How to Make Your Own Career Plan

A career plan is a resource that serves as a compass for advancing in your profession. It's something that's well worth working on. In fact, in addition to guiding you, it'll also give you more motivation. We tell you how to make one.
How to Make Your Own Career Plan
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 07 March, 2023

A career plan is an orientation tool that helps you project yourself professionally over a period of time. Its function is to clarify your objectives and the means you need to achieve them. It also gives a deadline for achieving them. As a rule, it covers a period of five years, as, in times of an unstable and changing world, a longer term may be unrealistic.

However, why is it worth doing? Well, a career plan doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s an instrument that can bring you closer to your professional goals. Moreover, it’s of great help when making work and academic decisions. That’s because it works like a map that shows you where you want to go. That said, it might be necessary to occasionally change the route.

In fact, a career plan will guide you when you’re defining the strategies for advancement in your profession. As a rule, companies develop these types of instruments. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make one yourself. Indeed, in a world where freelance work is on the increase, it’s important that you’re the one who takes the initiative.

Companies will not direct the careers of their employees. They will provide them with opportunities to develop their own identity and work environments that they can adapt to so that they can take charge of their own careers within the company.”

-Tim Hall-

Woman thinking
A career plan helps us to set goals and encourages motivation.

A career plan

Wayne and Noe, experts on this subject, define career planning as: “an ongoing process by which an individual sets career goals and identifies the means to achieve them”. Ask yourself how you want to see yourself professionally in five years. A career plan gives you a path to follow to advance in your professional field.

A popular quote by Yogi Berra claims that “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” This is true. If you just let yourself be carried away by day-to-day living and don’t set yourself specific goals, you’ll probably lose valuable time and regret it later.

A career plan fulfills another really important function: it offers you motivation. In fact, being clear about where you want to go mentally places you in a more proactive and autonomous position. Here’s how to develop one.

Preparing a career plan, step by step

As a matter of fact, there’s no hard and fast rule for developing a career plan, but there are four basic steps. They’re as follows:

1. Define your goals

It’s important to set yourself some realistic goals which you can reasonably achieve in five years. Define a general purpose and then break it down into specific objectives for each year. They must be concrete and measurable.

2. Situational analysis

To make a solid career plan, it’s best to prepare a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). It applies to the means you have to achieve your goals.

3. Identify your needs

Based on your SWOT analysis, identify what you’re lacking to achieve your goals. This includes aspects such as complementary training, development of certain skills or competencies, expansion of professional contacts, etc.

4. Make an action plan

Your career plan is consolidated when you draw up an action plan. It must include the following elements:

  • Phases. Divide your advancement into phases. Give each phase a name. You could take as a reference point a year or another period, depending on your objectives.
  • Actions. Based on the established phases, define your goals. They must be really specific and measurable. You can establish them by month, bimester, semester, or however you see fit.
  • Measurement and results. Prepare a form in which you record the deadline for the achievement of each goal, together with a section for you to evaluate what you’ve already achieved.
  • Reassessment of objectives. At this point, you may realize that the goals you initially set for yourself weren’t the most appropriate. If so, reconsider them and adjust your career plan.
man thinking
A career plan also helps improve professional development.

Continuous improvement

A career plan will also make another great contribution to your life. It’ll promote your continuous improvement. After all, if you don’t frequently self-evaluate and aren’t clear about where you’re going, you’ll probably become stuck at some point, often without even realizing it.

On the other hand, you must take into account that no career plan is perfect and is never fulfilled to the letter. Indeed, you may need to adjust it a few times over the five-year span. This isn’t a problem. In fact, that’s what it’s all about.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • De Faría, S. M. (2000). Plan de carrera basado en el modelo de competencias. Telos: Revista de Estudios Interdisciplinarios en Ciencias Sociales, 2(1), 107-114.
  • Portero Saldaña, A. (2021). Estudio de la necesidad de una formación complementaria en prevención de riesgos laborales para la comunidad UPC (Master’s thesis, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya).
  • Sarli, R. R., Gonzalez, S. I., & Ayres, N. Análisis FODA.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.