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Updated: October 17, 2023 Ask ACE

Ask ACE: How do I plan for my future to maximize my professional potential?

Q: I am early on in my career and my job is good. How do I plan for my future professionally to maximize my potential?

ACE Advises: You cannot underestimate the value of job satisfaction. If you have it today, that’s great! Job satisfaction will fluctuate as you get comfortable with the challenges and learn the ropes. The best practice is to crush it in your job today while regularly setting aside some time in your schedule to imagine your future and take even small actions to create a foundation for growth.

Your career possibilities depend first on your knowledge, skills and training. What you can do makes up a big part of your career value. Take stock in what you are good at, but don’t stop there. See where your skills overlap your interests and consider what skills you want to improve. Assessments support this process.

How do we end up following certain paths, sometimes random, sometimes planned? If you are just joining the job market and hoping to save money, you might choose a job for the salary even if it’s not in the industry you want or using the skills you’re most passionate about. When you’re planning for the future, take a good look at what is important to you, because your values will be the ultimate driver of the future decisions you will make.

People, people, people. Whether you use LinkedIn, get together with people in person, or interact on social media, keep it up. Don’t drop the connections you reached out to when you were looking for a job. Put a regular reminder in your calendar to make a note of any new connections, reach out to a few people from the past, and engage with curiosity about others’ work. Relationships will matter for opening doors.

The secret formula to successful career planning: building skills, assessing your priorities and interacting with people and businesses. Top that with a positive growth mind.

Holly Smevog, an ACE member, is a career coach with Portland-based HMS Career Coaching. She is past president of the Maine Career Development Association and currently serves on its board. She is also a member of the International Coaching Federation. She can be reached at

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