I may have mentioned sometime earlier that a handful of my cohort from grad school have recently quit their jobs. Some have something else already lined up, others (like me) are trying to figure the next move. Almost all of us - whether permanently or temporarily - have decided to start a consultancy. We meet online every Tuesday night to share the latest and greatest, to ask each other for advice and to remind each other that there are eleventy-billion idiots that have figured this out and we're not idiots, so we will too.
Last night the discussion centered on how to find new business. This is the, by far, the scariest piece of striking out on my own. I know I'm talented. I know I can add value in a myriad of ways a myriad of places. However, I hate the thought of having to convince others of the same. I can get very discouraged very quickly when people don't fall in love with me and hire me on the spot.
Case in point, I got a rejection letter this week from a company I interviewed with two months ago (because they are obviously stupid and, also, sloooooooow) and I had to spend the rest of the night fighting off the, "I'm a complete failure and no one is going to hire me and I'm going to end up homeless and alone on the streets" blues. Which (1) isn't true and (2) I didn't even want the job after interviewing with them and (3) Mr. Adams has told me repeatedly that if we go down in a ball of flames because I quit my job, he's coming with me.
One classmate, who is a bit further along on this journey than many of us, shared her secret to finding new business. She simply started talking to anyone who would listen about what she does. Most importantly, however, was that she didn't tell the people she was talking to what she wanted to do, she told them what she does. She's no longer trying to be an organizational development consultant, she is an organizational development consultant - and that has made all the difference.
Which got me thinking... people everywhere are looking for someone to lead them someplace. In fact, we follow people all the time that haven't even earned the right to lead us (*cough* Trump *cough*) - people that don't know their "stuff," people that became our leaders simply by happenstance, people that abuse their power, or people that are so delusional about themselves that they just don't know better. Why do the truly talented, smart, kind, compassionate, empathetic visionaries of our time have such a hard time raising their hands and saying, "I know how to get us all to a better place." ?
I can't answer for everyone, but I think for women in particular, we have been taught that putting ourselves out that like that is bad - that being boastful, proud, confident, etc., etc. (insert your own pretty, pretty bullshit here) is an undesirable trait in a woman.
And then there's the whole fear thing... we're afraid to put ourselves out there because we think there's always someone that knows more - someone that is going to call us on our bluff.
Probably won't happen.
So what happens if those of us with something to say start raising our hands and saying it? What if we claim our greatness without shame and with complete confidence that we might not know everything, but we know enough to start forging a path to someplace better?
A whole lot, I bet.
So today, on FUNemployment day 16, I've decided to start claiming it. I am no longer a woman with an idea on how to help women discover their own greatness, I am a woman who has made it her life's work to help other women discover just how fucking awesome they can be and is actively doing so.
I imagine I'll have to temper that elevator speech eventually, but for now... it'll do.
Before even becoming officially FUNemployed, I sat down with my long-time mentor, Mike, and spilled out a bunch of jumbled ideas I had in my mind for a passion project I want to launch - the SheHive. The SheHive is a physical gathering space for brave women who want a safe space to have the important conversations they have been craving. Those bold words mean something - everything - in the overall scheme of the project:
It wasn’t quite that articulate when I was talking to Mike about it two weeks ago and there’s, most likely, a lot of refinement yet to go. It’s a work in progress. Mike’s suggestion was to prototype it - launch the SheHive for 90 days and see what happens and what can be learned.
Finding someplace to prototype the SheHive is a work in progress. What I have found, however, is that while I search for SheHive’s physical home, my entire life has become one, large virtual prototype. Nearly every day since leaving United Way I have found myself in a conversation with someone somewhere about something interesting. In the past two weeks I’ve visited more coffee shops, met more new people, discovered more new places and found connection with more brave and willing people than I have in the past two years.
It has been nothing short of life affirming. This is how people were meant to live - at least this particular “people” - connecting, sharing, teaching and learning from each other.
I have no idea if the SheHive is ever going to launch as a physical gathering place or, if it does, that it will become a viable way to make a living as opposed a passion project on the side. I do know, however, that I’m having the time of my life exploring the idea.
After months of reading job postings I am convinced that I could build a side gig writing employment ads for organizations that actually want to find quality team members as opposed to folks out there just desperate for a job (and I did). Take this little gem from an ad I came across today:
"Can deliver difficult feedback to the most resistant and defensive employees."
Well that sounds like a bucketload of fun, right? You know what I "hear" when I read that sentence? We have resistant and defensive employees. And you want to know why they have resistant and defensive employees? Because they focus on what is wrong with their employees instead of the opportunities they have in their employees.
Now sure, someone - lots of someones, probably - will still apply for that job because people need jobs. Good people, talented people and people with hella-high emotional intelligence would be more apt to apply for this job...
