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Q&A with Robert Dickie on “The Leap”

the leapI recently had the privilege of asking author and businessman Robert Dickie several questions about his new book, “The Leap: Launching Your Full-Time Career in Our Part-Time Economy.”

Dickie served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force for 6 years and was the CEO of SMT—an international retail and training company, before becoming the president of Crown Financial Ministries a few years ago. In his book, Dickie uses his own experience of “taking the leap” to offer insightful, forward-looking advice on how individuals can be successful in a today’s economy. For more information about the book, check out his website: www.robertdickie.com.

1. About 7 years after the Great Recession, what is the biggest problem facing the American economy today?

Many people would agree that most jobs being created in the American economy are part-time. Since the recession we have lost mostly higher paid full-time positions and the job growth is coming in part-time lower paid jobs.  In 2013 alone, 77 percent of all jobs created in the United States were part-time.

Foundationally, the entire global economy is changing.  Advancing globalization, technology, and regulations are altering it. The result is more part-time work and the growth of a “freelance” economy.  This isn’t necessarily bad.  If you are prepared and make the proper changes, you can thrive and have success in this environment.  This is no longer our grandparents’ economy, but we can enjoy more freedom and flexibility than they ever experienced.

I think the biggest problem is that most people do not see the changes taking place and are not taking the proper steps to create a plan to have success in this new environment.  It’s like the horse and buggy manufacturer who witnessed the Model T’s rolling off the assembly line and refused to accept that things were changing and thought his business would not be affected. Those who adapted to the new environment had success… those who didn’t went out of business.  The same is happening today.

2. What exactly does it mean to “take the leap”?

I encourage people to not let fear hold them back and to first make the mental leap into the new reality, accepting that change is happening all around them and that we need to alter the way we view work, careers, and work-life balance.  This means we need to be intentional in crafting a new course and not trying to follow the rules of the game that our parents and grandparents played in regard to work and careers.

I recommend that people make the leap to ditch anchors that will hold them back in this new dynamic environment. Some of the biggest anchors are lack of revenue diversification, financial debt, mental barriers, physical fitness, and spiritual misalignment.

Some people will take “the leap” to become an intre-preneur, someone who starts a side business while holding down their full-time job. This is probably the best initial leap to make.  Others, when the time is right and with the proper mentorship and coaching from advisors might make a bigger leap and leave their full-time job and start their own venture (business).

Many people initially think my book is about making the leap of leaving your job and becoming an entrepreneur. It isn’t. The first leap is to make the mental one into the new paradigm and subsequently to make smaller leaps, whatever they may be, that allow you to be successful in this new global economy.

3. How do you know when it is the right time to take a chance or make a change in a career? Are there times when you are better off sticking with your current job? 

I think everyone should be looking to diversify their income streams right away. Being solely dependent upon income from one source puts you in a very vulnerable position. Many feel they have a secure job, however, people at Enron and Lehman Brothers felt the same way but walked in one morning to find out they were without a job.  Even companies like GM have conducted routine lay-offs as they outsource jobs and I have witnessed families in my home town of Flint, Michigan that were dependent on one income have their lives turned upside down in one day.

Having multiple income streams helps you save when times are good and if you lose your primary job, you can at least have a second source of income for your family as you look for more primary work.

Regarding quitting a full-time job, this is different for everyone. There are circumstances where for ethical reasons you may need to walk away immediately if you become aware of things going on in a company that you do not agree with. I have witnessed people who decided to do the right thing and left the company.  It is hard, but God always takes care of you.

Most people start thinking about a career transition because they see that their potential is limited at a particular firm.  Maybe they see the writing on the wall that the industry is struggling and that they need to transition now or they will be forced to in the future with layoffs or a company shutting down. In these cases, it is much better to be proactive and not have to make these transitions reactively.

The best thing to do is to seek out a mentor and multiple people who can give you advice.  It is always good to get perspective from others you trust.  The Bible says there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.  When I made my leap in 2009, I had many people I spoke with that gave me wise counsel and helped me transition.

I certainly do not advise making a hasty decision or making a leap without a plan.  Young people who are not married and without children can take more risks.  As you get older and have a family depending on you, it is important to have a well established “Freedom Fund” that can support you during your transition and have a plan on where you will land once you take the leap.

4. You argue that it is critical to have a plan for your career. How should college students and recent graduates begin to build a plan, even while they are unsure of their long-term goals and interests?

