Jumping the Curve

Recently, I was asked to speak to a group of job hunters. My talk, called "Jump Starting Your Job Search," went over well with the large gathering of mostly over-50 job seekers.

Afterward, I stuck around awhile to speak with some of the attendees on an individual basis. One man, a salesman, came up to me and said, in a low voice, that he was at the end of his rope and was ready to throw in the towel on his search. I could see that the light in his eyes had just about gone out. It moved me because I've been there myself.

I tried to offer him some words of encouragement and found myself saying, "You've got to jump the curve."

What does it mean to jump the curve?

"Jumping the curve" is a saying that has been around for a few decades. I trace it back to the Irish philosopher and management futurist Charles Handy who said that companies need to become aware of the sigmoid curve. The sigmoid curve (or S Curve) is the naturally occurring sloping line (see the visual above, from this excellent blog post) that Handy used to show that "companies will come to a natural end if they don't re-create themselves during good times."

The same goes for individuals and careers. It all comes to a natural end ultimately. But before that final end arrives, we still have the opportunity to jump the curve and start a new sigmoid curve.

What does it take to jump the curve?

Guy Kawasaki has written a lot about how to start anything, with great suggestions such as:

- find something meaningful to do with your talents
- create your own mission statement to focus your effort
- jump to the next curve by breaking old patterns of thinking and behaving

Let's look more closely at that last point, breaking old patterns.

There's a great saying "If you keep doing what you have been doing, you'll keep getting what you have been getting." So, to get different outcomes, you need to do differently.

But do what exactly?

Here's where the recent research on success from Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson is of interest. Her Harvard Business Review post, on the Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, has much food for thought, especially:

- set specific goals
- seize opportunities to advance on your goals every day
- continuously get better at what you are striving toward
- don't give up

In the talk I gave, I included the following quotation from Seth Godin:

"Today, right now, go start something. Start a business. A tiny one. Train people in social media. Run an eBay selling business. Sell coffee from a truck every morning at the train station. Run spring break tours by bus for other college students. Start a newsstand on campus. Run a birthday cake delivery service. Train executives in public speaking. Start a dog poop shoveling business. Start something. Run it. You’ll probably make more money. You’ll certainly learn more. If you’re good at it, people will offer you a job, and If you’re not, then ask yourself: Why on earth would someone actually hire you? Go get good at it. Have fun. No whining. This is your moment, go make a difference. You can thank me later."

The audience loved it! One woman raised her hand and told a story about someone she knew that did exactly what Godin was talking about.

Perhaps the best way to end this meditation on jumping the curve is the Pixley Formula, named for job hunter Charles Pixley, who turned his resume into a handmade sandwich board and advertized himself on the corner of Wall St and Broadway. He said:

"Believe in yourself, improve yourself, put yourself out there. Have yourself seen. You resume will go into a pile. It's just another resume, just more words. There's no color. These posters provided my soul. It says everything in one lump page."

Believe in yourself. Improve yourself. Put yourself out there.

Do that and you will jump the curve to the next exciting chapter in your life.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday August 7, 2011.


Anonymous said…
Terry, this is truly excellent. I wasn't aware of S curves but its applicability here is superb. Thanks!
Ian McK said…
Very good. Simple and understandable.
Terrence Seamon said…
Thank you, Ed and Ian. I always appreciate it when visitors to my blog leave a comment.

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