Follow Your Passion, But Make a Plan
Over the years I have counseled many people who wanted to make a career change. Most of them experienced some degree of fear and hesitation. My advice to them has usually been the same – if this is really something you want to do, just do it. The stars will never be perfectly aligned, the economy will always be unpredictable, and there is no guarantee that even your current position will be there in a year. Base your decisions on facts, not fear, and after that trust your instincts.
Before making a major career move, however, it is best to make an honest assessment about your current situation. Weigh the pros and cons. Take a look at your long-term prospects at your current organization, including retirement provisions, despite the challenges and conflicts of the moment. Consider how you might negotiate a solution that would make it possible for you to be happy about staying. Realize that the grass may be just about the same shade of green at another organization.
If you still want a change, whether it is because you seek new challenges or want to join a company better aligned with your values and goals, do some planning. Make sure you are financially stable, in case the path ahead is not as smooth as you predicted. If you have made several job changes in recent years, prepare an explanation about the circumstances involved to avoid a loss of credibility. Research potential employers and if possible, locate and talk to current employees about the work environment, benefits, and other factors that might influence your decision. Then be ready to move quickly if you get an attractive offer. By the way, never, ever use an offer to get a promotion or raise with your current employer.
After living in the corporate world for 15 years, I broke out on my own at what some may have considered the worst possible time. Married for only 15 months, my wife had recently quit her job to take care of our newborn son. We had no rich relatives to rely on and had little in the way of savings, but we were free of debt and I had a detailed business plan. Most importantly, I had this overwhelming sense that it was now or never. The familiar quote, “leap and the net will appear,” seemed to be aimed directly at me. In the final analysis, we are more likely to succeed when we follow our passions.