How to Plan Your Career Change: Timelines & Templates

A career development plan is not just about setting goals—it's about creating a realistic and actionable roadmap aligning with your professional aspirations and personal life.

Key Takeaways

A career development plan is not just about setting goals—it's about creating a realistic and actionable roadmap aligning with your professional aspirations and personal life.

With the right approach, you can identify the skills you need, set achievable milestones, and track your progress, and turn your career dreams into attainable targets.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

Let's explore how to craft a career plan that not only outlines where you want to be but also propels you toward new heights in your career journey.

Step 1- Setting the Stage: Self-Assessment

Planning a career change begins with a thorough self-assessment. This introspective process is crucial in aligning your career path with your personal and professional goals.

Here's how to conduct a self-assessment that sets the stage for a successful transition.

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Reflect on Your Current Skills and Experience

Start by taking stock of your current skill set and professional experiences. Doodle on paper or brainstorm answers to these questions:

  • What are your strengths? Consider what past managers or family and friends tell you.
  • Which skills have you mastered, and which ones could you improve? Consider educational credentials, hobbies, skills, activities in clubs, and volunteer work.
  • Can your current hard and soft skills transfer to a new industry or role? Transferable skills are those abilities you've learned that will be valuable in a new position.
  • Do you know yourself? Consider learning about different personalities and ways of communicating with the following resources:

Identify Your Interests and Passions

Understanding what you're passionate about is part of the career change process. Consider these questions:

  • What would make a career more fulfilling for you?
  • Which tasks and projects have brought you the most satisfaction?
  • What aspects of your current or past jobs have you enjoyed the most?

If you're unsure of your interests and what you enjoy, try an Interest Assessment.

Clarify Your Values

Your core values are the compass that guides your career decisions.

  • What matters most to you in a work environment?
  • Are you moved by creativity, stability, autonomy, or collaboration?
  • How much time do you want to dedicate to your career, and how does that fit with your personal life?

A career aligning with your values provides long-term satisfaction.You can take a Values Assessment Online to better understand what drives you.

Define Your Professional Goals

Setting clear, achievable goals will help you navigate your career change with purpose.

  • What are your career objectives?
  • Are you looking to climb the corporate ladder?
  • Are you seeking a role that provides direct social impact?

If goal setting is something you could use some help with, consider a class such as Remote Goal Setting and Accountability to help you move forward.

Evaluate Your Willingness to Learn and Assess Financial Expectations

A career change often requires new knowledge or training. Gauge your readiness to invest time and resources into learning new skills.

Consider your financial abilities now and for the future:

  • Are you willing to invest in additional education?
  • What salary do you need to support your lifestyle?
  • Are you financially prepared to possibly start at a lower salary level?

Self-assessment provides a solid foundation for your career change. It's about knowing who you are, what you want, and what you're capable of. This is critical information for making informed decisions about your professional future.

a person using a laptop
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Step 2- Research and Exploration

Once you've conducted a self-assessment, the next step is to delve into research and exploration.

This phase is about gathering information to inform your career change decision and to identify the paths that align with your self-assessment findings.

The research and exploration stage is about matching your skills, interests, and values with the right career opportunities. Consider the below diagram. Your sweet spot is where your skills, interests, and values connect.

a diagram of a career

Investigating New Industries and Opportunities

Next in research is exploring industries that pique your interest. Look into:

  • Market trends: Try the World Economic Forum, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Job availability: Check out job postings in your locality for the industry and jobs you are considering.
  • Industry health: Look at industry organizations online, and talk with those who already work in your field about the availability and future of jobs in the field.

Consider how your skills and interests align with the roles you find. It's also beneficial to research companies within these industries to understand their culture, values, and growth opportunities.

Getting Career-Ready Quickly

Some top careers require only months to prepare for. Bootcamp style and skills-based courses can often help you find a lucrative position within a year.

If you've considered computer-related fields, consider the following courses to get started in a fast-change career in cybersecurity!

Informational Interviews and Networking

Networking is a powerful tool in your research phase. Reach out to professionals in the field you're interested in.

Informational interviews can provide insider insights not available through online research alone. These conversations can also expand your professional network and open doors to potential opportunities.

For example, you may find that you're very good at logical thinking. In fact, you remember geometry theorems from high school so well that it scares your friends.

However, you've never considered computer programming. Talking with a friend who did a boot camp and landed a lucrative job gets you thinking about your skills, interests, and values. Computer science could be a good fit!

So you read more about the different types of computer science careers and then check out some courses that can jump-start your trajectory into a career without the time and financial costs of a 4-year degree.

Understanding the Necessary Skills

As you explore new roles, identify the skills and qualifications they require.

  • Do you need additional training or certifications?
  • Are there specific experiences that you lack?

Perhaps you're fascinated by crypto currencies, but you currently work at a bank's IT department. Fill in skill gaps with the online on-demand courses below and see where your interests take you!

Also, consider the time to finish courses and how they fit into your overall career change timeline.

For example, CompTIA A+ PC Hardware Certification Training can be completed in 8 weeks. It prepares learners for success on the CompTIA A+ 220-1001 exam while helping them master the latest IT knowledge and skills to be successful IT support technicians.

Considering the Financial Impact

A career change can have significant financial implications. Research the typical salary ranges for your new role and consider how this will affect your financial situation.

You may need to adjust your budget or savings plan to accommodate for changes in income as you transition. For example, you may need to keep working while you get the credentials you need to go into real estate sales.

Online courses like the ones below can make this goal a reality:

By thinking through who you are, what you've achieved, and what matters to you, you can make informed decisions and set yourself up for success in your new career.

