Shifting from a corporate job to a more self-directed life means taking on a completely different view of your career and puts more emphasis on you to really know and understand your value. While a job may seem to give you ongoing validation that you’re doing OK, it really gives little to no feedback on your performance (10 reasons to quit). When you start your own business you’ll get constant feedback and being able to hold firm a belief in yourself is not always easy - particularly when you’re still figuring things out.
For me, the beauty of being self-directed is that you get to mix things up a bit and not just do one thing at a time. Running an organic veg scheme and being a career coach have a few things in common, but they also allow me to test my skills in different areas and are constantly taking me out of my comfort zone. Add that to a couple of side projects in adventure and tribe building and there’s a good mix of things going on.
While this is great fun and a real challenge, it’s not always a comfortable ride — far from it. Each of these require different skill sets and when you don’t have a single project to say, “ok, this is what I’m good at”, it’s hard. In amongst all of your various projects it’s easy to loose sight of your strengths, the confidence to believe in your abilities and to know what you’re good.
And I don’t think this just applies in the beginning. Yes, when you first start up your new business this is a tough point full of self doubt, but even if you have several things going on, inevitably not all of them are likely to be working out at the same time, so to be able to keep going and keep the faith when it doesn’t feel like it’s all going as planned (or you have no idea what the plan even is), is invaluable.
So while you’re figuring it all out (definitely an ongoing process), how do you stay confident in yourself and find your value.
1. It’s OK to just be you, with out a title.
You don’t need to be defined by a job title, whether that be a traditional one or something more open like entrepreneur or adventurer. You are a mix of your interests, hobbies, side projects and income producing activities and there’s no easy title for that that fits into a box. Embrace your diversity and rest assured that it’s far better to be intriguingly varied without a title - trust me, you’ll grow into it.
But if you do feel the need for a way to describe where you’re at, why not mix things up a bit. You could be your own Chief Opportunities Officer or Head of Awesome Adventures?
2. Surround yourself with positive people that inspired you
A great way to help you through is to surround yourself with positive and inspiring people who are on the path to or are already living the kind of live you’re looking to build.
I was having a chat with a friend of a friend towards the end of last summer. She’d quit her job and started to explore building a new career that she loved, although she wasn’t quite sure yet what that might look like yet. This was such an exciting time for her with so many options ahead and the complete freedom to be herself. Yet she, as many of us do, came up against some resistance or at least, misunderstanding, from those closest to us. If your parents/partner/friends don’t get what you’re doing, find people who do and buy them a coffee. Positivity and self-belief rub off and you’ll find incredible support from an awesome group of like-minded people.
3. Turn to those who you trust to give you an honest opinion
If you feel like you need a helping hand to figure out your skills try asking for some feedback. They may not understand where you’re headed but they often know you best and if you opt for people who can give an honest, constructive opinion you might find you have skills you weren’t aware of.
It’s common for us to think, “well I can do x, but then probably so can most people, so it’s not very special/worth mentioning”, but actually being able to listen well, speak in public, or whatever it is that you find easy but others really value in you, is a great asset to have, and one you should be confident to utilise.
4. Look at what you’ve loved doing
Think back to previous jobs, volunteering, side projects; what are the things you really enjoyed doing? You might not have been amazing at them to start with but as you continued to improve, you continued to love them. As JP Morgan says, for a passion to be a potential basis for a business, you need three things:
- freedom [to do it on your own schedule],
- growth [to develop your passion further],
- contribution [to make a difference].
The same applies to skills.
5. Give back
Find opportunities to give back using your skills. Think you might want to become a freelance marketing whiz? Offer your marketing services to a start up or charity for free to develop your experience and confidence in that skill. It will also help you know quicker whether this is something you’d enjoy turning into a business.
6. Do something “in the meantime”
The money issue is never talked about enough. It’s hard starting your own ventures and the money never comes as quickly as you’d hoped. Take the pressure off by doing a part time job on the side. This might be freelancing in your old industry/job or just working in a coffee shop. But as well as money it will help to keep your confidence up. Whatever it is you’re doing in the meantime, I’m sure you’ll be doing it well, and getting positive feedback, even if it’s not explicit, helps to keep you smiling while you grow your own project.
7. Trying new things
You might have an undiscovered skill, simply because you’ve not had the chance to explore it in the past. Go out there, discover what other people are up to, have a go at something new or even come up with a new approach to something old and see how it works out.
8. Read and write
Reading other peoples views and experiences helps to put yours in perspective — you’re not the only one feeling like you have a crisis of confidence around your skills!
Blogging, like cleaning, can be pretty cathartic. The benefit of blogging being that it helps order your thoughts rather than your home. Focusing on a particular topic and getting things down on a page helps to think things through and editing is a great process for considering your initial thoughts more deeply. Jot down some ideas and come back to it a week later. Do you still see things the same way, or has your view shifted as you’ve had time to ponder it?
Remember, it will take time for you to find your niche, where you feel like things are falling into place and you find your strength. But that’s OK. Being in this space of exploration, trying something new and figuring out what it is that you want is a wonderful place to be. It means you’re on the right track and putting you first, before the expectations of others.
Enjoy the journey.