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  • Taking A Career Leap: Lessons From The Space Jumper

    Let’s face it: Taking a career leap can be a scary time. You’re jumping into the unknown — whether that’s a first job, career change, huge promotion, or new venture. But it’s good to know that getting to the edge isn’t always a bad thing.

    Take Felix Baumgartner, for example. The Austrian daredevil has created a profession out of skydiving and B.A.S.E. jumping. Though this may not be the right cup of tea for everyone, there had to be a day when Baumgartner took that first career leap. On Oct. 14, Baumgartner had viewers worldwide glued to their televisions as he took a 24-mile-high skydive, breaking the speed of sound.

    Just to give some perspective, this 4.2-minute jump took five years to plan, prepare, and execute. If you’re thinking about taking a career leap, there are a few lessons you should take from Baumgartner:

    Set a goal, subgoals, and a deadline. Do you think Baumgartner decided out of the blue that he was going to break the sound barrier? Of course not. He took the time and patience required to define his goals and deadlines. If you’re seeking out a huge promotion, for example, think about the timeline in which you’d like this to happen. Do you want to be promoted by next year? Great. Now set subgoals that will help you get there.

    Planning and preparation matter. Again, it took five years to plan the space jump. That’s a long time! Baumgartner’s team tested space suits, escape concepts, and treatment protocols prior to the jump. If you’re thinking of making a career change or seeking out the next big step, you likely won’t get there using blind trial-and-error. Take some time to prepare yourself. Take a few webinar courses, spruce up your networking efforts, or finish the next big project at work.

    Find your passion. Baumgartner has a passion for skydiving, B.A.S.E jumping, and adrenaline rushes. So think about your passions before taking your career leap. Do your career goals truly align with your passions? Would they make you happy?

    Travel off the beaten path. Sometimes, to get where you want to go, you have to do things a little unexpected. Try something new and see where it takes you – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a space jump.

    Take a tip from a mentor. If you have your goals aligned and you did the preparation, but you’re still feeling a little lost in space, try utilizing a professional mentor. Baumgartner trained with Colonel Joe Kittinger (his mentor) prior to his leap. Kittinger held his own records and was able to help prepare Baumgartner. In the same way, you need someone who’s been down your road before to impart some wisdom, connections, and tips.

    Have a backup plan. Things might not go as expected. Baumgartner had a backup for his backup and a team of people waiting for any slip-up. You too should have a backup plan in case your career leap goes awry.

    Whether you’re planning a career move or seeking out a huge promotion, career leaps are an exciting time. But before you jump off the edge, take the time to prepare so you don’t have to use that contingency plan.

    Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president ​of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. She is also the author of#ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), national entry-level careers columnist forExaminer.com and blogs about career advice at HeatherHuhman.com.

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