Creating an Effective Career Plan + Free Template

Career success, just like every other form of success, does not happen by chance; you have to be deliberate about it. While there is a general consensus; that he who fails to plan, has planned to fail; a large majority of people admit that, creating an effective career plan is not easy for them. If you’re part of this ‘large majority,’ and you’re reading this now, you’re in the right place!

Whether you’re an undergraduate, fresh-graduate, or professional; creating an effective career plan is necessary for your career growth. A career plan will help you define and sharpen your expectations for your career.

Due to its broad nature, there’s no fixed career plan template or format. However, we have provided a sample career plan template, that you can use to create a SMART plan.

Below you would find useful tips and points that’ll enable you to write a feasible career plan:

8 Steps to Create a Career Plan

1. Identify Your Career Path and Goals

The foundation for creating an effective career plan; is realizing your path, and career choices. Thus, a career goal must be well established, before devising a career plan.

There’s no point devising a career plan that won’t fit into your short or long term goals. For instance, a person desiring to specialize in Neuroanatomy, shouldn’t be writing a plan that would position him/her as an investment banker.

Here are some questions to answer as you map out your career goals:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Why do you want to achieve this goal?
  • What’s important to you, about it?
  • What difference would achieving your goal cause?
  • What difference would achieving your objective make, to your future career?
  • How will you know when you’ve achieved your objective?
  • What would success look like for you and your career, when you’ve achieved your goal?

2. Assess Your Career Options

The next step to follow after outlining your goals; is to develop a refined list of career, by examining your interests, skills, and values.

Researching companies, reviewing career information, and talking to professionals in your field will help you determine;

  • Where you are in your professional journey.
  • What is attainable in your industry.
  • Where you want to be in the near future.

3. Prioritize Your Interests

Before you draw your plan, consider the things that are most important to you. For instance, are you more interested in the location, big paycheck, intellectually challenging opportunity, experience/exposure, corporate benefits etc.?

Overall, your interests will influence your final decisions. It is necessary for you to explore your interests, before attempting to prepare a career plan.

4. Set “SMART” Goals

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Be realistic, there’s no point trying to impress, with your career goals. Thus, in writing a career plan, be truthful to yourself! Draft a plan that is not only practicable, but is also achievable within a stipulated time-frame.

For example; if your goal is to become a “Business Development Manager for one of the top insurance companies in Nigeria,” your SMART goal will look something like this;

  • Five-year goal: “Get hired as a Business Development Manager.”
  • One-year goal: “Land my first job as an Assistant Business Administrator.”
  • Six-month goal: “Find an SME to intern with.”
  • One-month goal: “Complete my first course/obtain my first certification.”
  • Week- One: “Pull together a list of courses that I need to take to actualize my dream of working as a Business Development Manager.”

Time-bound career goals, enable you to have a target, focus and always be in check. The importance of attaching a time-frame to your career goals cannot be overemphasized.

5. Make Your Career Plan Flexible

You must come to terms with the fact that, some exigencies may arise that could disrupt the best of career plans. Sometimes, these exigencies may be negative. Other times, they may be positive things that tend to demand the time, resources, and attention previously allotted to career plans. When these arise, you must re-order your career plan in terms of priority, and choose one which demands immediate attention.

6. Arrange Your Career Plans in Order of Priority

As you draft your career plan, you would realize that some are more important than others. Some would need to be compromised for the greater good, while others cannot. When there’s a need to make a critical choice between career goals; a career priority list would enable you to identify which plan needs to be sacrificed, for others to sail through. 

7. Identify Career Plan Resources

It is a highly recommended practice to outline the resources (both financial and material), ensuring career plan success. For instance, if in your career plan, you had outlined to enrol for a master’s degree; you should be able to outline, how you expect to pool funds for this. This could be through; applying for scholarships, or a decision to raise the required funds through personal savings, loans, and grants.

8. Implement your Career Plans

This is a very vital factor for career success. Creating an effective career plan alone, will not make you achieve success, because the best plans cannot execute themselves. You would have wasted your time preparing a career plan, if you don’t commit time to execute it.


You’ll be adding things, and reviewing your career development plan, as the year goes by. Hence, to track your progress, and help you navigate new territories; it’s recommended, you perform a personal audit, regarding how well you’ve executed your plans. A personal evaluation would put you to check, when it appears you are lagging, in the execution of your career plans. Finally, if you need assistance writing or reviewing your career plan, kindly send us a mail and fix a review.

Written by: Ikefuama Akachukwu

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Career Plan?

A career plan is a step-by-step strategy, that defines your career goals and helps you to identify skills, interests and actions, that’ll enable you to achieve those goals.

It’s a successive plan that includes your;

  • Goals.
  • Skills and interests.
  • Requirements (Qualification/Certification/Experience).
  • Action plan

Who Should Write a Career Plan?

  • Undergraduates.
  • Fresh graduates.
  • Experienced professionals.

Why is a Career Plan Important?

A career plan is a way to;

  • Navigate your career.
  • Facilitate your career growth.
  • Determine and fill knowledge/experience gaps.
  • Overcome procrastination.
  • Avoid disappointment.

Example of a Career Plan Template

If you’re considering writing an effective career plan, you can download this sample career plan template.

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