Change in life, whether voluntary or involuntary, can be daunting. In my own experience, more often than not, taking the leap and actually jumping (or being thrust) headfirst into change is MUCH less terrifying than the internal, hypothetical stories we tell ourselves. As you continue to pave your professional path and develop further in your career, regardless of the direction you choose, I’ve found there to be so much unsolicited, well-intended advice from individuals who have not chosen a path even remotely similar to mine. I also have a feeling you’ve experienced the same thing. Through their questions and responses to you and your choices, their fears will be presented to you with which you will then have two options: 1. Take it as a well-intended, helpful tidbit and a grain of salt based on their life-experience OR 2. Take that fear on as a form of your own reality.
That being said, the projection of others’ fears, our fears and our thoughts about the hypothetical-terrible-movie-script-reminiscent-situations we will “inexplicably, absolutely get into if we get on that plane” typically tend to be more frightening and anxiety-provoking than the actual reality of the way said event or change plays out.
As I mentioned last post, “Remote work can be wildly collaborative and full of connection, but the nature of the remote environment also has the potential to be incredibly isolating and lonely”. If you’re at all interested in remote work or approaching any kind of a life-shift, it can certainly provide a lot of uncertainty, social shape-shifting, and a shift in the way “balance” plays out in your life. Throwing yourself into an entirely new social circle, work environment, living arrangement, and chapter of life can be a bit daunting.
I say all of this because with any change in our lives, the one variable we always have control over is the way in which we choose to respond to the situation presented. In this circumstance, one very practical, pragmatic way to mitigate other peoples’ opinions and fears in our minds and our own anxieties is to have a plan for social engagement and forward professional movement. Whether it’s career pivot, personal shift, jump into the remote-world, or otherwise, this absolutely applies. We’ve all heard the advice “don’t burn bridges” and “it’s all about who you know,, but how many of us truly engage with the network we have? With that engagement, how much of it is by sheer chance and how much of it is opportunistically planned or planned at all? Is your strategy more of a long-term or short-term play? Is there a strategy? Is it possible to have a strategy without being slimy?
Yes, it’s absolutely possible to be strategic without being slimy. And if you haven’t already, please create an “extended network” file. Whether it’s simply using your LinkedIn and having a geographical understanding of where your predominant network lies, having a photo album full of business cards, or creating a spreadsheet that’s solely your network, if you’re looking to strategically work around the world it can be incredibly beneficial to have (at least) a pulse on where your existing network is. This provides a beautiful baseline and springboard from which to get in touch with those you know (or may not have known!) are residing in the locations you’re seeking to visit and a reason to engage with them.
There certainly is not one “right way” to do this and I’ve heard a slew of different approaches: filing business cards in photo albums, using a CRM, or even just using social media to keep a pulse on what’s happening within their network. My own strategy has simply been to have a spreadsheet that’s broken down into tabs by continent, further broken down on each tab (or sheet) by country and city. Each sheet houses a listing of names, industries, contact information, and people in their network I’d love to be introduced to (Oprah and Beyoncé, for example, in case you’re pals). For myself, I’ve found it largely beneficial to use LinkedIn and social media as a tool to relocate and initially reconnect with those in my existing network I haven’t spoken to in awhile.
As your network continues to grow and develop (many thanks to AFF and the opportunities for network expansion it provides!), a resource like this can also be a fantastic tool to also connect the dots between people in your network. Regardless of the anticipated changes coming down the pike, this could serve well wherever life takes you. With the plethora of apps and tools for social engagement and activity available at our fingertips, it is so simple and easy to compile a resource like this that could be absolutely invaluable as you pursue your next change(s). The first step to network activation? Identification. Cheers to the journey!
*This post was written in partnership with America's Future Foundation.