Listen to Your Head and Your Heart When You Make the Next Change in your Professional Career

Two years ago, I ignored every rational and logical thought in my head.

I was completing the twentieth year of a wonderful career in academic leadership at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  I had recently been appointed the Executive Vice Provost (one of the top leadership positions in the University) and was in charge of strategic planning and growth of online education and a variety of entrepreneurial educational opportunities being pursued by Hopkins. I was in a great place.

A close friend called me one day to say, “I know you are never going to leave Hopkins, but I know of a great opportunity and you are the perfect candidate.”  I innocently asked for more information and soon learned that ShalomLearning, a small start-up offering an online and blended learning option to pre-B’nai Mitzvah kids, was looking for a CEO to take the organization to the next level.  What a great opportunity to combine my knowledge and skills in education and technology with my lifetime passion for Judaism and Jewish education.  My brain was saying, “Stop and think this through,” but my heart was saying, “Go for it and worry about the details later.”

I leapt with my heart and left my professional comfort zone (built up over twenty years) for an entirely new world of work. I jumped into the proverbial deep end of the pool. Why did I shake up this world of comfort – and would I recommend anyone else do the same?

Let’s assume you have a good job and are perfectly satisfied with your current position. The work-life balance is good, your boss is supportive, and your colleagues are enjoyable. But let’s also assume that the challenge of the job has disappeared. You can do your work with one hand tied behind your back.

Nothing is wrong, but nothing is really right.

shutterstock_176716529It might be time to Assess, Review, and Match (ARM).  Either with the help of a mentor or coach, or just by yourself, examine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  The best time to focus on yourself is when there is no pressure to do so.  Your job is not in jeopardy and time is on your side.

Assess.  Take stock of your passions and your goals.

Review.  Do an accounting of any issues that may be holding you back.

Match.  Pair-up your skills and knowledge with potential opportunities for advancement.

Get started by putting four tasks on your to-do list:

  1. Schedule regular updates of your resume and your LinkedIn profile. It takes just a few minutes to jot down an accomplishment from last week. But it takes several hours to reconstruct a project that you finished last year.
  2. Seek advice from trusted friends and mentors in your professional world.  Chances are the perfect mentor is nearby and interested in sharing their experiences and knowledge. You can have one mentor or you can have many mentors. There are no rules. The most important criterion is that you share a mutual respect for one another.
  3. Network and stay current. Read a book on a subject that you’re not familiar with, attend a lecture, listen to a podcast that is related to your field of work, or just pick up a copy of the Harvard Business Review (one of my personal favorites).
  4. Join the JOFA Webinar on Tuesday, March 17 as I moderate a discussion with two outstanding Jewish women professionals Shifra Bronznick and Ariela Migdal on the topic of “Work-Life Balance, Equal Pay, and Staying on the Promotion Track: Advocating for Yourself in the Workplace.”

These kinds of activities will ensure that you are ready for your next move – even if a job search is not on the horizon just yet. When you are ARMed – you are ready.

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