Nell Debevoise—a successful business woman—compares skydiving to changing jobs. Seeing the parallels between the two transitions, Debevoise said, “Changing jobs, particularly to a new industry or function geography, can feel like jumping out of a plane in midair.”
This statement is more than just an analogy; Debevoise has gone skydiving before. In addition, she also had a career change in 2013.
She said switching jobs and jumping out of plane both require a certain amount of “courage.” Both will also earn a person more respect and be a great talking point during conversations at cocktail hour.
Debevoise’s tandem skydive took place from 13,500 feet. She said her skydiving instructor taught her a lot during their skydive. Together they fell over a mile through the sky.
The biggest impact she got was how similar skydiving is to a career transition.
Offering a simple equation, Debevoise said altitude is equal to time which also equals safety. At first she questioned her skydiving instructor about why the plane was flying almost three miles in the sky. (She thought one or two was sufficient.)
Eric’s response was, “Altitude is safety.” Which means the higher the plane is in the sky the more time a person who is jumping out of a plane has to plan their landing. It also gives more time to enjoy the freefall of 120 miles an hour.
“The same rule applies to career transitions,” Debevoise said. “The more ‘altitude’ you climb, in the form of identifying what roles you’re looking for, refining your story about why you’re qualified for them … the better chance you have of safely landing your next dream job.”
She advises people to have a financial and emotional surplus if they plan on quitting their job before getting a new one (it can take longer than a person would think to get an offer). This is because it is a top priority to the person looking for the job, not necessarily the one hiring.
The next parallel Debevoise saw between skydiving and a career change was experience. There is no substitution for experience. “I was comforted that Eric had done over 10,000 jumps in his 13 years of skydiving,” she said. Eric was also able to explain the entire process to her.
In the job world, Debevoise encourages somebody who is planning a career shift to seek somebody out who has made a successful transition. “Use people as coaches, accountability partners, and cheerleaders to give you advice, encouragement, and reality checks along the way,” Debevoise said. She also advises people to put thought into who is best for what type of support.
Debevoise is the founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, a business that “accelerates the integration of profits and purpose by aligning talented business professionals and high-potential, purpose-driven organizations.” Debevoise started Inspiring Capital in 2013 after she worked a “decade of not-for-profit work on four continents.”