How to create a long-term career strategy

Setting a long-term career strategy gives focus to your hard work. Here’s how to decide what you really want and figure out the steps to achieve it.

Deciding what your career goal is

Think about your options…

  • What do you like and dislike doing?
  • Do you have any passions?
  • How do you feel about your current situation and how do you want it to be different?
  • Does your current job allow you to follow your passions?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What are your current skills, qualifications and abilities?
  • How much importance do you place on things like salary, work/life balance, responsibility and lifestyle?

Answering these questions will give you a better idea of your career goal.

“Come up with a career sentence,” suggests CEO Brian De Haaf. He describes a career sentence as an “overarching vision” for your career, such as: “Help build software that changes the way people interact with their doctors,” or “Create positive, lasting education opportunities for disadvantaged youths.”

Career goals can be narrow or broad – it’s up to you to set the realistic criteria that mean you’ve achieved it.

Your career strategy could also involve you doing less work – perhaps you want to improve your work/life balance, or save up for early retirement.

Setting a realistic goal (and strategies for achieving it)

A realistic goal should be several things:

  • Specific – do you know exactly what you want to achieve? (This is where your career sentence comes in handy)
  • Measurable – do you have a way of determining whether you have achieved your goal, or marking your progress?
  • Achievable – are you setting your sights too high? Ambition is important, but is it really achievable for you to become Prime Minister or an Astronaut in the next five years?
  • Positive – say “I will” rather than “I won’t”

Creating a strategy to achieve your goal

Now you have a realistic, specific career goal, think about what barriers you need to overcome to get there.

What skills and experience do you already have? Write down your existing skills, qualifications and relevant experience. This is your starting point.

Now think about what you need to do to achieve your goal:

  • Do you need any qualifications?
  • Do you need work experience?
  • Do you need to work your way up a certain professional route?
  • Do you need to make more time to study for a new qualification?
  • Do you have any financial barriers to overcome?

Breaking your long-term career goal into even more achievable, smaller goals is an effective strategy. Give yourself a timeframe or deadline to achieve each smaller goal to give yourself motivation, and a sense of achievement when you tick things off.

It’s also important to remember to be flexible. If something goes wrong or changes, it’s okay to change the smaller goals as long as you have the long-term goal firmly in sight – don’t give up.

Finally, have shared a useful template to help organise your career strategy:

Career Plan

Personal overview

Include a brief outline of who you are and what you’re looking for. Include your strongest attributes and interests, as well as where you’re at in your current situation.


Provide an overview of your educational qualifications.

Employment history

Write a short summary of your employment history.


Short term: E.g. secure job with progression opportunities (in 6 months).

Mid-term: E.g. get a promotion (in 2-5 years).

Long term: E.g. become head of department (in 5+ years).

Current skills, knowledge, and experience

Sum up your key skills and competencies – whether they’re gained from work, study, or hobbies.

Training and development requirements

Use this section to assess what training and development is needed to achieve your goals.

Action plan

Give yourself a clear, step-by-step guide of the actions needed to reach your goals – including timescales against each action.

You can include as many actions as you want, but it might be most useful to limit yourself to a smaller number – so you can add new ones as you progress.