It’s January 2022. I just left my job as a Vice President, Human Resources to pursue a dream of self-employment – my own career coaching business. That’s right, I am part of the Great Resignation. It’s a new beginning, with all the promise that new beginnings hold. It also feels like standing at the edge of a mountain, not sure if you should jump or are waiting to be pushed. Leaving a job you love comes with the difficult reality that your work people – the beautiful cast who lift, inspire, learn and laugh with you everyday – will take on new roles in your life. For this introvert who thrives on her deep and meaningful relationships, it is painful to unlock arms with those who have been with you on your yellow brick road. While the nucleus of my life will always be my family, work was the next shell in my orbit.
Transitions too require getting accustomed to a new cadence, one in which I am in control of how I choose to inhabit my day. Over a 26-year career in the corporate world, my only “time off” was to birth and bond with each of my boys. There is thrill in that freedom, the gaining back of my time. Except it also involves an incredible amount of trust in your plan, even when those around you wonder if you really know what you’ve gotten yourself into. I have no delusions about the requirements of growing a business, but alas, the self-doubt still creeps in. Do I have what it takes to market myself? The skill is real and desire is laser-focused. The ability to sell it….that’s a muscle that hasn’t been flexed yet.
I promised myself I would allow two months to relax, to unwind from the pace of the last 24-months as an HR leader during COVID (I was also our pandemic lead, fun times). There is a problem however, and it’s that I can’t find the power-down button. I am hard wired to create, to solve problems, to collaborate. On day two of my supposed decompression period, these are the thoughts running through my head in the course of a 15-minute window.
- Update your estate plans and get personal business in order.
- Research platforms for your website and choose a domain name.
- (Attempts to sign up for a pottery class – all full. Why has the pandemic popularized sculpting clay?)
- Find a snowy owl if you call yourself a nature photographer.
- You will need a coaching contract and business liability insurance.
- Start your Advanced Standings assignments for your coaching coursework, including your 52 page life review.
- Organize the basement now or it will never happen before you die, and don’t marry a hoarder next time.
- Call your mom. Don’t forget to pick up J at school. Get some fresh air. Try a new recipe.
I took comfort in creating the list of things to be tackled, knowing there was work to be done. It was time to shift into a slower, more purposeful gear, but I hadn’t learned to drive a stick shift (literally or figuratively.) My anxiety rose as the work world began to rotate on a new, slower axis. It reminded me of the time when my hair stylist, also a working mom and entrepreneur, was running behind. About ten minutes into my scheduled appointment, she came to apologize. She offers me tea or coffee and says, “You realize you are pacing?” She added, “Tiffany, you’re just like me – you can’t relax.” I swallowed the wallop of truth. They say your hair stylist probably knows you about as well as your therapist.
I need to see my own issues with clarity to help others navigate their own.
Being still is very hard for those of us who have stayed busy for the past 25+ years in this epidemic of busyness. Ironically, the pace of the busyness was a key reason for my leaving the corporate world. Yet I haven’t waited a full 48 hours before reengaging the task masker, ensuring that my new life will mirror the old one in terms of my busyness. My brain is wired to do what it has always done: process information, analyze the situation and respond efficiently. Certainly I know how to goof off. The problem is that I don’t seem to want to. I like putting the fun in function. I like getting sh*t done. I enjoy the satisfaction of doing hard things well. While those challenges await me in self-employment, I am now navigating what my high school senior defined for me as ‘frictional unemployment’ – the state of being in transition. I am determined to use my transition to center myself, and that starts with quieting my mind from all the noise. However, an astute person in my life pointed out that overscheduling myself in these early days was probably not at all a coincidence. I am afraid of the quiet spaces.
As I was reconciling with these early emotions, the universe gave me a gentle nod. About two weeks after leaving my job, I was able to find that pottery class on my to do list. It was at a studio called Kil’n It, and if I am being self aware, I was not killin’ my chip and dip bowl. (Throwing clay is hard work.) During the workshop break, I introduced myself to a young woman in my class, the only person not on her phone. Her name was Damie (pronounced Jamie with a “d”), and she told me about the physical therapy program she was studying at college and her current internship. As we were talking, that light inside me came on, and my whole self was engaged with her excitement about her career. Damie too was at the beginning of something, and I wanted to see it unfold. I wanted to help her with her next hard thing – unless of course that was her pottery project. Damie was open and trusting, and the connection was a spark on a personal and professional level. While I had a different purpose in mind for the workshop, namely to declare myself an art goddess, I was exactly where I needed to be that evening. Damie reminded me this is the path I am meant to be on. It’s what I do naturally: root hard for the success of those around me.
As I sit here on the precipice of my new world as a career coach, I know that my intuition, alive and well since age 13, is a gift I can share with those looking for their true North, professionally speaking. (Just don’t ask me for physical directions; I still need a GPS in my hometown.) More than any other word in the dictionary, I am human (adj., having the nature of people; eg. human frailty). Humans are vulnerable, and sometimes we shake in our boots. We are also amazing, complex and brave. The only way through [the hard thing] is through. Of all the cool and crazy things I’ve done in my life, leaving security to take a chance on a dream is one of THE most inspired choices this low-risk taker has taken. While I don’t know how this self-published book turns out, I really like what the author is going for, and I’m going to pre-order.
This post is dedicated to the people who have said “I can help you with that” as I get myself set up with the new business. Thank you!