5 Steps to Building Your Personal Career Plan

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Building an effective personal career plan is critical to developing your career as it helps you identify your goals and put the actions you’ll need to take on a timeline. Therefore, it’s important for all professionals to take the time to work on their personal career planning and build a career development action plan that will guide them through their professional lives.

Step 1: Identify Your Career Objectives

If you are not sure about how to build a career plan, the first step is to understand what your goals are as they will serve as your compass. Since your career plan needs to be as comprehensive as possible, it’s important to include as much information as possible. For example, if your aspirations include starting your own business or becoming a CEO, and you also hope to go back to university and gain a postgraduate degree, it’s essential that you fit all your aspirations into your career development action plan.

Life Values

As our careers do not run independently from our lives, you should also consider how creating a career plan fits in with your lifestyle. Start by thinking about your life values and what matters to you. As work takes up one-third of our day (or more), consider the impact your career decisions will have on your life and think carefully about what you require from a job.

Skills and Interests

It’s also important to take into consideration your interests in terms of skills and knowledge. Understanding the personal qualities you’re interested in will go a long way in ensuring that your professional experience is meaningful to you. Make a list of everything you enjoy doing at work, what you think you’d enjoy doing if you were given the opportunity and match them to jobs you’d like to do.

Step 2: Assess Your Current Situation

Making sure that your goals are realistic will help ensure creating an effective career plan, so after you’ve figured out what your targets are take a step back and consider what your present situation is. You are likely to find that some of your targets are impossible to achieve, or that you at least have a very long way to go before you get within grasp of your career objectives.

Current Skillset

It’s important to take into consideration your current skillset. If your current skillset does not reflect your ultimate goal, do not lose momentum as you can gain those skills while you grow professionally. Start by testing your current expertise against your aims and make a list of every skill you need to gain to reach your target.


Apart from your skills, you should also evaluate your weaknesses. As this process will not be very pleasant, you might want to consider identifying your weaknesses as areas you have to work on, rather than areas in which you are lacking. Don’t label your ‘bad organisational skills’ as bad, rather list them as ‘organisational skills that need improvement’.

Constructive self-criticism will help you set more realistic targets so don’t shy away from admitting that there are things that you simply can’t do.

Step 3: Explore Your Opportunities

After you’ve identified your goals and you’ve tested them against your current situation, you ought to start researching what you can do to reach those targets. Maybe you have to go back to university for example, or maybe you should sign up for an online class. It’s important to understand if there’s more than one route that will get you to your destination and if there is try to understand which route is more likely to get you to your target faster and more efficiently.

Consider Other Issues

As you are exploring your opportunities, you’ll realise that there’s more to consider than you initially thought. Signing up for an online class after work, for example, might interfere with your lifestyle, while you might also need to pick up a second job to pay for university tuition. It’s important to figure out what issues might come up and fit them into your plan.

Ask for Help

If you are not sure what the next step to take is, consider asking for help. Your company’s HR department might be able to help you. They usually deal with such matters confidentially so if you feel that they are trustworthy pay them a visit. Career services will also be able to help you, and you can even hire a professional career coach to help you build an effective career plan. You might also want to consider talking to experts in your industry as they might have a few tips to share. Linkedin connections might come in handy as well, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

Step 4: Take Action

After you have researched available opportunities and have made up your mind, all that’s left is to put your plan into action. Think about how you are going to move forward and try to get any support available that will help you enact your career plan. For example, what should you do to get the training your job offers? Is there someone you could talk to? What are the final steps that will help you develop your plan? These are all questions which you need to constantly ask yourself to ensure you are on the right track.

To facilitate the process divide your actions into three parts:

  • Critical components are areas that require extra attention. You might find that having an MBA is essential to achieve your ultimate goal.
  • Short-term components address minor goals which are only there because they are meant to help you achieve your bigger targets.
  • Long-term components refer to your end-goals and can only be addressed after you’ve reached all of your short-term goals.

It’s important for your plan to be well-thought out as any gaps could hinder your chances of achieving your targets.

Step 5: Assign a Timeline and Milestones

Building a personal career plan is no easy feat, but that does not mean that you should put it aside as soon as you’ve finished it. It’s important to keep it somewhere where you can see it and get inspired on a daily basis.


To make your career plan more effective you should also put all of your targets and action steps on a timeline. If your ultimate goal is to start your own business, you need to set a time-frame for yourself. Consider how long it will take you to gain the necessary skills, raise the money you need etc. and fit these steps into your framework. The more your career objectives are put in a logical sequence, the more chances you’ll have to follow through.


Apart from scheduling specific times to review and update your personal career plan, it’s important to recognise which achievements can be considered as milestones. If gaining a postgraduate degree will help pivot your professional life, then graduating from university should be regarded as a milestone. It’s also important to celebrate your milestones as this will help incentive you to push forward.


Building an effective personal career plan will help guide you through career-related decisions, so you need to take the time and put in the effort that is required.

Do you know how to build a career plan? Have you already gone through this process? Share them with us in the comment section below.