For a long time, I had an impressive-sounding job at a pretty well-known company. When I introduced myself to people, their faces would light up and they’d say all kinds of nice, complimentary things. (“Wow, what a cool job!” “That’s so amazing!” “I love that company!” That sort of thing.)
But after doing a lot of soul-searching, I decided to leave that job and start my own business. My current business is kind of hard to describe—I do spiritual/healing work—and nowadays, when I tell people about what I do, their faces usually don’t light up. Mostly, they just look confused.
I have to admit—it’s really hurting my ego. I’m tired of feeling like people don’t understand me, or think that my new profession is some kind of joke. A big part of me really misses having a “neat and tidy job title” that immediately impresses people.
Can you relate to that? Do you have any guidance for me?
I guess I just want people to hear about my work and feel excited, like they used to.
I’m starting to feel like that’s never going to happen.
I started my career as an attorney—high-pressure cases, packed schedule, briefcase, power suit, the whole nine yards. When I introduced myself, most people were immediately impressed. Maybe even intimidated.
Then after 12 years, I decided I wasn’t interested in practicing law anymore. The hours were too long, the cases were too depressing (I specialized in death penalty appeals), and the environment just wasn’t right for me anymore.
I walked away from my identity as a lawyer and decided to open a bakery along with a couple of friends. Going from “courtrooms” to “cookies” isn’t a typical career transition, and plenty of people thought I was completely nuts. (“You’re doing WHAT?!” was the general response to my decision.)
But that was just the beginning. Over the course of my multi-decade career, I’ve been a lawyer, a baker, a landscape designer, a non-profit director, a fundraiser, and a documentary filmmaker. (Currently, I work as a career/business consultant.)
I’ve had many business cards and many identities, and I know how stressful and unnerving it can feel to make a big leap from one industry to another, even when it’s something you really want to do.
YES, it stings your ego when you describe your new business to someone and they seem baffled or disinterested.
YES, it hurts when you’ve become accustomed to people respecting you and asking you for advice, and then suddenly, you’re working in an entirely new industry and nobody knows you exist.
YES, it’s annoying when people stare at you like you’re completely crazy.
But that’s the price that you pay when you decide to make a major leap with your career. There’s going to be a slightly awkward transition period. There always is.
A few years ago, I stepped down from a prestigious position as a non-profit director. I managed a team of 5 people. I earned a good salary. It was a non-profit organization that I built myself, from the ground up, and I had a lot of emotional ties to the project.
The day that I stepped down, once again, it felt like a part of my identity was taken away. I wasn’t “Ellen Fondiler, Founder and Director of MEarth” anymore. I was “Ellen Fondiler, Lost Soul” or “Ellen Fondiler, Entrepreneurial Something-Or-Other” or “Ellen Fondier, Uh, Your Guess Is As Good As Mine.”
It felt strange and bittersweet to lose the “job title” that I had cherished for so long. Even though it was my choice to walk away, it was still a strange sensation.
But in due time, the awkward transition period ended, as it always does. I found my footing again. I chose my new path. I launched my new website. I printed my new business cards. And before too long, I had a new profession that I felt excited and proud to talk about. I stepped into my new identity and fully owned it.
My advice to you?
Worry less about what other people think about your new business.
Focus more on becoming the best possible entrepreneur you can be.
Proudly own your new identity, and hold your head high.
Don’t lose sight of your ‘Why’
Have fun on a daily basis.
And lastly, remember: you’ve found work that you love. That’s the ultimate dream for so many people, and you’re not just dreaming about, you’re doing it and living it. If that’s not “impressive,” then I don’t know what is.
Image: Willie Franklin