Order from Chaos: What Tarzan, Steve Martin and SNL Can Teach Us About Change

Written by Jenny BlakeChange Careers Like Tarzan (via Derek Sivers)

My next big life after Life After College research area is something I'm calling The Human Pivot — how to successfully and strategically manage change even when all you feel is chaos.

I've talked about thinking about your career like a caveman and the fight-or-flight response that happens when we threaten our own job security by contemplating change, how to create a safe environment for exploration, and how to pivot (not 180) to build on your existing assets (strengths, experiences, network) to make a strategic leap in a new direction. (Take a full guided tour of these posts here)

With this new lens, I've come across some great material from big thinkers around the web that I'm excited to share with you today!

The key unifying themes are:

  • Do not start from scratch.
  • Strategically draw upon your current environment to build a bridge toward what is next.
  • Just as they say, "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have" do the same with your skillset: build for the job you want, not just the job you have.
  • Passion is not the aim; it comes as a result of being "so good they can't ignore you" (Cal Newport's fantastic book named after a Steve Martin quote)

Think of Your Career Like Tarzan

The image above is from a great post from Derek Sivers on how he thinks about career change:

"Remember how Tarzan swings through the jungle? He doesn't let go of the previous vine until the next vine is supporting his weight.

So my advice is: Change careers like Tarzan. Don't let go of the old one until the new one is supporting you.

And make sure you don't lose momentum."

—Derek Sivers, Change Careers Like Tarzan

Build a Bridge Toward What's Next

I also loved this related quote from Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels in a recent New York Magazine interview:

What do you say when a cast member comes to you and says she or he wants to leave to do movies?

The advice I give most often is, build a bridge to the next thing. When it’s solid enough, walk across it. Don’t go because somebody promised you this or somebody promised you that. You’re a star on SNL. That does not automatically mean you’ll be a star in everything else you touch. I just saw Ana Gasteyer downstairs. You see her in Wicked—that’s where she wanted to be, and she got there. I think when Will Ferrell left, he’d already had three movies that worked. Kristen did Bridesmaids. It was the biggest hit ever that summer. Then she came back and did another season. That’s Kristen.

Lorne Michaels, New York Magazine

Be So Good They Can't Ignore You

As I mentioned above, Cal Newport has a fantastic MUST-READ book on the subject of why "follow your passion" is terrible advice and how "skills trump passion in finding the work you love."

The book title borrows from Steve Martin's bestselling memoir Born Standing Up. Martin says:

"Nobody ever takes note of [my advice], because it's not the answer they want to hear. What they want to hear is 'Here's how you get an agent, here's how you write a script,' . . . but I always say, 'Be so good they can't ignore you.'"

—Steve Martin, Born Standing Up

What bridges are you building?

Today I want you to think about not just what you want, but the actual stepping stones that you need to build (or the branches you need to grab onto) as you step or swing from Point A to Point B.

How can you become so good they can't ignore you? How can you serve so meaningfully and powerfully that people can't help but ask for more?

This may sound painfully obvious.

But I speak for myself when I say that in the throes of change last year, one of the biggest mistakes I made was to ignore what I had already created, what was already working. I had my eyes so far to the mysterious future that I lost sight of the very bridges and branches that were going to carry me there.

It wasn't until I doubled-back and looked at what was already right under my nose — my strengths, assets, network, and community — that I could unlock a clear, compelling path forward.

What about you:

What bridges are you already building? What gaps might you need to fill-in to get where you want to go?

Life After College Coaching

Speaking of making major career change happen and finding meaningful work, a friendly reminder that I've partnered up with an amazing coach and friend, Rebecca Fraser-Thill — a Bates College psychology professor and founder of Working Self — to launch a Spring coaching program for anyone looking to make a major career change (and we've still got a few spots open!).

If you are unsure about what you want to do next, what your strengths and values are, and how to harness them into energizing and meaningful work, then look no further! We're here to help. Even once you do know what you want to do (or at least what industry you want to work in), you may feel lost on the practical next steps of how to actually get there.

Rebecca Fraser-Thill

Together we have over 20 years combined experience working with twenty-somethings. Both of us care deeply about helping clients find meaningful, thrilling work (and lives to match), and work collaboratively on every step of the coaching processes we’ve each refined over the years. When you sign-up to work with one of us, you’re actually getting the shared wisdom and mastermind power of both!

If you are interested, you can learn more about how our coaching works here, and click here to apply.

If we think we might be a fit for working together, one of us will reply to schedule a complimentary 30-minute get-to-know you call to go over your goals, the program details, and answer any questions. No matter what, you'll leave the call with greater clarity and a handful of resources to move you forward.

About Jenny

Jenny Blake - Author, Speaker, CoachJenny Blake is a bestselling author of Life After College, a career and business coach and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business.

Today you can find her here on this blog (in it's seventh year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.