Two people sitting at a table for a meeting
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Step 3- Ideas For Your Career Development Plan

After assessing your personal goals and exploring potential career paths, it's time to craft a detailed career development plan. This plan will serve as a blueprint for your career change, outlining the steps needed to reach your new professional objectives.

Defining Long-term and Short-term Career Goals

Begin by setting clear, achievable, long-term career goals based on your self-assessment and research.

For example, you might find that you enjoy solving complex problems, thinking critically, designing equipment or technology, and are good at math. You enjoy learning new skills and understanding systems.

While you've been working as a mechanic, your goals include making more money and getting better benefits. You've talked to others and wonder if a career in mechatronics could be a good fit for you.

You begin by reading about mechatronics:

Using Goal Creation for Clarity and Achievability

Now that you've researched a bit, you can see the big picture goal, it's time to break it down into short-term goals, which act as milestones along the way.

Ensure your goals are not vague, like "Learn coding." Instead, set a more definite goal such as "Complete an introductory Python course by the end of the quarter."

Knowing your specific goal, you look online and sign up for Introduction to Python.

Skill Gap Analysis

Identify the skills you currently have and those you need for your new career. This gap analysis will highlight the areas you need to focus on and help you prioritize your learning and development efforts.

For example, if you realize mechatronics is a good fit for you, you might take courses such as:

And because you studied the industry and did a market analysis, you know that mechatronics professionals are in demand. Once you have the skills, finding a job should not be difficult.

Action Steps and Resources

For each short-term goal, list the specific actions you'll need to take. This might include the following:

Brainstorm the Steps You Might Include

Begin by writing down steps you've identified as necessary for your career change. This might include:

  • Conducting a self-assessment of skills, interests, and values.
  • Researching industries and roles that align with your assessment.
  • Networking with professionals in your field of interest.
  • Acquiring new skills or certifications as needed.
  • Applying for jobs or opportunities that fit your career goals.

For instance, if you want upper management to notice your abilities, consider courses showing you're ready for the next step up the career ladder:

Or, if you're in marketing, you might level up with a course like Deep Dive Digital Media or Marketing Management.

Incorporating Milestones

Include milestones in your template to mark significant achievements along the way, such as

  • Completing a training program
  • Earning a certificate
  • Attending a networking event or seminar
  • Updating your LinkedIn profile and posting regularly

Milestones help you maintain a sense of progress and can provide motivation throughout your career change journey.

Step 4- Create Your Career Development Template with Timeline

Your plan should be detailed enough to provide clear guidance, yet adaptable enough to change as you grow and learn throughout your career change process.

Your template for success is not just a checklist; it's a dynamic plan that evolves as you move forward.

Below are two examples of templates with timelines to get you started creating your own career development template with a timeline.


1. Self-Assessment Phase (1-2 months)

  • Identify personal strengths, weaknesses, skills, and interests.
  • Clarify core values and desired work culture.
  • Establish financial goals and constraints.
  • Set long-term career objectives and short-term goals.

2. Research Phase (2-3 months)

  • Investigate industries and roles that align with self-assessment outcomes.
  • Gather information on job market trends and opportunities.
  • Research companies of interest for culture and values.
  • Identify necessary qualifications and skills for target roles.

3. Skill Development Phase (3-6 months)

  • Enroll in relevant courses or certifications.
  • Attend workshops or webinars for skill enhancement.
  • Practice new skills through volunteering or part-time work.
  • Update Resume and LinkedIn profile with new skills and qualifications.

4. Networking Phase (Ongoing)

  • Attend industry networking events and career fairs.
  • Conduct informational interviews with professionals in the field.
  • Join professional associations and online communities.
  • Connect with potential mentors or career coaches.

5. Job Search Phase (3-6 months)

  • Craft tailored resumes and cover letters for job applications.
  • Apply for jobs that match your career goals and values.
  • Prepare and practice for job interviews.
  • Follow up on job applications and network connections.

6. Transition Phase (1-2 months)

  • Negotiate job offers and finalize terms of employment.
  • Plan for a smooth transition from the current role to the new one.
  • Set up a financial plan to manage any gaps in employment.
  • Create a 90-day plan for success in the new role.


Year 1: Foundation and Skill Acquisition

Months 1-2: Self-Assessment

  • Complete a detailed self-assessment of skills, interests, and values.
  • Define long-term career objectives and short-term goals.

Months 3-4: Industry Research

  • Research industries and roles that align with assessment outcomes.
  • Begin networking with professionals in the target field.

Months 5-8: Skill Development

  • Enroll in necessary courses or certifications.
  • Attend workshops or seminars related to the new career field.

Months 9-12: Experience Building

  • Volunteer or take on freelance projects to gain experience.
  • Update resume and LinkedIn profile with new skills, certifications, and experiences.

Year 2: Networking and Job Search

Months 13-16: Intensive Networking

  • Attend industry conferences and networking events.
  • Conduct informational interviews with industry leaders.

Months 17-20: Job Search Strategy

  • Develop a list of target companies and roles.
  • Tailor resumes and cover letters for specific job applications.

Months 21-24: Application and Interview Process

  • Apply to selected job positions.
  • Prepare for and attend job interviews.
  • Land a position and work toward your next career goals.

You can write your own template from scratch or use one of these as a starting place. Allow for flexibility and adjustments as you gain more information and as your situation changes.

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Focusing on providing skill-based training and certification courses, Unmudl connects learners with flexible in-person or online classes facilitated by a national network of community colleges.

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By gaining relevant skills and credentials through Unmudl's nationwide community college network, working learners position themselves for employment with top-tier employers. 

Get in touch with us at +1 512-669-5624 or email us at

Unmudl ensures that the step from education to employment is not a leap but a natural stride forward. 

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