This review first ran in the Sept. 14 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
You’re living the dream.
You went to school, got a job in your field and built yourself a rewarding career.
You’ve climbed to the top rungs on the ladder of success.
You’ve got fortune and fame. You’re a mover and a shaker.
You’re also bored out of your mind. Every day’s a grind. You’re exhausted at the end of the week and dread Monday mornings. Instead of recharging your batteries, vacations bury you in melancholy.
A promotion and bigger paycheck won’t pull you out of your funk.
You’re ready to hit the reset button yet have no idea what comes next. You’re not keen on doing more of the same for a different employer with a new cast of colleagues.
You keep doing what you’re doing because there are mouths to feed and a mortgage to pay. You’re the breadwinner. There isn’t three months of salary parked in a savings account. You’ve got a generous pension plan and full dental and medical coverage.
You feel guilty because jobs like yours are tough to get. Walk away and there’s no coming back if you come to your senses and realize the grass isn’t greener.
You’ve been told to never quit a job until another one’s lined up. You’ve been taught to be ambitious and always strive for bigger and better. Successful careers move on an upward trajectory. Voluntarily moving down a rung or stepping off the ladder is a career-limiting move.
Forget knowing the colour of your parachute. You don’t even have a parachute.
Jump anyway and sew it while you’re in mid-air, says the author of Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want.
Tess Vigeland speaks from experience. She walked away from her dream job hosting Marketplace on National Public Radio in 2012 without knowing what to do next.
“This is a story about coming to grips with the idea that you don’t have to be defined by your work,” says Vigeland.
“This is also a reality check. Leaping is difficult. We are all expected to have five-year and ten-year plans. We are expected to have a dream of that next thing we want to do. But a lot of us don’t. What we have is a fear of the unknown future and a severe allergy to sharing that fear with other people. This is my inoculation against that allergy. Shall we hold hands as we leap?”
Vigeland tells stories about professionals who’ve lept. Some landed safely in a better place while others were still in mid-air years later and a few suffered hard landings.
Prepare to spend long, lonely months wrestling with self-doubt, redefining success and rethinking what makes you remarkable. “We all know we’re not supposed to define ourselves and our success by money, by page views, by Twitter followers, by fan mail, by audience size. But if you have a job, it does define you in many ways. Focusing on externalities like money and prestige is a hard habit to break.”
You’re also defined by the expectations of others, no matter how unrealistic. “What if you didn’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations, including your own, to be bigger and better with every passing year? No matter what your next steps are – up the ladder, down the ladder, or off the ladder entirely – the process of figuring out how to remove that weight of expectation, or at least lessen the load, is an invaluable one. You can learn a lot from just giving yourself a freaking break.”
Leap isn’t an instruction manual. You won’t find 10 easy steps to walking away and starting over. But it’s a must-read for anyone who knows it’s time to move on but doesn’t yet have the courage to leap without a net.
“I cannot wrap this up in a neat little bow,” says Vigeland about her own leap. “It ends in uncertainty. And the best that I’ve been able to do is to get more comfortable being uncomfortable, to accept the uncertainty and not let it dominate my attention.”