In the past, many people used college as a time for self-discovery taking a wide range of courses and potentially changing their majors multiple times before they found what they wanted to do in life.  The time invested today by the average student to obtain their undergraduate degree has stretched to five and even six years.  With college costs soaring and the average student graduating with $30,000 in student loan debt, this is a very expensive way for self-discovery.  I recommend that students start with a plan by truly understanding how they are made.  I believe everyone has been uniquely created by God with special skills, interests, desires, and passions. Taking time to understand these traits and then pursuing a degree and subsequent career that is in alignment with how you are created will give you the greatest opportunity for success. I recommend CareerDirect.org, which I have found to be the most comprehensive personal assessment to help people understand their God given abilities, and the careers and educational opportunities that will be in alignment with their design.  This can be taken by high school and college students looking for help in choosing the right career path and it can also be used by a mid-career professional looking to make a change. Don’t make a change based on assumptions, what you think will make you happy, or what you think you will be good at.

5. How do we balance goals with being open to God’s working in our lives?

I believe the Bible teaches us to be content but that we should never be complacent. Goal setting and striving for success in all we do is part of the Christian walk.  My father, a minister, taught me early in life that I should strive to be the best at whatever endeavor I set out to do to glorify and honor Christ. This is part of us living as an example to others around us.

First, we know we are in balance with God’s plan for us if we are listening to his voice and leading in our lives. This means we need to spend time in prayer asking for God to lead and guide us where he wants us to be.  When in deep prayer and meditation, God’s plan will become known to us.

Secondly, I believe we should seek out wise counsel from trusted mentors who can offer us advice and perspective. They can help us with blind spots and also ensure we are in balance with our values.

Finally, when we are pursuing the goals we have set for ourselves I believe we are in balance if we are working hard to glorify and honor Christ and to bring him honor and glory in all we do. Everything we do should be done to help others, following the commandments of the Bible, and to be a witness of the power and goodness of Christ in our lives. If we are setting goals and running after achievements solely for our own personal self-gratification and fulfillment, we are on the wrong track and certainly out of balance in how Christ instructs us to live our lives.

6. You write about the importance of building your “brand.” Is it possible to build a brand without being fake? Isn’t your brand simply who you are?

Absolutely! Your brand is who you are and more importantly how other people perceive you to be. You might think one thing but the key is to know how others around you view you and how people who will troll your website and social media sites will think you are based on those interactions.

Many people think that managing a personal brand is something that only celebrity superstars need to do but in reality everyone needs to spend time thinking about this. Today 75 percent of all job searches for talent start on LinkedIn.  Prospective employers and recruitment firms will go to your other social media accounts to get a feel for who you are.  Everything you do in life is adding to your personal brand and people need to be aware of this.

I have heard some people say, “Fake it till you make it,” giving advice to young professionals to act successful before they really are. The advice is well meaning like “dress for success,” but many young people take the “fake it till you make it” to the wrong conclusions and literally start personifying a person they are not. That fraud will not last and most often gets people in trouble.

Building a brand starts by truly knowing who you are, what you are passionate about, and being true to yourself and your values. Everything you do should be measured against what you want your brand to stand for.

7. If you could give one tip for networking well, what would it be?

Networking is about giving and serving first and foremost! The more generous you are to people in your network, the more valuable your network becomes. By default, we all have a network of friends and family, business acquaintances, and contacts from our everyday lives. These connections are extremely important in life. Great networkers are able to build vast arrays of connections that span multiple industries and countries—and no matter the problem, seem to always have a “friend” in the right spot with the right connection who can help.  Your network is only as valuable to you as your ability to seek assistance on a problem in which you have high probability of receiving assistance or support.

The networkers with a poor reputation are ones who are “net extractors,” those who always have a problem, need help, ask for assistance, and you only hear from when they need something from you. Over time, they draw down their account of good will with their friends and connections until people don’t want to hear from them or help them.

Great networkers are always looking to help and provide value to people in their network. These people routinely introduce others to each other when there is a mutual benefit.  When they learn of a need, they seek ways to provide advice, connections, or information to help those in their network.  These people over time become seen as “givers” who have provided great value.  When the time comes for this person to ask for a favor or when they have a need and they seek assistance from people within their network, many come to their aid, happily helping them.

All of us have networks, the connections with all the people in our lives. I encourage you to build your network daily and invest in it by providing help before you need it yourself. With just a little time each day reaching out to people, staying in touch, and providing value, you are building a valuable tool that you will use many times in your career. It has been said that business is nothing more than relationships. No matter what business you are in, your relationships will determine your success. Spend time developing these relationships.  In turn, when you need assistance your network will be there to help you. It is one of the most powerful tools you have in your career.