Earlier this year, I was working with a SCORE mentor who asked, “What does the first penguin have to do with career coaching?” It caused me to reflect on my personal branding and to question if I had chosen poorly in naming my business. Many coaches and consultants incorporate their name within their business, and I certainly see the value in that. However, I wanted to be different and the name had meaning in my own life.
I first discovered the concept of “the first penguin” upon reading the late Randy Pausch’s book, The Last Lecture. A professor at Carnegie Melon, Randy developed “the first penguin” award to encourage students to take risks in pursuing their goals even if it meant failure. He explained that this idea of the first penguin comes from when penguins are about to jump in the water that might contain predators. Someone has to be the first penguin and jump in. They might find fish, they might find nothing, or even worse, they may get attacked by a sea lion.
This idea resonated with me deeply especially in my past career choices. I’ve quit jobs without having another job, I moved to new cities not knowing anyone, and I left a high paying salaried job to travel the country as a tour guide. Did I fail? Many, many times… but I grew. I experimented. I tested the water with several career paths. I met interesting people. I learned a lot about myself, about others, about the world, and about working through transitions. This last point is why I became a career coach.
Changing careers can be scary. There are many unknowns. You might be leaving the comfort of a role that you know well, a team that you enjoy working with, or an environment that is familiar. You might be an accomplished professional who is recognized as a leader by others in your industry. I worked with a client like this who had been in same role for 24 years. Her colleague didn’t understand why she wanted to leave something that she knew so well. Why take the risk? Why change careers? Because she wanted more passion in her work, she wanted to use her skills in new ways, and she wanted to do more with her gifts. This is what drives career change clients to take risks.
This metaphor also resonates with job searchers and aspiring entrepreneurs. When you are searching for a new job, you risk rejection with every job application, every networking connect, every interview, and every salary negotiation. When you are launching your own business, you risk rejection with each interaction with a potential client or freelance opportunity. As well, there are financial risks associated with going out on your own.
“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” J.K. Rowling
If you are ready to be the first penguin and want to make a change in your career, schedule a time to talk with me here: https://calendly.com/firstpenguincoaching/30min