Creating A Career Plan: Short-, Medium- And Long-Term

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You’ve probably spent quite a bit of time thinking about what you want to accomplish professionally.

If you haven’t already put together a personal career plan, it’s a good idea to set aside an hour or so and sit down to plot out your short-, medium- and long-term goals.

Developing a plan will help you maintain a sense of direction and keep you working towards your “end goal” (whatever that may be).

Your career plan should be well-thought-out, realistic and, most importantly, flexible – don’t look at it as a set-in-stone plan for your professional life, but rather as a road map that may grow and change as you move through the world.

The short term (present – 2 years from now)

This section focuses on your plans for the immediate future.

What your plan should include:

Start by identifying your immediate goals.

Examples: “Finish undergraduate degree with honours,” “Complete 100 volunteer hours” or “Find an entry-level position in my chosen industry.”

Next, get set with detailed steps that will enable you to accomplish each goal.

If your goal was to complete your degree with high academic standing, you might boost your achievement by arranging to connect with your instructors for more extensive feedback, starting a peer study group and setting aside additional time to review your notes.

You’re almost there! Once you’ve figured out what and how, set down the when.

Create a timeline, breaking your plan down into monthly increments to ensure you have enough time to realistically complete each step, and to give yourself a checklist for what you need to finish each month.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How is your short-term plan going to help you achieve your end goal?
  • Which factors of your plan are within your control? Which are outside of it?
  • What will you do if you are unable to accomplish part of your plan?

The medium term (2 – 5 years from now)

The second section of your career plan will build on the first and does not need to include as many specific action steps (more detail is definitely better though).

What your plan should include:

Unlike your short-term plan, it’s ok for your goal to be less specific here.

Examples: “Work upwards to become a mid-level manager or supervisor,” “Pursue a postsecondary degree in marketing” or “Develop a professional network with contacts at all levels of my chosen industry.”

In a medium-term plan, having an overall sense of the steps you might take is key. Identifying this information early will help you keep your short-term plan up to date.

To pursue a postsecondary degree, for example, you would want to set aside time to pursue any necessary prerequisite courses, reinforce your contacts with relevant referees and even plan to set aside money to cover the cost of tuition and relocation, as appropriate.

Next, build your timeline using periods of 6-12 months. Take into account time-based factors you can’t control, like application deadlines, necessary years of study, and so on.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is each part of your plan directly relevant to your goals?
  • What will you do if your plan doesn’t work out? Do you have a backup plan?
  • Can you anticipate any personal or professional conflicts that might complicate your plan?

The long term (5+ years from now)

The final section of your career plan will inevitably be the most abstract, but will also probably be the most exciting because it centres around your most ambitious professional goals!

What your plan should include:

This is a place to identify your “big goal” – where you want to be professionally after spending years on your career.

Examples: “Own and operate an independent business,” “Work as an environmental consultant with a specialization in sustainable agriculture,” “Publish industry handbook about the role of diversity in the workforce.”

Here, you’ll want to build on the path you’ve planned in your short- and medium-term reflections. Assuming many (or all) of your plans in those areas are successful, ask yourself how you’ll be better equipped to pursue these lofty career ambitions.

For example, owning and operating your own business will call for significant financial resources. If you have major purchases like property, a car, or extensive travel as some of your medium term goals, you may have to reevaluate.

Build a timeline using 5-year blocks for 5+, 10+ and 15+ years from now. Putting your major long-term goals in perspective will help you understand the steps you need to take today – and tomorrow.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Where do you expect to be financially, physically, emotionally, etc. in 5+ years?
  • What else do you hope to accomplish, outside of your career, in the long term?
  • What are some potential changes in your desired industry that could affect your career or your ability to compete in the job market?
  • Do you have a second career choice in mind that you will have access to as an alternate option?

Once you’ve created your career plan, don’t forget to revisit it regularly to check in with your goals, make changes as needed and ensure that you’re following the timelines you set for yourself.

Remember that this is just a plan – although it’s great to be prepared and to know what you want to achieve, it’s impossible to plan out every detail of the future.

You’ll be much better off if you’re able to adapt to challenges as they arise and take advantage of new opportunities that come your way, without losing sight of what’s important to you in the long run.

Got a career planning tip? Share it in the comments!

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