve true fulfilment if you are not working in harmony with your core motivations in life.

This is always the place I start when people come to me for career change advice.

So if you haven't done any work on identifying your natural abilities, things that you are innately motivated to do, I would strongly recommend you complete the inborn job skills assessment.

There may be gaps between the skills, experience or education you have now and what you need to accomplish for your career goals.

If your five year career development plan is aimed at staying with your current employer, then a discussion with your manager and others who you respect in your organization can be a valuable exercise.


Those you trust and respect in your working environment can be good at identifying your strengths and weaknesses and providing a different perspective than you might see in yourself.



Talk To Someone Who Has Already Been There

Another valuable exercise is to find somebody who is doing the same or similar job you aspire to.
Talking with a worker who is already doing the job you desire can provide some great insights into how you might implement your five year career development plan to become where they are.


There are many questions you could ask such a person:

1. Would you do it all again if you knew now what you knew then?
Why or why not?

2. What advice would you give to someone like me who is contemplating a similar career path?

3. What do you like most about your job?

4. What do you like least about your job? Have any of these likes or dislike changed?


You will be able to think of many more that are specifically pertinent to your industry.




How Do I Actually Go about Creating My Own Five Year Career Development Plan

A great place to start is to have a look at a sample career development plan.
I have included a couple of five year career development plan examples to give you some idea of the types of steps that could be involved.

You may find that you can use a sample career development plan and simply substitute sections of the plan to provide a working framework for your own career development plan.



Career Development Tools

To make any plan work you need to be using some good career development tools.
You will need a decent goal setting system.

This can be a paper-based system that records your goals, why you want to achieve them, documented steps towards achieving them, dates for final achievement, perhaps an image that can help you visualize the end goal, barriers identified and solutions to overcoming those barriers and some form of accountability to ensure that you are achieving what you said you wanted to achieve.


For many years I used a paper-based system by SMI international but there are now some much better career development software programs and goal setting software applications that I find more efficient and a little more sophisticated than a paper-based system.

One that I like is called Single-Step
It has an impressive range of tools and covers every aspect of goal setting that you are ever likely to want.

I've had a look at a few others in the past and I cannot find anything that is quite as good as this.

They offer a free trial for the first 20 times you use it.
If you don't already have a good goal setting system, I recommend you try it.



In your five year career development plan, remember also to allow for planned happenstance.

Planned happenstance is a career development theory about building into your career plans a provision for the pleasantly unexpected.

Many great doors of opportunity can open for you that are not expected and cannot be foreseen.
Your five year career development plan needs to have the option to embrace such opportunities if they arise.



Becoming The Best You Can

I would also encourage you to include an aspect of becoming one of the best in your field as part of your career development plans.

Find ways of deepening your expertise and narrowing your niche in the industry you are in.

Not only will this be more fulfilling as you become more closely aligned to your inborn job skills but as Thomas Stanley and William Danko point out in their excellent book, The Millionaire Next Door, you will make more money.



If you are in touch with your unique inborn job skills, being the best at what you do is not about endlessly striving towards your goal, but it is rather a by-product of your natural motivated abilities effortlessly at work.

In fact that's a good indication that you are working in your area of natural giftedness, everything happens quite effortlessly and work becomes a genuine pleasure.

For more information associated with this career development article, see:

  1. Career development theory
  2. What Is career development?
  3. Career development tools
  4. Career development coaching
  5. Career development plan
  6. Sample career development plan




Back to career development articles from five year career development plan

Back to Career Change Advice from Five Year Career Development Plan


Simon Davies Career Change Counselling
Gold Coast: Robina, Queensland Australia 4213
Phone Mobile (outside of Australia) +6148 1333 415
Phone Mobile (in Australia) 0481 333415
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