How to Write a Five-Year Plan
How to Write a Five-Year Plan

How to Write a Five-Year Plan

What Is a Five-Year Career Plan?

A question you may be asked in an interview is where you see yourself in five to 10 years.

This question is to force you to engage with a five-year plan. This plan details your goals, educational prospects and the position you have in your career.

The five-year plan is not the end goal, and it is not designed to give you all the answers. Instead, it is a tool that can be used to help you progress.

The plan can also help you understand what steps you need to make to succeed. You may need to make better investments or financial sacrifices, for example.

It has become popular in academia and in the corporate world. The reason behind this is that it can help motivate and engage people to work.

Without a five-year plan in place, a career or an education can feel pointless. However, having the plan in place can help you continue with the work in front of you.

The plan is often broken down into smaller time frames to help you achieve your plan. The plan can be divided annually and sometimes monthly.

Each year, you can reflect on your plan and quantify how much you have achieved in the period since you designed the plan. You will also gain an understanding of what work still needs to be done.

They are also great tools in appraisals. An employer can look at a five-year plan and understand if the employee is on track to achieve what they have set out.

This article will discuss how five-year plans work and how they can help you achieve your goals. In addition, it will also guide you through the creation of a plan and what you need to do to follow the plan.

How Do They Help?

It is possible to achieve your career or professional goals without a five-year plan. However, it is a great tool to ensure you reach your targets.

The five-year career plan can help in these ways:


A strong plan can help you keep on task. If you are ever struggling to find the urge to complete, a five-year plan is good to have to reflect upon.

Each time you achieve a milestone in your five-year plan, you feel closer to the long-term success. With each step you take, you can build momentum.

A five-year plan is not an unrealistic time frame. When you break it down into annual milestones, you only have five steps towards the end goal.

If it was a twenty-year career plan, it may seem an insurmountable task. With a five-year time frame, it is easier to maintain motivation.


A five-year plan is not only used in corporations or achieving career goals. They imitate the time frames of university degrees and school programs.

You are more accustomed to following five-year plans than you may realize. Because of this, you can visualize what you can realistically achieve within that time frame.

Whilst working through the five-year plan, you will be able to see your professional goals come into fruition.

You may get a promotion or finish a project to the standard you initially planned, and with this you will put more confidence in the five-year plan.

They are also great tools in helping you manage your expectations. By the first two years of the plan, you will be able to understand what is realistic.


On the same note, the five-plan is good for recalibrating your goals. They are easy structures to break down, and you can track your progress.

They are also malleable. Any plan is your own responsibility, and you can alter it to fit with any changes in expectations and workload.

You may be finding that you are reaching your career and professional goals by the end of third year. If this is the case, you can alter your goals.

In contrast, if you feel you have aimed too high there, is no reason why you cannot shift your goals, so that they are more realistic.


Five-year plans facilitate discussion well. In interviews, presentations and even conversations with your friend, you can refer to your plan to show your long-term goals.

In interviews, they are particularly good at highlighting your organizational skills. They also indicate to the employers that you are serious about building a career.


With each step you complete, you will understand how much progress you have made.

The plan can also help you identify the most challenging parts of a career trajectory.

As you reflect annually on your plan, you will see what components took the longest to complete and which ones were easier.

You can therefore prioritize the procedures that you find challenging. Doing so will help you tackle your weaknesses, and you will improve your skills because of this.

A five-year plan is also great for general improvement in most professions. For instance, if on reflection you have found that you are ahead of your time schedule, you can reorganize the plan to make it more challenging.

You may put six months aside to focus on a particular skill or project, or you may want to extend the timeframe of one you already have scheduled.

The flexibility of the plan and its use as a visual tool makes it great for improvement.


Most plans are essential for tracking progress, but the five-year plan is even better because of its fixed time frame and its tool as a career trajectory.

With each year that passes in the five-year plan, you will gain a better insight into how far you are in your overall goals.

If you are either falling behind your initial projections or are ahead of them, the plan is evidence of the progress you have made.

Without a plan, it can be difficult to understand how far you have come. Work or education can also seem overwhelming if you do not have these types of plans in place.

How to Construct a Plan

Projecting where you want to be in five years and how you intend on achieving your goals can seem daunting at first.

However, the five-year plan follows a simple structure. As discussed above, it can also change to fit your changing targets and progress.

There are patterns to follow when making any plan, and a five-year trajectory is no different.

These are the basic rules you should follow when planning.

SMART Targets

The SMART principle is used in all improvement systems. If you have played sports or have followed a rigorous school curriculum, you will have come across SMART targets.

The acronym is broken down into:

  • S stands for specific
  • M stands for measurable
  • A stands for achievable
  • R stands for realistic
  • T stands for time-bound

Each letter must be applied to a target, and each one has a different purpose. When analyzing your plans, it is best to do it against these five factors.

Get a comprehensive breakdown of SMART targets. Remember to use them across the whole plan, as well as each section of the plan.

How to Write a Five-Year Plan Template
How to Write a Five-Year Plan Template

Communication About the Plan

When constructing a plan, it is essential to discuss it with other people. These may be your colleagues, your HR manager or even just your friends.

When we plan alone, we either make the targets too easy to achieve or too difficult. Reflecting on this with others is a great way of understanding your overall projections.

