It can be hard to think about your next job when you’re thriving in your current role. Start planning anyway.

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How do you plan for your next role when you love where you are?

“I love my job,” a new client told me as she sat down in my office. “I’ve done incredibly well in my career so far.”

I waited for the “but.”

She described high impact, meaningful, creative work with great colleagues and just enough international travel. We agreed it was a dream job.

She sounded and looked happy. I wasn’t sure why she was in my office.

“I’m worried that I don’t know what the next thing is, or how to get there,“ she told me. “And that’s confusing because I’m not even thinking about leaving where I am.”

Aha! We’re talking about the career Mobius strip.

The what?

I think of career management as a Mobius strip, a continuum between thriving where you are and transitioning to something new. Over the course of our careers, many of us loop around this continuum several times.

My client, currently thriving, was peering over the edge of her Mobius strip toward transition.

“What are you thinking about doing next?” I asked.

“I’d kinda like to open my own firm,” she said quietly. (I pointed out that she sounds a lot like she knows exactly what she wants to do next.)

“What could you do now to intentionally prepare for that at some future time?” I asked.

“I need to develop my thought leadership,” she said. “People usually listen to me and I can be influential, but I think that’s an area of improvement.”

We talked about classes and courses she had already taught and could expand. We talked about speaking at conferences. We talked about papers she had published and the possibility of a book. We talked about presentations she could give and promote at high levels across her company.

“I want you to think about wringing every bit of value out of your current role — experience, relationships, skills — in service of your future company,” I told her. “The decisions you make now, every day — the accomplishments and the mistakes — will help you build that future company.”

I watched her make the connection between her current role and her future self. “I think I’m going to enjoy this slide around the Mobius strip,” she said.

“I think you are,” I agreed.