Career Plan Essay Template Printable

"The point is, in the big picture, no one is going to look after your career for you, but you."
— from Erin Malone on Boxes and Arrows

Check out our Letters to a Young Artist for more inspiration.


Available for download: The Career Planning Outline

A few more Career Path Hits:

The Career Planning Template:

Your Name

Today’s Date
This is important as you reflect back on this document. This will become a touchstone for your growth and a reminder of who you were as you look back at what was important to you in this point in time.

3–6 Months
Start small.
Think about short-term goals that are easily achieved but will also help move you towards the longer-term goals.
Include some tangible goals (i.e., ship a product that I acted as lead designer for).

6–12 Months
Start thinking bigger here—this is planning for a year out.
What new skills do you want to learn?
What new ideas do you want to share with others?
What changes do you want to make? Put them down here along with the steps needed to take to make them happen.

Beyond 12 Months
Capture specific plans that you know may take more than a year to get to or accomplish. For me, it was to work on my Dr. Leslie book. I discussed the idea with a writing partner 3 years ago, but it is only now coming to fruition with an actual proposal in hand and a potential publisher. Be realistic but not afraid to reach. Visualize success in areas you may have little control over. Don’t be afraid to write down a desired goal that may be a stretch.

Longer-term Goals
This is the area to think out for the next 3–5 years, including life beyond the company or situation you are currently in. For me, I listed “teaching again” as a goal. This reminds me that I want to do this and I need to make certain decisions and changes in order to make it happen.If I decide at a later time, that I don’t really want to do this, I should remove it off the plan.

Opportunities to Explore at Your Company
List all the training and coaching opportunities relevant and currently available at your company.
Note relationships that need to be cultivated at your company in order to meet success.
Note: This obviously may not apply if you are an independent consultant. Think about other opportunities that might be available through professional associations and networking instead.

Skills to Develop
Project what skills you need to develop to reach the goals you listed in the first part of this exercise.
What other skills do you need, besides the ones you have now, to attain your goal?Since I am a manager and this is the area in which I have been growing, I listed things such as Confidence and Effectiveness—along with ideas on how to master these more intangible skills.Over the last couple of years, I have purposely put myself into situations to gain confidence—especially when giving presentations. Think about starting slow and building on your successes.In addition, I also listed skills of associated/allied roles that I would like to learn in order to make myself a more well-rounded and effective manager in my company.

What I Care About in a Work Environment
This may seem frivolous or not important to the task at hand, but it serves to remind you of the values you need to share with the company you work for. As you grow or the company changes this can help guide you when you need to make a change.

Personal Goals
Don’t forget the personal goals that you need to weave into your life. It never hurts to write these down as a reminder of work/life balance and of the things that are really important to you as a person.

Download: The Career Planning Outline on

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supportive references:

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“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
Alan Lakein

Standing at the top of Mariner’s Ridge, I looked out at the sun setting across the ocean with a feeling of complete success and satisfaction.

Why you may ask? Because after spinning my wheels and wasting my time for years, I had finally cracked how to get my life together once and for all…and success in my career, building my health and body, and even deepening relationships with friends and family finally was no longer just something I desired…but were goals I had accomplished step-by-step.

It was there, feeling like I was standing on top of the world that I realized a few of the great lessons in my life.

First, that my life and time was precious, and I had to make the most out of every moment.

Second, that the solution to making the most of my life was having a clear plan and direction, so you make the most of every moment.

My heart filled with gratitude, as I realized how fortunate I was that a mentor had shared the secret of creating a personal development plan with me, and that I had been able to use this powerful tool and template to completely shape every aspect of my life.

If you want to follow along, download this Printable Personal Development Plan Template (PDF) 

If you don’t know where you want to get to, it doesn’t matter which way you go.

When you learn how to write your personal development plan, you’ll learn how to structure your thoughts as well.

When that happens, you will be amazed at the way your brain will subconsciously focus on what you want.

Why write a Personal Development Plan?

Because, frankly, it works.  When you write down your plan you’ll get:

  • Clarity.  With the structure I lay out below, you’ll know exactly what you are doing with your life.
  • Define The Why.  We’ll tie it all together into your major “why” – so that even on days you feel lazy or unmotivated, you can remember why this really matters to you.
  • A Course Of Action.  Imagine waking up every day and knowing each day matters, and having a plan for what to do with it.

Let’s break it down into exactly what goes into it

What Is In A Personal Development Plan?

The personal development plan answers 3 questions…and my pdf template has the exact structure that I learned from mentors and tweaked

  • What you want
  • Why you want it
  • How you plan to get there.

That’s it.

How To Write A Personal Development Plan Sections

  • Page 1: Your Life Purpose. What were you born to do? What is the meaning of your life?
  • Page 2: Your Dreams. Those far reaching thoughts and hopes that inspire you to action.
  • Page 3: Your Beliefs and Values. What do you stand for? And perhaps, what do you wish your actions showed you stand for?
  • Page 4-7 Goals:
    • Short, Medium and Long Term Goals.  We’ll take your dreams, break them down into goals that span years, months and finally days and weeks – so you know what to do every day, and also the general direction your heading.
  • Page 8+: Success and Milestones.  This is optional, but I recommend as you accomplish your goals, keep a log of some of the major milestones you’ve accomplished. You can also store certificates and other things that make you feel good.

Personal Development Plan Template

Ok, we discussed the sections that go into a plan…wouldn’t it be nice to see what it actually looks like? You can grab my template here to print out

Your Life Purpose, Your Dreams and Your Beliefs and Values – those all go on blank pages, one page at a time.  I like to write them our bullet style

For the goal sheet though, I like to have a matrix to help me see exactly where I’m headed.

I like to go ten years out, but three or gives years is great too.

A typical  download this personal development plan template (PDF) for goals looks like this:

Personal Development Goals

Goal AreaOne YearThree YearFive YearTen Year

For each box, answer these questions:

  • What specifically do I want to accomplish?
  • Why?
  • Who can help me?
  • How do I get there? (What actions do I need to take?)

Now It’s Time To Make Your Own

Grab your copy of this printable personal development plan template (PDF) for goals and get started

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