Before you leap, create a safety net
A Safety Net Lets You Dance on the High Wire
Career freedom-seekers often ask: "Should I give up my
job and move to Montana?" Or, "Should I quit my
job to start a business?"
Imagine that you decide to walk across a room on a high wire.
You probably have no desire to do this, but suppose you believed
there was a secure net under you. You can fall anytime, with
no harm done. Would you be more comfortable taking the risk?
Would you have fun dancing on the wire, perhaps trying out
some daring moves?
Or think of driving down a narrow driveway, with a steep
drop-off on one side. With a guard rail in place, you can
drive faster than you would otherwise.
When you are contemplating a life change, I recommend moving
very, very slowly. Ask lots of questions. Do your research,
and then do more research. Take trial steps and weigh the
consequences. And, most important, create your safety net.
What will allow you to feel free?
A safety net is anything that lets you dance free on the
high wire or take a mountain curve at forty miles an hour.
It's whatever makes you feel safe. Your safety net can be
cash stored in a savings account (or a mattress); a flexible
career, such as medicine, accounting -- or house cleaning;
a supportive family; a retirement income. It is important
to remember that one person's safety net will be another person's
Recently I attended a teleclass about business start-ups.
One caller told us, "I sold all my possessions and moved
two thousand miles, to a city where I knew nobody. In just
a few months, I had a profitable business, a great place to
live, and some wonderful new friends."
Fortunately the class leader intervened: "I want to
give you full credit for making that move," he said,
"but not everyone can, or should, do that." He was
right. This caller's safety net consisted of her personality,
energy and networking skills. Some people would also want
Cash: Not the Best Safety Net
Safety nets can be elusive. Sam felt comfortable starting
a business after he'd saved a large cash reserve. Once the
business was underway, Sam's reserve seemed smaller and he
began to reconsider his decision.
And once you've danced on the wire, you won't want to land
on the net with a thud.
In her book, The Cinderella Complex, Colette Dowling describes
a fortyish woman who takes a leave of absence from her teaching
job to seek a career as a film director in Los Angeles. To
make ends meet, the woman sells her house and takes a day
job as a tax preparer. Months later, she realizes she hates
her day job more than she ever hated her teaching job. She
also realizes that she needs twenty years to become a film
director, and she will be sixty when she gets her first job.
Los Angeles is a city of youth.
The woman returned to her teaching job. Thud!
Keep your Power: Create the Net Early
To avoid emergency landings, place your net before embarking
on the risky adventure.
Marianne consulted me about starting a business. I asked
how long she could survive on her savings.
"A year," she replied. "Maybe a little longer."
"Some businesses take awhile to get off the ground,"
I reminded her. "You may need more than a year. Or you
may discover you hate the business, or some uncontrollable
event has made your business obsolete or unmarketable."
"I thought about all that," said Marianne, "and
I can always take a job at X Company. I've worked there before
and they said they will make a place for me."
"Imagine,," I said, "six months down the road,
that you fear the business is growing too slowly. You may
have a personal emergency that calls for cash. Now you're
in a one-down, weak position. You really need a job.
"Better," I continued, "to take a job at the
start of your business, or keep the job you have now. If your
profits soar, you can bid farewell to your day job. You can
use the extra cash to grow your business faster, have some
fun or save for the next crisis. But you will be free.
"If you take a job later, out of need, you will be in
a one-down position. You show up, hat in hand, asking for
work. You will not feel as free and you may even feel trapped."
If You're Forced to Leap ...
Sometimes you have no choice. If you are laid off, or otherwise
unable to continue your career, you may have to find a way
to start a business or move to a new city before you can get
a safety net in place.
Ideally, you can plan a net before you encounter a crisis,
but that is not always possible. People do get taken by surprise.
I know people who were astonished to find themselves too burned
out to continue their careers. Some even fought the evidence.
In those circumstances, safety nets may have to be custom-made,
using more than a little creativity. But they can, and should,
In summary, a safety net allows you to find freedom, and more
important, keep freedom. Design a safety net before you choreograph
the high-wire act, and you will honor your commitment to be
a free spirit.
|Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and
speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast
move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com
or call 505-534-4294.