Do you only think about your career when you start a job search? If so, you are not alone.  You probably know that artificial intelligence (AI) is impacting many careers and jobs.  But so are other technological and economic changes.  Setting aside a little time each week for awhile to think about your career and learn more is time well spent.  Then creating a plan and executing it becomes easy.  We rarely think of our career as the biggest financial asset we have, it is.

How Do You Think About Your Future?

Start Planning

Begin by writing out your current career goals. Research clearly shows that writing your career goals out significantly raises the probability you will achieve them.

As you gather details, keeping them in one place helps ensure you have the information necessary to formulate some specific short and mid-term goals.  Capture all the information and research of your career planning process. Record your strengths and other self-assessments. Document what you learn from activities below. Look at the information resources as well as jobs in your field to gain current market information and see trends or changes in requirements which will influence your options.


  • What do you enjoy doing, are good at, and want to do next year? In 2-3 years?
  • What environment do you need to be successful and fulfilled?
  • What jobs will offer the opportunity to meet your goals?
  • What companies offer the environment you need?

Talk to Other People

Start with people you have worked with or are involved in your career field. Pick out several and buy them coffee. Be clear you are not in job search mode but are doing some planning.

Tell each you are thinking about your career and want to pick their brains. Co-workers and past bosses can give you insight into what options they see for you and why. Ask them about your best strengths. See what information about the market  they can offer.

Then move on to people you have met at professional events or are connected to through LinkedIn groups, etc. Use these to gain insight into how they see the future of the field, what changes they see, and for more market intel. Take notes in all these conversations.

Depending on your current career stage, your interests, and your plans you may want to add one or more of these options to your process to help you succeed. 

Consider Developing an Advisory Group

Building a core group of people who will support and assist your career is a great investment in your future. These family and friends can help you to look at your possible options realistically. A good group includes variety: people who know your field, adjacent fields, are in very different functions, and offer some skills you do not have.  Most such groups last a year or so but you can do this several times over your career.  Some people join existing groups, such as Mastermind or 40Plus or career-specific groups as a first step and later set up their own advisors.

You may never assemble them all in one place but having such key people and asking them to be on your team will provide insights and ideas beyond what you can do alone. Just remember that you need to offer each one something in return too.

Find a Sponsor

If you like your current employer and want to stay there, you may want a sponsor.  A sponsor is someone more senior who is in your current organization. This person may be several levels up the chain in your function or in another area. Develop a positive relationship with someone like that and eventually you can ask for their support in helping you progress within the organization.

What you are seeking is someone who will be willing to recommend you and speaks highly of you when discussions come up of possible job options or coveted career boosts.

Consider a Mentor

A mentor is anyone who can help you grow and develop specific skills you want. Mentors may be in your current organization or outside it. You may choose someone in your career field or anyone who has a specific skill you want to master.  Usually this is a short-term relationship, from a few months to a year, and involves specific goals and regular meetings to discuss progress and how to learn what you need to learn. Some organizations have specific mentorship programs you can apply for. There are mentorship organizations, online services, and some professional groups offer mentors.  Most often this is something you set up on your own.

Join Professional Organizations

What local professional groups or chapters of national organizations exist in your career field?  Attend some meetings or participate in their email lists.  Then join those which match your needs most closely. The real value in such groups to your career is to make connections and to be active in them. Become a volunteer, offer to speak, run for office … do whatever works well for you to get you more actively involved and learning. This helps grow your knowledge and to enhance your value to your current or future employers.

Certainly using social media groups is also valuable but meeting face-to-face improves your growth outcomes.

Hire a Career Coach

Career coaching can be most helpful when you are clearly focused on one or more career goals but unsure how to achieve them.

  • Maybe you cannot get the promotion you feel you are ready for.
  • Or you know what you need to do but feel blocked in achieving the goals.
  • Perhaps you need an outside perspective that you are not getting from anyone in your network.
  • Maybe, like most of us at times, you just need someone to hold you accountable – a kick in the butt even.

A good coach is a great answer. Find one by asking people you know for recommendations. Look at their website and talk to 2-3 to find a good match. Most career coaches will talk to you for 15-20 min up-front for free to ensure they can work with you and meet your needs.

This list looks pretty overwhelming at first. But it is designed to get you thinking about your future and what you might do to ensure you achieve your desired goals. Research about careers clearly shows that developing career goals and creating a plan to achieve them results in much higher success than just thinking about it when you need to find a new job.