Years ago, I was on a career panel with Dick Bolles who wrote arguably the greatest and most important career manual ever, What Color is Your Parachute? This bible of career advice will soon turn 40! And while the title started out as an off the cuff remark to his students, the words "color" and "parachute" took on deeper meanings to his millions of readers.
When I met Mr. Bolles he was in his mid 60's. He talked about career change in ways that have shaped my thinking and my career. He said:
Everything you do should be:
Temporary–Nothing is permanent.
An Adventure–Engages your curiosity and sense of challenge
A Seminar–Learning new things, continuous education with goals
Fulfilling–Helps define your quest for meaning and purpose
I translated this into "A temporary adventure, which continually educates you about your quest for meaning." Love it and live by it!
The whole unintended "parachute" metaphor spawned all kinds of discussions, ideas and important questions:
- When will you be jumping?
- Where will you be landing?
- Are you prepared?
- Who packed your parachute?
As some of you know, I have "parachuted" a few times in my career. Landings are not always soft. You fall from great heights with at least the perception of danger. I like the idea of landing in new territories and discovering them.The only thing I don't like about the word parachuting is the notion that you are bailing out. I think parachuting may be an escape but it has to be done with intention.
As an aside, finally completed my bucket list of parasailing, paragliding, gliding, parachuting, and skydiving. Parachuting takes on new meaning!
The best way to be ready to parachute or transition is to have a great network. So I ask, What color is your network?
What does your network look like? Does it look inspirational? Does it meet your needs? Will it adapt to your changing needs and future interests? Here's what my network literally looks like in Linked in maps.
Linkedin chooses the colors, but the colors denote your networking worlds, past lives, current interests, and even new pursuits. It provides a visual snapshot of who you are connected to and how. Each dot is a person that you can see and click on. Very cool.
Visualizing your network helps you evaluate it. Your mind's eye and your ability to only remember 9 people at a time really limits your understanding of your network. Is is it good, good enough, or inadequate? And why?
Your network has to be diverse. Not just ethnically, but in terms of point of view, sectors, disciplines, and geography. Without evaluation, your network is what it is. What you think it is and what it actually is are two entirely different things.
Think of your network like a team of advisers or a kitchen cabinet. You don't want group think or a bunch of yes people. You want smart, honest, creative perspectives, skill sets and ideas. Seek difference in your network. So you have to do a gap analysis? And you can't wait for an emergency job search to do it! Parachuting requires great preparation.
So just accumulating contacts or FB friends is fine, but what are you building? Some networks are like a collection of pennies. All of them are the same and just added to the top of the same jar. We know that makes no sense. I am totally for randomness but you also have to step back to see how your network matches up with your ambitions.
Hard to traverse the tightrope without a net—work. 🙂
This does not require you to make a new set of friends or start stalking people 🙂 Enhance your inner circle with people you already know but need to strengthen your connection with, based on your goals, curiosities, and ambitions. People that you respect and know have a valuable point of view–get more of it.
Your network should not help you land but propel you and push you. It should be more of a rocket pack than a parachute.
You know that you have a parachute on right now. The question is when not if. That decision to jump is so much easier if you have the network to support, research, prepare you for the leap. By the way, these are your parachute packers. They make your risk taking smarter and more aligned with what you really want.
So what color is your network?
Thanks for reading. John