Is This Your Career Leap Year?

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January, 2014

Man jump through the gap.

A few years ago I heard an outstanding presentation by Larry Wilson, founder of the Twin Cities based training and organizational consulting company Wilson Learning. Wilson told the audience that there is a mathematical formula one can use to gauge change readiness.

Vision + Dissatisfaction + Process > Cost

He explained by saying our vision plus our dissatisfaction plus our process needs to be more powerful, more compelling, than the cost of change, adding most often this cost includes time, effort, risk, money and emotion.

Look at how health clubs fill up in January and are virtually empty in May to see how costs (usually time and effort demands) can overpower the most popular New Year’s resolution each year, losing weight and getting fit. Thoughtful and sustainable change needs to be the focus as you consider your future possibilities. So, is it time for you to take that leap? First take a look at each of these change readiness factors, then see if you are ready.

VISION

You, of course, need to look before you leap. What is your criteria for success, satisfaction and fit for your next job and organization? Is there firm footing on the other side of the leap even if that vision isn’t as clear as you might like it to be? Last October I wrote a blog about evaluating an opportunity. I encourage you to read it over while you prepare to take your possible leap.

What does your vision for success and satisfaction include? I believe that great fit comes from the alignment of talent, purpose and place. In the end, you will have found it if you can confidently say that you will be able to use, develop and stretch your talents, in a meaningful and significant way, within a place that values you and shares your values. Again, take a look at that October blog on the job, organizational and personal factors, decide what matters most to you, and then attempt to articulate the specifics your vision and filters will include.

DISSATISFACTION

If today you aren’t saying yes to the majority of the individual items listed in my October blog, chances are good that you are experiencing dissatisfaction in your current job or work environment.

In their newly published book, Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities, Richard Leider and Alan Webber included a fascinating interview with former Today host Jane Pauley about this topic of dissatisfaction. “I was sitting in a lecture hall at the first parents’ weekend at my son’s college said Jane. He was a freshman. And I went to a lecture and the professor was talking about work. And what is good work. He wrote on the board in big words: number one, the key aspect of good work is alignment. Being in alignment with the work of the organization, the mission, or what you’re doing. Number two was being regularly, if not constantly, reinforced in that alignment. And as happy as I should have been, as lucky as I was, as blessed as I was in my career, I knew I was not in alignment. And in that moment, in that chair, and at that parents’ weekend, I knew it was time for me to leave a primetime television show.”

PROCESS

In preparing to take a career leap, you first should decide if you are moving towards a career transition or a career transformation.
By “transition” I mean moving ahead with a next step that has much in common with the career path you have already been on. By “transformation” I mean moving ahead with a next step that is a major departure from the career path you have already been on.

Much has been written about the traditional career transition process, and the steps that take one from self-assessment to market research to focus to job campaigning and finally to landing. The details of this process are readily available in books and articles, and many of my monthly blogs have focused on this transition process. The career transformation process, however, calls for special consideration. Over the past twenty-four years I have worked with many career transformation clients, and am especially impressed with the process described by Herminia Ibarra in her 2003 book, Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. If you are considering taking the leap into a career transformation, I encourage you to read this book and follow its teachings.

Ibarra suggests a three part process: crafting experiments, shifting connections and then making sense of what you have learned. Don’t take the leap to career transformation before first conducting small experiments, finding new connections to guide you, and then taking the time to be reflective and decide if it really makes sense to commit to taking this leap.

COST

Time, effort, money, emotions, risk….. these are the key costs that will weigh you down, wear you out, and have you questioning your ability to transition or transform, to take the big leap. So how does one tip the balance towards the leap and away from the fear? I suggest four things, and wrote about each in my November 2012 blog.

In that blog I emphasized the need to be very intentional about optimizing structure, support, creativity and courage. I chose the title “courage” because I believe this to be the most important of these four items. Take a look at the photo on the top of this page and tell me that jump does not require a huge modicum of courage. Consider these words also:

“Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the wind in your sails, explore, dream, discover.”
– Mark Twain

Twain understands inspiration and liberation, about taking the leap and living without regret. When one of my former clients wanted to declare to the world that she was about to transform her identity from a “domesticated” corporate executive to a “wild” entrepreneur, she chose to mail this quote in a holiday greeting card to her entire network. She wanted everyone to know that there was no turning back, that she had set sail and was committed to a future without regrets. It was her version of the Vikings burning their ships after landing on foreign shores. No way back home, no playing it safe, no regrets.

Is this your career leap year?

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