They can also help you clarify what you want to achieve. A five-year timeframe can be hard to work with if you have never planned like this before.

Communicating your career ambitions with others will force you to make them clear.

They will also force you to be accountable with the targets you have set. This is particularly true with people in the workplace.

If you set out a plan and make it public, then there will be others who have knowledge of it. If you are not following your plan, expect a message or a friendly reminder at work.

Depending on how you prefer to work, you may not want to communicate your plan to other people. This is fine, but remember that it is important to ensure its completion.

A wall plan or a digital diary is a good start.

Reflection on Previous Working Plans

If you are making a five-year plan, it is likely that it is not the first time you have set out your goals in a structured format.

Reflecting on what has worked in the past is a good way of analyzing which patterns are best for progression.

After consulting your previous projects and achievements, you may find that you are at your most productive over three-month work periods.

In this case, you would design your plan according to these previous successors. You will break down the five-year plan into three-month blocks.

In this instance, you would have 20 blocks to set your work out in. This sounds like a lot of planning, but it is good to engage with your work in such a meticulous way.

You can also highlight what has not worked. Depending on where you are in your profession, you may have already attempted to stick to a five-year plan.

If it has not worked in the past, try to identify what it was that led to difficulty.

The plan could have been derailed because of issues with motivation or something such a clarity. You may not have made your targets clear.

It is also possible that it was overambitious. If this is the case, follow the SMART plan and make more reasonable goals.


You will already have a five-year timeframe to follow. The structure of your career plan should work around this.

As mentioned above, you can break this five-year block down. Depending on your preferences, you may want to use annual or monthly blocks to design the plan.

You must also base the structure of your plan on your starting point and where you would ideally like to be in five years. Identify where you are at in your professional life, your education and even your salary.

Once these factors have been identified, you can set yourself realistic targets. If you earn 20,000annually,itisrealistictosetyourselfthegoalofearning20,000 annually, it is realistic to set yourself the goal of earning 30,000 annually.

The hardest part of any plan is sticking to it. How you achieve your targets is not complicated, and it is often down to just following the program you have.

Design deadlines for yourself within the plan and prioritize the more important ones.

Some of the deadlines may coincide. For instance, taking a marketing training program may also lead to a promotion. Identify your most important milestones.

Finally, ensure that you factor in breaks and vacations into your plan. A five-year timeframe is large, and you will need to avoid overworking.

Burnout is a common problem, and it will hinder your progress. Create space for rewards after your deadlines and milestones.

It is also essential that you are lenient with yourself. Avoid being punitive and give yourself room to make mistakes.

There will be days where you will not work as hard as you initially planned.

Five-Year Plan Example

Now that we have set out the basics of a five-year plan, it is worthwhile giving you an example.

Your own plan does not have to strictly follow this structure, but it is good to observe how milestones and targets are factored into the plan.

Starting Point

  • Assistant advisor at digital marketing design company
  • Earn $25,000 annually
  • Beginning courses in Software Design and SEO Marketing
  • Basic professional skills

Finishing Targets

  • Assistant manager at same or similar digital marketing company
  • Earn 40,000to40,000 to 50,000 annually
  • Complete advanced courses in Software Design and SEO Marketing
  • Become accredited and recognized digital designer
  • Begin plans to start professional degree in a business-related field
  • Develop new business relationships and networks

Year One

  • Complete current SEO and Software Design Courses
  • Design a plan for promotion request for Head Advisor
  • Within promotion plan, request a raise of 20% of current salary


  • Attempt to achieve goals within nine working months
  • Factor in two months of breaks and holiday
  • Factor in one month for mistakes

Year Two

  • Research professional degree courses and identify one that suits working timetable
  • Improve relationships with company board and managerial staff
  • Design portfolio of digital marketing projects and invest time in its completion


  • Attempt to achieve goals within nine working months
  • Factor in two months of breaks and holiday
  • Factor in one month for mistakes

Year Three

  • Ask managerial staff for increase in work contracts to add to your portfolio
  • Request raise of 10% of current wage to $33,000
  • Enroll in professional degree either full-time or part-time


  • Attempt to achieve goals within nine working months
  • Factor in two months of breaks and holiday
  • Factor in one month for mistakes

Year Four

  • Design plan for promotion to assistant manager position
  • Develop better relationships outside of company and within your current company
  • Identify working positions that correlate with your desired annual salary of 40,000to40,000 to 50,000


  • Attempt to achieve goals within nine working months
  • Factor in two months of breaks and holiday
  • Factor in one month for mistakes

Year Five

  • Secure interview for position of managerial position in current or different digital marketing company
  • Secure desired salary
  • Progress in respective professional degree and work towards its completion

The goals factored into the five-year plan can be changed around. The most important point is that the structure abides to the timeframe.

If annual goals do not work for you, then you can break these down further into monthly and even weekly goals.

Having flexibility in your five-year program allows you to deal with any short-term challenges. There will be moments where you cannot stick only to the plan.

Final Thoughts

In five years, you will be in a different position in your life and career. How you spend your time and assess your position is entirely in your hands.

Designing a plan is a great way of visualizing where you want to be. It is also a good tool to ensure you stick to your goals.

Spending time designing a plan will help you realize your goals. Use the tips and the structure outlined above to begin recognizing where you want to be in five years.

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