You Have to Do Your Research First
“How did people do this before the Internet?” I once asked a friend who recently had moved to New York City sight unseen. The decision to make a major life shift is made a little easier by way of Google. Moving to a new town? Check out the cost of living and get information about neighborhoods. Don’t just assume that wherever you move will be safe and sound, research needs to be done. Learn how to map out a business plan or research your competition if you’re finally looking to open that shop or start that business. Research courses of study, costs, and the classes you’ll be taking in that degree program and map out how long and at what cost it will take you to get that degree. Just as you wouldn’t walk into a gunfight with a banana, be prepared. Do some digging so that you know what you’re getting into before you make that big jump.
Be Realistic About Time
Set a reasonable timeline for your goal and act accordingly. Wish to be back in school by the fall semester? Make sure you apply before the application deadline. Eyeing a new job? Understand that though not impossible, it may take several months to snag a position elsewhere – especially if it’s in a new city (aka, don’t just immediately up and ditch your current job just because you think you’ll find something soon enough). But at the same time, while a time frame is helpful in keeping you on track, you can’t be married to it. Your 6-month plan may take eight months. My plan to leap in 12 months saw me on the net in 16 months. The important thing is never to waver; you just have to make adjustments.
Get a Financial Grip.
Yes, you can quit your job, but you might not be able to do it tomorrow. Or for the next six months. You can’t allow your someday dreams slip away because your yesterday bills are past due. It’s a trite because it’s true: you’ve gotta make sacrifices, and many big leaps will cost you.
Trying to move to a new city? Think about moving costs and the cost of finding and setting up your new place. (Many cross-country moves are upwards of $3,000. And that’s on the very low, in-state end.) Planning to find a job after your big move? Set aside a few months’ worth of living expenses for the interim. And yes, this will take time. Trying to snag a job before you pack it up? Assume the new company won’t foot the travel bill for your interviews; set aside money for flights, hotels, and incidentals. Back to school? Find ways to do it for free or for as close to free as possible. Scholarships, grants, and fellowships can permanently relieve the burden of continuing your education. Student loans, both federal and private, may look like an attractive option, and in many cases, they may be your only route to paying for a degree. But do research the real cost of going back to school, looking beyond the sticker price at interest payments and determining the burden of payback on your current and future paychecks. In starting a new business, you’ll have to consider the cost of the initial investment to start up as well as projections for the future.
Leverage Your Supportive Network
This is where I use a word I dislike: networking. My disdain for the word generally accompanies the concept of a bunch of well-heeled professionals swirling less-than-potent drinks in highball glasses while exchanging business cards. Thankfully, developing and maintaining a network doesn’t have to be as contrived. If you’re looking for a new job, looking for connects in a new town, or looking for small-business advice, ask your friends and leverage your professional connections. While it may be necessary to remain discreet about a career change, don’t be afraid to make a couple of phone calls or to send a few e-mails to those who can connect you to your finish line. Let a few friends know your plans; this perhaps could lead to a contact with strongholds in your new endeavor. You never know who you know, and you never know who they know. On the other end of things, family and friends are always amazing networks.
A couple of months before my move, when my job leads were leading nowhere and there was little evidence that I’d ever see my dreams come to pass, I sat with a girlfriend over happy hour long islands and half-priced appetizers. I wept into a plate of avocado egg rolls, admitting how scared I was. The next day, after my tears had dried and the drinks had been paid for, I was back on the hustle. The moral support of a friend sitting across a plate of cheese fries ensuring that it would be okay was so necessary. Find an encouraging friend or family member to confide in and vent to. If not, read stories about those who have chased and captured dreams similar to your own. Knowing that you’re not the first or last person to do it and that there’s someone who has your back strengthens your outlook.
There’s a running joke in my circle that I’m an incurable optimist. For all my vision-board making and ensuring I put positive energy into the universe, because it really boils down to one thing: faith. Part of sewing your own net is believing that much of the net shows itself only after you’ve taken a leap. Planning is one thing, but there likely will be a few loose ends left untied before it’s time to move on to your next phase. Move anyway.
The way I talked myself through setbacks and false starts? By imagining myself at 90, sitting in a rocking chair and sipping lemonade from a jelly jar. I asked my present-day self if my future self would be fazed by my fear, if she would regret moving forward. The answer was clear: the regret would be in the not doing. Truth is, we all know how to manage the right now. Worst case scenario? We end up at our starting point, which we’ve got down pat. The ultimate case for taking a leap? Often times, it brings us closer to whom we were always meant to be.
Just get started. Or ask Nike would say, just do it.
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