career.planning.maruskaHave you been thinking about your next career step or perhaps striking out in a different direction or with a new organization? Do you know someone who is on the precipice of a big leap in a new direction? Protracted government cutbacks and a free-agent job culture have made many people think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It very well might be, but you’d do well to take these three crucial actions to make your move a smart one.

1. Be sure that you are running to something not running away from something.

Frequently, people want to pull the rip cord and parachute out of their current career into something very different because they haven’t dealt with issues in their current career. And, surprise, surprise, those issues dog them into their next career endeavor. For example, difficulties dealing with a challenging boss carry over when the person moves to a new organization and must deal with a difficult person in that environment. Are you running from something that you need to learn how to navigate?

2. Be clear about your hopes (not someone else’s) for your next step.

Figure out if your passion is a flash in the pan or the real thing. Sometimes we become attracted to something because it’s the “hot new thing” to do or what others expect of us. Enduring success requires connection with your deepest hopes. With someone serving as a generous listener for you, answer the question, “What are your hopes about your talent?” But, don’t stop there. Go deeper. Answer, “Why are those hopes important to you?” When you plumb the depths of your hopes, your development will become more focused and authentic. With this foundation, you’ll have the clarity and energy to accelerate through obstacles and multiply the payoffs for yourself and others.

3. Explore multiple options to zero in on the right fit for you.

Think of making a career change like getting the right prescription for your eye lenses. You need to compare several choices and online job boards like Careers In Government is a great resource. Unfortunately, some people become so enamored with their first idea that they don’t consider other choices much less look or listen for potential shortcomings. They just want to make their dream come true. If, however, you have three possibilities to consider, you can track which one sustains your interest and attracts resources and which ones fade over time. You’ll be more open to helpful input from others and make a more rewarding choice.

In today’s environment, almost everyone will have multiple careers. So, it’s not so much whether you make career shifts but how you make them. Take time to honor yourself and sort through what fits for you.

Don Maruska and Jay Perry are co-authors of “Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life” (Berrett-Koehler, 2013.)  They are Master Certified Coaches with more than four decades of experience helping thousands of people nationally and internationally to advance in their careers in startups, corporations, and government. Visit their website and follow them on Twitter: @donmaruska, @coachjayperry, as well as @talentchampion for their combined account.

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