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About Me

About Me

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Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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How to Know If You’re Taking an Intelligent Career Risk

Posted on August 6th, 2014

Whether we are talking about new business prospects, having kids, or even traveling long-term, there is never a “perfect moment.” Whenever there is a critical decision involved, the only thing you can be sure about is that there will be important variables to juggle, risks to take, and boulders of challenges strewn across your path.

 

Especially when it comes to career decisions, the sweetest rewards often come from bold choices made in the face of blatant uncertainty: the individual who joins a rocky start-up during its launch phase and becomes a millionaire after the company’s IPO, the one who invests in the Nigerian banking sector before the signs of return are abundantly clear, or the investment banker turned CNN intern who becomes a successful international correspondent. If it was easy, everyone would have done it and these wouldn’t be the stories worth telling.

 

Taking risks can help you craft new talents, bolster your confidence, or entirely overhaul your career. Instead of waiting for the chance, you take the chance.

 

This is no foreign concept to Gen Y, 60% of whom are leaving their first job in less than 3 years. Recently, LinkedIn informed me that 21% of my contacts either had a new title at the same employer or a different job entirely. In fact, millennials are chronic job-hoppers, but as Jeanne Meister points out to Forbes, too much job-hopping can actually endanger future career prospects. The higher calling, therefore, is for us to take intelligent risks.

 

So, how do we know if we are taking an intelligent risk or jeopardizing our careers?
linkedin career risk

Photo credit: LinkedIn

 

Two years ago, I took a purposeful, flying leap into the unknown, leaving behind my consulting job at a Fortune 500 company in New York City for the international gig of my dreams. With a degree in International Relations and several foreign languages under my belt, I knew I could sit idling in New York, hoping for an overseas assignment within my corporate mammoth, or I could set myself free and fight for the kinds opportunities I was told I should only dream about at my age.

 

Although my hands were trembling when I gave my two-weeks notice, I knew my intelligent risk would paid off. Now I’m living out my wildest dreams and gaining experience that advances my career. On the other hand, when I see some of my risk-averse peer waiting in jobs they dislike, hoping to maybe, eventually, someday land the opportunities they dream of (opportunities which, quite frankly, may never come), I go crazy. I want them to LEAP, but I also understand the practical concerns that stifle their appetites for risk. 

 

You might be like them too, and that’s OK. We can work through this. The key to making such difficult, risky decisions is conducting an honest evaluation of your values and establishing a frame of reference for projecting the coordinates and velocity of your next career move. Once I began seriously looking to leave New York, I asked myself what I valued most: money, recognition, location, adventure, travel, consistency, sense of belonging, creativity, mentorship, prestige, education, or advancement. Then, with a clear rubric of what was most important to me, I used the following framework of questions and mental exercises to make a decision in a context of great uncertainty, one I am positive came with clear, calculated benefits.

 

Identify and Plan for the Variables

 

1.What are you most afraid of? Something is “risky” because it involves a trade-off and it is difficult to know if giving up A for B is the right choice. The best way to cope in the face of assuming this kind of uncertainty is to identify what exactly you are trading (money, prestige, location, healthcare, job security) and why you are afraid of letting that particular thing go. Then, with all the variables and fears defined, you can run your equations and say that, for you, B>A in the long-run. If it’s not, you may be taking the wrong risk.

 

2. Do you have a back-up plan you are happy with? The key to leaping into the unknown is to know you have a safety net. Visualize what it would look like if your risk-taking resulted in the worst case scenario. Then, identify the course of action you would take in response, and fully come to terms with this alternate reality. You have nothing to lose when you’re not afraid of the worst, right? (Hint: The most likely worst case scenarios you will face are totally survivable, like going back to your current job or pressing the restart button with graduate school, not becoming hopelessly unemployed and relegated to living in a trailer.)

 

3. What will you learn doing New Opportunity X that you aren’t getting in Current Job Y? Why is that important to you? You should be able to articulate a meaningful list of new skills, perspectives, relationships, ideas, and prospects you will gain by seizing the new opportunity. If you cannot build yourself a compelling case, something purely emotional may be driving your decision-making, which should be promptly identified and kicked out of the driver’s seat.

 

Consider Future Employment Prospects

 

4. How does this fit in to your “story?” If it doesn’t, how can you sensibly explain it later? If you are on the path to becoming a successful lawyer and decide to quit your job to join a start-up importing bamboo for America’s panda zoos, you better be able to back up your logic so it doesn’t undermine your credibility in the long-term. Test yourself by inserting New Opportunity X into your hypothetical answer to the infamous “Tell me about yourself” interview question.

