How to create a 5 year plan for your career

How to create a 5 year plan for your career
SEEK content teamupdated on 31 January, 2024

Goals are an important part of life. They help keep us focused, motivated and on track for personal growth. And even though goals and plans sometimes change, they’re still worth setting, to help provide clarity on what you want from your career and break down the steps needed to get there.

Five years might not seem like a long time, but there’s a lot you can do and achieve in that time. If you’re not sure where to start, our career plan template can help get you going. Take a read through our guide to crafting a 5 year career plan, then use the template to write your own. 

What is a 5 year plan?

A five-year plan is a roadmap for reaching the personal and professional goals you would like to achieve within the next five years. A five-year plan for your personal life may include financial, health or educational milestones you’d like to reach, while a five-year career plan might include getting a qualification, upskilling, landing a job with a certain company or being promoted.  

You should include small milestones in your career plan as well as bigger end goals. This helps break the process down into smaller steps, making your end-point feel all the more achievable.

The benefits of creating a 5 year plan

There are many benefits to making a five-year plan for both your personal and professional life. Some of the main benefits of making a five-year plan include:

  • Having direction and focus. When you have a clear path to your goals, they can feel more attainable, and it can be easier to stay focused on what you need to do to succeed.
  • Clarity on your career goals. A five-year plan forces you to think about your future work life. What sort of career path do you want to follow? With your career goals written down, you’ll be able to stay on track towards the future you want.
  • Staying motivated. It’s easier to start every day with positivity when you’re working toward a goal. A well-thought-out plan helps keep you motivated, especially if you break your goals up into manageable milestones.
  • Overcoming obstacles. If you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock, a plan with contingencies or alternative routes helps keep you moving forward.
  • Improving decision-making. Having clear goals helps you make decisions with confidence, based on the outcome you have set for yourself.

Ultimately, having five-year goals helps you get where you want to be. Knowing that your plan is on track, you may find yourself happier, more motivated and better equipped to overcome any challenges along the way.

How to create a 5 year plan

If you’re wondering how to make a 5 year plan, this step-by-step guide outlines the process. Read through the steps, then download the template and make a career or personal plan to steer you through the next five years. 

Step 1. Define and clarify your goals

To make a five-year plan, start by identifying your long-term career or personal objectives. Where would you like to be in five years’ time? Is there a skill you’d like to have, like learning a language or an instrument? What sort of job could you see yourself doing? Ensure your goals are specific and meaningful to you.

Step 2. Self-assessment and skill gap analysis

The next step in setting your 5 year goals is to look at what skills, experience and qualifications you currently have and what additional abilities would benefit you in reaching your targets. Also look at what obstacles and challenges may hold you back. Identify gaps and areas for development relevant to your goals, and address how you can overcome these in your plan.

Step 3. Set short-term objectives and milestones

Breaking down your long-term goals into shorter, more manageable milestones will help you stay motivated and on track. Write down mini goals for one month, six months, 12 months and so on, assigning realistic milestones for each timeline. 

Step 4. Plan for resources and development

Your five-year plan doesn’t have to be in depth, but keep in mind that the more detailed it is, the more set up for success you’ll be. Once you’ve outlined an overarching 5 year career plan, think about the resources, education or experience you’ll need to meet your goals. Consider action items like skill development, networking and getting mentorship into your plan. 

Step 5. Implement and monitor progress

One crucial step in attaining your 5 year goals is actioning the strategy outlined in your plan. Start working on short-term objectives, as these are the stepping stones to your end goal. Regularly monitor your progress and adapt your plan as necessary, checking off milestones as you reach them. It can help to create a visual tracker you can refer to daily, such as a calendar or milestone chart.

Step 6. Review and adjust the plan

While it’s great to have the next five years mapped out, things don’t always go to plan. It’s wise to make your plan flexible in case your circumstances change. Periodically review your entire plan, taking into account your achievements, the challenges and your feelings about the journey so far. Adjust your goals and milestones as required, keeping flexibility in mind.

5 Year Plan Examples

The following five-year plan examples help illustrate different types of career goals and how to break them down into smaller steps. Use these examples as a springboard for creating your own plan with personalised goals. The examples below demonstrate different levels of depth and goals in a variety of industries, to help you find the type of five-year plan that works for you.

Retail worker 5 year plan example

In five years’ time, I see myself being a state or regional retail manager with my current employer, and having work-related opportunities to travel. Over the next five years, I have to: 

  • Enrol in a two-year Retail Management Diploma (online course to study outside of work hours)
  • Be more hands-on with assisting current supervisors and store managers
  • Volunteer to train new employees
  • Meet or exceed personal employee sales targets for 12 months
  • Apply for store management role on completion of diploma
  • Meet or exceed store sales targets for 12 months
  • Ask for mentorship from the current state manager
  • Apply for regional manager roles
  • Apply for state manager roles

Tradesperson 5 year plan example

As a final-year apprentice, my goal in five years is to become a trainer myself. To do so:

  • Year one: complete my apprenticeship and get a full-time technician role
  • Year two: work on public speaking and interpersonal skills
  • Year three: complete advanced-level training certificate
  • Year four: get a Certificate in Training & Assessment (online course)
  • Year five: work with apprentices and network with training staff to build relationships, then apply for internal training roles

Professional industry 5 year plan example

In five years’ time, I want to achieve a greater work-life balance as a full-time freelancer while I travel and live overseas.

Year one – build relevant skills and start freelancing:

  • Get an Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • Network for freelance opportunities
  • Optional: get online course certifications

Year two – build foundations and financial stability: 

  • Open a high-interest savings account – save 20% of salary per month 
  • Develop a creative portfolio
  • Ask professional network for referrals

Year three – transition to PT:

  • Reduce hours to part time when freelance projects reach half of current wage
  • Research destinations with freelancer work visas

Year four – establishing stability and lifestyle integration:

  • Build a business website 
  • Start marketing through paid ads
  • By end of year: grow client base to cover ~80% of desired income 
  • Consider using a client management system to streamline workflow

Year five – go freelance full time:

  • Resign from full-time job
  • Assess if more clients are needed
  • Seek passive streams of income (creating courses, coaching, video content, etc.)

To get to your five-year goal, you will likely need to reach smaller professional personal objectives along the way. The more detailed your plan regarding these smaller steps, the more likely you are to stay on track. At the same time, try to make your plan flexible, in case unexpected changes to your circumstances arise.

5 Year Plan Template

Using a 5 year plan template is a great first step in planning your future. When using the template to create your five-year strategy, make the goals and short-term steps as specific as you like. Think about what skills and advantages you already have, what you still need to achieve and what setbacks you may face along the way. 

Download your 5-year plan template

The SEEK career plan template helps simplify the process. Fill in the gaps with what you’d like to achieve and then add the steps you need to take to get to your goal. Once you’ve created your five-year plan, review it regularly to track your progress and adjust the milestones as needed. 

A five-year plan is a great way to help you stay focused and on track to meet your personal and professional goals. It’s an overarching plan for where you see yourself in the future that details the steps you need to take to get there. If you have an idea of which direction you’d like your career to take, a five-year plan is a great starting point. 

More from this category: First job

Top search terms

Want to know what people are searching for on SEEK? Explore our top search terms to stay across industry trends.
Select an industry to uncover the top search terms

Subscribe to Career Advice

Get expert career advice delivered to your inbox.
You can cancel emails at any time. By clicking ‘subscribe’ you agree to SEEK’s Privacy Statement.