Many of you are chomping at the bit to leave the suffocating confines of your corporate job. You loathe the weekly meetings you have to attend, fall asleep at endless hours of boring Powerpoint presentations and feel your lifeblood dripping down your chair as you gaze at a never-ending stream of meaningless emails. You fantasize about your entrepreneurial adventures, imagining yourself swashbuckling in the marketplace, creating and selling your wares while having time to hang out with your kids or take exotic trips to faraway jungles.
So why haven’t you left yet?
No matter how intriguing your new venture is, there are some big things that you would give up if you left your corporate career:
- Status. I don’t care if you detest every day you enter the office. If your business card says "Lorraine Sanchez, Vice President of Business Development, IBM" you carry a lot of weight in our society. Try explaining to your mother why you would give up a six-figure salary with a well-known company to try your hand at starting a faux-finish painting business. It may feed your soul, but will it impress your neighbors? So much of what you learn in a corporate setting is that status matters and that your self worth increases as you make your way up the ladder. In your right mind you know this is ridiculous, since how can a title give you worth? But if you have any leaks in your confidence tank, your subconscious will believe the hype and make you feel very uneasy at giving it up.
- Routine. You may have a comfortable routine that includes a stop at your favorite cafe to get a latte in the morning, or a workout in the gym next to your office at lunchtime. Even if you work long hours, your body is accustomed to a familiar routine and will resist any change, regardless if it is good for you or not. If you are married with kids, you may have a carefully choreographed dance between you and your spouse for who gets the kids ready, drops them at school, drives them to various activities or gets them ready for bed. When you start your business, you will not have a predictable schedule and this can wreak havoc on your family life.
- Recognition for your Expertise. If you have been working for a good number of years in a corporate setting, most likely you have developed some great skills and have a breadth of experience in your field. Peers recognize your expertise, and even partners and vendors acknowledge that you know what you are talking about. If you were to chuck all this for a new, untried venture, you would put yourself back to a beginner stage where you feel incompetent in what you are doing. A few people enjoy this feeling. Most people hate it.
Martha Beck equates the personal change process to that of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. In the cocoon or pupa stage, the caterpillar’s body parts actually turn into a soup-like soft liquid, from which the wings, legs and other parts of the butterfly’s body will form. When you think of yourself going from solid, established and secure ground into the unknown, can’t you feel your body parts begin to melt?
(Small aside: Whenever I went through major transitions in my life, my "melting" would be accompanied by extreme clutziness. At a time when I was leaving a significant relationship, I wiped out at a client site. I had been having an intense 1:1 career coaching conversation with a manager and my legs were crossed. After he left my office, I got up to go get some water. I didn’t realize that one of my feet fell asleep, so as I stepped into the hallway, I ate it and sprawled out face-first on the floor. In my mortification, I looked around to see if anyone saw me and quickly jumped up. I know one person flashed out of his cube, but had the decency to pretend he didn’t see me. I am sure he was laughing hysterically behind his cube wall)
You are capable of making the transition from corporate warrior to thriving entrepreneur. But you will have to work through your grief at leaving status, routine and recognition for your expertise behind. Here is the good news: once you make the leap successfully, you won’t miss them at all.