Let’s talk BASE jumping for a bit, shall we? Did you know that all BASE jumpers start off as skydivers? And although there’s no exact guidelines for BASE jumpers, it is common that most BASE jumper have more than 500 hours of parachute jumps using similar equipment before they attempt such dangerous jumps off of buildings, bridges, or other structures. It takes years, and they learn many things from the basics of skydiving, to handling emergencies, to understanding the effects of wind and more. In other words, they study everything about everything that can and will happen when they jump, well before they ever get in a plane to jump.
I am at the ripe old age of (almost 40, just two months away), and I, like many others I’m finding out, may be coming to a point where they must change their career, for whatever reason. It has been called a “mid-life crisis”, but I don’t see it as that, I see it as a repositioning of priorities, of making my other half of life count more, of seeing more value in myself. I recently made the decision to leave the coffee industry, an industry I was proud to be a part of for roughly the past 16 years, and the thought of leaving an industry that had embraced me and that had nurtured me and wrapped itself around me so warmly was a daunting decision. It was tough thinking of leaving something that I’d grown to be good in, to leave for a more general industry where I’d have to almost start all over with just the skills I had with me. And again, I’ve got lots of friends that are in the same boat, trying to figure out how to get out of where they are, wondering if it’s safe to jump, and scared that they’ll fail, and all I can think of are these BASE jumpers.
In October, I organized a team of folks to serve delicious Batdorf & Bronson at Digital Atlanta, which is a large social media and digital marketing conference held every year. While there, surrounded by lots of friends, I had several conversations with a few people just about the social media world at general, and what jobs looked like in the more general sense, and I immediately realized two things: 1. That I was doing almost the exact same things, using most of the exact same tools as those I was surrounded by. 2. That I was making roughly half of what those in the room around me that were doing the same thing were making. That is exactly the point in which I decided that for me, based on what goals April and I have, it was time for me to make the jump. I started chatting with folks, asking what it would look like, and from the very beginning, based on my experience at the Coffee Ambush I did there, and how much I loved the Engauge folks that were at Digital Atlanta, that I set my sights on Engauge.
I started checking for jobs on their site, applying for ones that sounded like ones I could do, and speaking to my friends over coffee or lunch on setting up a game plan. I decided that I would do two things: 1. My plans would not change my work for Batdorf & Bronson. It was important to me, that in no way would my plans affect my day to day work with the company I was working for and had been committed to. 2. I would apply for jobs, send my resumes, and let the doors open that were meant to open, no matter how long it took. I realized quickly that it was going to take longer than I had thought, and I knew I’d have to be at peace with that. I knew this was definitely going to be something I relied on my faith for, and I certainly did. I applied for jobs with several different agencies, had several interviews, and nothing really connected, which again, despite my own discomfort, I had to be comfortable with. Finally, I got word from Engauge that they had a position I’d be good for, and I went for my first interview there. It then took close to a month for me to actually get the job from my first interview, and it was full of work I had to do to prove I could do the job, which was something I wasn’t prepared for, but I totally understand why it was necessary.
Once I had finished my last exercise they wanted me to do, once I had realized that I DID have all the skills to do the job that they were looking for, once all my friends had reassured my not so self-confident self that I had what they were looking for, I came to peace with the fact that there was one more thing that I had to do, one more action that would take a lot more work than the interviews, a lot more work than updating my resume or LinkedIn profile, and that was the action of actually accepting the job if it was offered, and resigning my position with B&B, and essentially my exit from the coffee industry, something that I’d never thought I’d do. And that’s where I stood, at the top of the hill, with two choices, to either go back down the mountain I’d worked so hard to climb, or, you guessed it, to jump. And that brings me back to those BASE jumpers.
Just like those BASE jumpers, I had worked incredibly hard to prepare for the jump. I had all the essential tools I’d need to safely land and to minimize the risk for failure. Just like the BASE jumpers, I had loaded the parachute on my back with all of the skills I’d need to do the work. I had studied all the things I’d need to make the transition, I’d been given incredibly valuable advice from people I greatly value and respect and taken what they’d said to heart, and I’d learned from the best. I knew getting into the plane to make the proverbial jump, that when I accepted that job offer, when I turned in that resignation, I was absolutely ready to make the jump, and the only thing left to do was the jump and enjoy the ride, which is exactly what I’m going to do.
You see, it’s much easier to jump when you know you will land, and that’s just what I did. Was I brave? Well, yes, and no. Yes, I was initially scared out of my mind to leave what was normal for me, and yet, no, because I knew I was prepared and had been working for close to 6 years for this very moment, I’d prepared greatly and my risk of failure was reduced greatly. So, what does this mean to you? Well, if you are at the same junction in your life, if you’re trying to figure out what’s next, or when to jump, I’d tell you to follow the example of those BASE jumpers-
1. Identify your passions, and what it is that you’d like to do with the next bulk of your life. If you could do anything, what would it be? What would make you happy? Does it pay your bills?
2. Do your research. Get the advice of others. Have lots of coffee or lunches with folks in that industry or field, or even at the company you’re looking forward to trying to get on with. Spend a lot of time listening, taking notes, especially if there are things that you’ll need to work on before making the transition.
3. Create a game plan. Set amounts of time you’ll work on applying and working on it, remembering that it should be outside your job if you currently have one. I don’t believe it’s right to be working on getting another job on the payroll of your current job, but that’s just me.
4. Get connected to as many people in that field as you can. Become as visible as you can possibly be. Start a blog, write about the field in which you’re trying to get into.
5. Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are current, and loaded with current recommendations and work experience highlighting how your current work connects to what you want to be doing. Show how what you’ve done can be something that matches with what the companies you’re applying for are looking for.
6. Apply, follow up, apply, follow up.
7. When it’s time to jump, assess what you’re carrying with you on your back, making sure you have all that you need to make the jump, and JUMP.