"Loves coaching employees to help them reach their highest potential."
Same thing, different lens.
Of course, words alone are not going to change the culture of an organization. If the business is truly a place that looks at their employees as problems to be solved and not problem solvers, job descriptions aren't going to change that. But I wonder how often organizations want to be the type of place where employees can do their best work, they just don't know how to articulate it and they revert back to antiquated business practices thinking "small things" - like employment ads and job descriptions - don't matter.
They matter. You better believe, no matter how much I want to assume the best, you'll never find me applying for the company that showcases problems over an opportunity to do what I do best in their job descriptions.
I had a third round job interview today - a mondo FIVE HOUR interview that ended up being six hours when all was said and done. I had to deliver two different 20 minute presentations and met with the direct supervisor of the position, the peer group, the direct reports and the incumbent. Six hours, a nap and a dinner out with a friend later I am still fried from the experience. SO much to process...
The topic of the first presentation was why I am uniquely qualified for the position. The fact of the matter is, I am. I have the experience, the skills, the knowledge, the proven track record and the network that make me a perfect candidate and told them as much.
Having all the right qualifications, however, doesn't answer the question about whether or not I am good fit for the role and I told them that too. I spent the last part of the presentation introducing them to me, my work style and my strengths. I also showcased for them who I need to work with to counterbalance my style. After doing so one of my interviewers asked what I was doing to invest in those areas that I'm not strong.
"I'm not," I told her. Which is probably the "wrong" thing to say in an interview, but the truth.
I can be pragmatic. I can be slow and methodical and overly-cautious and all those things that I'm not naturally. I can also spend all day poking my eyeballs out with pencils which is pretty much what being slow and methodical feels like to me. Or - OR - I can be the person I am and partner with someone who gets energy from being pragmatic and methodical and overly-cautious (which I define as anything short of jumping off a cliff without looking while yelling, "Hey, watch this!") so they can do all that "here and now" type thinking while I'm running full speed ahead. Because when groups of people are living in their strengths and come together using those strengths, magic happens.
So much about the interview was great - SO MUCH. Particularly that part where the person that would be my direct supervisor uttered the phrase, "unlimited resources." As in, I wouldn't have a budget - I would have UNLIMITED F'ING RESOURCES to do the work. After 15 years in nonprofit I had to pick my jaw up off the ground and ask, "What is this word 'unlimited' that you speak of?"
There was also a spectacular work environment and steadfast goals that are so ingrained in the culture that guard at the front desk was able to articulate them without hesitation. Everyone I talked to - everyone - couldn't speak highly enough about the company. The incumbent sincerely told me how sad she was to leave, and was only doing so because life circumstances dictated that she live somewhere that made the drive to work unmanageable.
And yet I left with a dark cloud over my head because of that one question - how do I become more of who i am not? I don't want to... I want to become more of who I am.
But, perhaps - as a friend pointed out to me just a little bit ago - if given a chance, that is the true value add I could bring to this organization, the secret sauce the propels them from a great place to work to a phenomenal place to work. I could help them better understand how living in your strengths and becoming more of who you are is a better way to work and live.
We shall see if they are up for such a thing. Stay tuned...
Today might be the first day, since quitting my j-o-b, that I actually felt a little bored. Maybe not so much bored - there is plenty to do - but maybe more restless. After the breakneck speed of last week, the reality of not having to do it all and having all the answers in five minutes or less is setting in. I'm not sure how to operate at this slower pace... it's been a long, long while since my head wasn't completely cluttered with noise.
I have to admit, however, now that it's getting real quiet up in there, some of the doubts have room to creep in. Not doubts about leaving my job - I haven't second-guessed that for a minute - but doubts about where I go from here. I'm putting an amazing amount of pressure on myself to do something SPECTACULAR - something life-changing - with the summer o' FUNemployment.
All around me I keep hearing these messages about leaping without a safety net, about not having a back-up plan or about how if you aren't scared, you aren't doing it right. I want to have that kind of confidence. Hell, my normal modus operandi is to leap before looking - I'll figure it out along the way. But the pragmatist in me (the very little bit there is) doesn't want to send my family into financial ruin.
Someone has to pay for my Michael Kors handbags.
There is, of course, a middle ground... take a j-o-b I want to do and launch my own business. It's not like doing both will kill me. I've been two full-time somethings as long as I can remember - sometimes three full-time somethings. And there is something so tempting about launching the business as a means to get my juju out there into the world without the added pressure of it being my lifeblood.
I guess, at the end of the day, it all comes back to my "No matter whats." If there is a j-o-b that meets all that criteria and doesn't cannibalize the head and heart space I need for my passion project (a new "No Matter What"), there is room for both in my life. Not sure that is a real likelihood, but I'm giving myself permission to explore without shame and permission to choose the path that works best for me and for my family.