Cutting the Cord

I just met up with a former Cambridge Associates consultant.

She used to advise one of our major investors, and we over time developed a very good and positive relationship. After 10+ years at C.A., she left. And, after some period of self-examination, she started a job search and recently became the chief investment executive at a family office.

Today, she was absolutely beaming!

She is very excited because the job absolutely ticked off all the selection criteria that she had drafted some time ago. A perfect fit. I’m very happy for her.

I think deciding to do something riskier and smaller-scale is a hard decision. There’s no right or wrong. Taking on more risk doesn’t mean it will all work out for you. In fact, there’s a good chance it won’t. But, there’s a decent chance that it will all work out.

But, all you can do is go with your gut.

I remember the time at Bain & Company, where I’d been before and after business school, when I realized I wanted to leave. I loved my work colleagues and felt grateful to be offered a promotion. But, it came with a two-year commitment. I didn’t want to lie, nor did I want to stay another two years.

So, I quit. Married, with a baby, and almost no savings, I decided to cut the cord. It was frightening.

But, it also was exhilarating. I began a systematic job search by first thinking about what I wanted. What Color Is Your Parachute? was an indispensible resource. Then, I met up with 100 people in about 30 days. It all worked out.

I’ve made three career moves in my life: leaving investment banking, leaving management consulting, and starting a new VC firm. I had the same feeling in my gut each time I quit: both fear and excitement. In each case, I received the same reactions: You sure? You’re nuts! Or, some combination of the two.

But, in all three experiences, I had a clear sense that I was doing “the right thing.”

Moreover, I’ve found in my life that when I’ve gone against my gut, I’ve paid a high price in the end. Whether it was career decisions or personal relationships, I since have learned to follow my instincts, even when I couldn’t explain (yet) exactly why.

So, I’m so happy for my friend. She followed her instincts and is floating on air right now. Her new career path may or may not work out. But, it’s a path she owns. She’s blazing her own trail.

Breaking up is hard to do, but, often, it’s necessary.

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