 

5. Is your resume more interesting because of this? “Interesting” is one of the most positive adjectives I assign to resumes. In management consulting, they rephrase this as the “airport test:” would you want to be stuck in Chicago on a three-hour layover with this person? If you are able to successfully combine “interesting” with strong evidence of useful skills into a sensible “Tell me about yourself” story, you are almost guaranteed to land interviews and get your foot in the door in a variety of fields. 

 

6. Does this derail or support your desired financial path? Money is an inevitable factor in most decision-making processes, but it depends on how much importance you place on it. Consider your financial goals as an individual, and, based in that frame of reference, decide if this is moving the needle closer to your target comfort level or if taking a hit in salary now will be a considerable step backwards for many years to come. (However, do consider that taking a pay cut in order to gain new skills and experience may pay off with a higher rate of return later on, especially if you’re young.)

 

Consult with Others

 

7. What do reliable sources currently doing New Opportunity X say? They can provide the day-to-day insights into what this opportunity really looks and feels like, answer your questions, and help you hedge against the risks. If your process of self-reflection up until this point teaches you that you are deeply afraid of losing A, which you have plenty of in your current job, then talking with real people who are living without A may be just the reassurance you need. Or it can help you realize you don’t want to live without A and you perceive new value in your current situation.

 

8. What do people in your field as a whole say? In the general area of your professional interest – law, business, medicine, journalism, art, foreign affairs – what do your mentors and other key figures with careers you aspire to advise? They’ve been through the trenches and have arrived at where you are hoping to arrive someday. Do they think you’re on the right path? Do they think the risk you’re thinking of taking is reasonable or potentially harmful?

 

9. What does your “core tribe” say? In addition to listening to the opinions of your professional peers, take time to share your scenario with the loved ones who have your best interests at heart: parents, siblings, a significant other, close friends, and mentors. Articulating your thoughts out loud in an uncensored, supportive environment can bring tremendous clarity, as well.

 

Take a Lifetime-Level View

 

10. How would you feel if someone took this new opportunity away from you? Would you feel devastated? MORE confused? Relieved? This mental exercise turned reality was how I knew my career leap was right for me. Before I was hired at my current company, I was nearly eliminated during the second round of our rigorous three-day “Selective Training” interviews in Barcelona. At that moment, with the new job temporarily yanked out of my grasp, the notion of going back to New York and sitting at my desk on Wall Street brought a deep, bleak, suffocating feeling and a jarring sense of clarity that I lacked when there were so many options on the table. Imagine yourself in a similar situation where you are completely unable to pursue New Opportunity X and assess your gut feeling.

 

11. What will you think about this decision 10 years from now? When all else fails, consult with the calm, wise, and successful Future You. Does she regret moving to South Africa when she was 24? Does she wish she had stuck it out longer at her name-brand banking job after university? Is she where she is today because of the perspective she gained while founding her own company? Taking a long-term, lifetime-level view on what seems like a life-or-death decision in the moment can provide a big epiphany moment.

 

If you’re still suffering paralysis in the face of risk, options, and transition, it’s best to spend some time in solitude focused on lulling your gut feeling out from underneath the heap of technology and constant external stimulation it likely receives. It also doesn’t hurt to read autobiographies of people you admire to see where, how, and why they took risks in their own lives and how they reflect on those choices looking back. Most of the time, even a risk-turned-failure is instructive in the long-term.

 

Above all, it most important to have a compelling reason why you are doing what you’re doing, a “why” that is centered around your most treasured life values. In this case, even if all hell breaks loose after making a tough decision, you’ll know beyond a shred of a doubt why you did it. That certainty, founded in your beliefs, will keep you afloat and allow you to survive and thrive in the lowest of lows…or the highest of highs. 

 

 

Have you recently navigated a risky career move? How did you make your decision? Looking back, did you make the right choice?

 

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About Me

About Me

IMG_5937

Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

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Currently in: Malawi

 

 

Previously in: Berlin

 

img_6015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Hot

Recent Posts

Coaching

Coaching

Step into my office!

 

Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

Now I use Office Hours to help my clients do the same.

 

Do you want to travel but are scared to quit your job?

Do you want to find a job overseas but don’t know where to start?

Do you wake up in the morning dreading what’s ahead?

Read more

Like Me on Facebook

Like Me On Facebook

Follow me on twitter

Follow me on twitter

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