Creating an IT Career Plan

Regardless of whether you’ve just started your career in IT or have been at it for a decade, if you’re not proactive in managing where you want to go and how to get there, you may find yourself not quite where you once thought you’d be.

When was the last time that you mapped out a career plan? Hummm… Not sure what that looks like? Read on.

A career plan is exactly that – a plan. There’s no guarantee that everything will work out exactly as you write it down. There’s only one thing that you can be certain of – if you don’t write one down, you certainly won’t ever know.

How to Think About Your Career

Most adults will have on average 7 careers in their lifetime. Scary to think about but true. So when I ask you think about your career, I’d like for you to think about the next 5 years and that’s all. Now break up the next 5 years into three parts – short term (next 18 months out), mid-term (18 months to 3 years), and long term (beyond 3 years). Anything more than that and you would be setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations especially with how quickly things change in IT.

You will typically not have too much difficulty setting some short term goals. After all, they typically have to do with stuff you already have going on like completing projects, training, earning a certification, your immediate next promotion, etc.

Mid-term goals may have you thinking for a bit so I’m going to ask you to hold off on jotting these down. We’ll revisit them after we talk about your long term goals.

So really – what do you want to be doing in 5 years?

It has to be more than just about technology because no one can predict what technology will be like in 5 years.

  • What type of company work you like to be working for?
  • What type of position would you like to hold?
  • What types of projects, decision making, and responsibilities are most desirable?
  • What will you family situation be like in 5 years?
  • What have you always wanted to?

These are tough questions and I don’t expect you to have quick answers. There are great books on the topic and you may just need to spend a little bit of time soul searching.

Now back to the mid-term career question. This is your preparation phase for what you want to be doing in 5 years. Here’s where you should be thinking through what experience and training will you need. Oh, and can you get that where you are today or does that involve moving to a new department or even company?


1. Short Team Goals

  • Staying current with your technology skills
  • Building your network of colleagues who can help you find other opportunities
  • Learning new technology
  • Staying on top of new opportunities within your company
  • Starting a new job search
  • Developing your presentation skills

2. Mid-Term Goals

  • Getting certified
  • Maintaining your certifications
  • Leading a team
  • Managing a team
  • Getting published
  • Learn a new specialty

3. Long Term Goals

  • Becoming Director/CIO/CTO
  • Working at the leading organization in your industry
  • Working for Google

Evaluate and Change

Things move pretty quickly in the IT world, so it’s not uncommon to end up in a completely different place than where you originally set out to be-and still be successful and fulfilled with your career development. Writing out your career goals serves the purpose of helping you evaluate different career options as they come along. Career goals should be evaluated every six months or so. Most companies have some form of performance evaluation system for their employees. It’s a good idea to start a self-review a month prior so that you can be prepared with a proactive plan for where you want to head.