On December 9, 2014, I learned that my steady, salaried job with Hertz was coming to an end. Our entire team was being laid off at the same time, and December 31 would be our last day. Right away I was faced with the question of whether to get a job or start a business.
The knowledge that I would soon have to move forward without this job came to me first as welcome news. I’d been in the role for nearly four years. While I loved the work and my team, I had been feeling the need for a change for several months.
My new coaching certification offered a possible way forward, but after a week or so, the first sheen of optimism started to fade. What if I didn’t get another job before my severance and unemployment ran out?
I wasn’t too worried about money. I was grateful for my severance package from Hertz, and the clarity of the layoff guaranteed that I would receive unemployment. Surely I would have landed before those six to nine months had played out.
By the time December 31 rolled around, my optimism had faded, and panic set in. I wasn’t just losing my income, but my sense of identity. Who would I be now?
For at least the previous four years I had been “a facilitator.” The material I facilitated belonged to someone else, but I’d internalized it so much that it felt like part of me. As of January 1, I would no longer be allowed to facilitate the material in the same way.
For the next several months I straddled the fence very intentionally. I devoted half of my “work time” each week to job-search activities and half to entrepreneurial activities. I spent networking and social media time developing connections that might help with either.
When people asked me what I was up to, I shared openly everything I had figured out up to that point. I was blasting people with information, talking too much, and coming across as divided as I felt.
I didn’t know what I wanted or where I was going. I wanted to have a clear message to the world: “I’m open!” Unfortunately the message people actually got was “I’m confused!”
In May 2015 I registered my business, an action that felt like a line in the sand. However, I kept dividing my time: filling out applications online, attending job fairs, and volunteering with the Career Transition Institute as well as coaching, learning about marketing, and trying to build a business.
Old friends started to reach out to me to ask for meetings to discuss whether or not they, too, could make the leap from their salaried jobs and start a business. I was still living on unemployment and dividing my time. I did my best with these conversations but felt just as lost as they were.
Things changed for me dramatically after I read The Dip by Seth Godin. Godin writes books about marketing, but The Dip is about commitment: choosing a path, weathering the trials, and sticking with it until you come out on top.
He talks about how much energy is sapped away when you play around with paths and challenges that aren’t right for you--energy you NEED in order to get through the challenges in the one path that is right for you. In short, when we don’t commit to a single path, we sabotage our efforts.
That was when I knew I needed to make a decision and stop spreading myself out between these possibilities of working as a corporate employee and building a business. I needed to choose, but how?
To answer that question, I had to tune into the still, small voice at my core, what I’ve come to call my inner voice of wisdom. This voice is different from the messages of shame and fear that we internalize after our traumatic childhood experiences at home or at school.
Your inner voice of wisdom is also different from the messages of wisdom you may have internalized from your mentors, teachers, and elders. To get to it, you have to first ask yourself what you’ve come to believe and where those beliefs came from. Are they true? How do you know? What if they aren’t?
I came to a point where I could accept that either path is good. I gave myself permission to believe that I could thrive as a business owner or I could thrive as an employee. It wasn’t easy, but I realized that my experiences of indecision between these options meant that I was suited just as well for either.
Despite my indecision, I could also tell that my pursuit of starting a business was fueled by an inner drive that wasn’t engaged by job-hunting activities. When I would talk to anyone about an “employment opportunity,” I felt flat, disheartened. I could enforce the discipline required to do the work, but those activities held no inherent attraction for me.
As I paid attention to where my energy naturally flowed, my answer became clear. But having insight and taking action are two very different realities. I had my answer, but without committing to it and putting my energy behind it fully, that insight was worthless.
On the first of September, 2015, I committed myself wholeheartedly to building the business. I dismantled the safety net of job-hunting by refusing to engage any more in job-search activities. From that point forward, building the business became my only option, so it had to work.
My natural attraction to the tasks of coaching and marketing became turbocharged by the sense of urgency that my safety net was gone. I had to make this work, or the money would run out!
Right away I sought coaching. I started with a marketing coach. He helped me create an SEO website and encouraged me to start thinking about group coaching. Another coach helped me inquire into my inner voice of wisdom for even greater clarity about the value I deliver, which she called my “Unique genius.” Doing the work with her led to breakthroughs and much greater possibilities.
It is a journey that continues, and I do not know what will happen next. But if you are asking yourself the question, “Do I really want to look for a job or start a business?” I have a worksheet to help you think it through and discover where your energy is leading. Just send an email to Amy@CareerLeadershipAlignment.com and I’ll be happy to send it to you.
There is no one right answer except the answer that is right for you. You will need support for your journey, but the first and most important voice you must listen to is your own.