Recently, I have opened up again to the possibility of joining the workforce. For the first time in 10 years I am scanning the jobs section of LinkedIn, curious about the kinds of positions companies are looking for these days. I also dug up my old CV and started updating it to better reflect the person I have become. And finally, the cover letter, a fascinating challenge to reconcile the multi-faceted nature of my entrepreneurial past with the specific demands laid out in a job description.
All of this is of course just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to re-entering the job market. Beneath the formalities (CV, cover letter, application…) lie the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what is possible. I’m aware how important it is to also address these. By bringing them up to the surface, it becomes easier to release them and reshape them in ways that support us in moving forward.
There are two stories in particular that I would like to share. The first one is about the nature of success and the second one about choice. Although the specifics of these stories are unique to my experience, I believe there is also a universal aspect to them. I trust that by bringing them out in the open it’s possible to release the grip they have on me / us and shift the conversation in ways that make the job search experience more enjoyable and ultimately more effective.
When I set out on my entrepreneurial adventure 10 years ago, the odds were stacked against me. It was hard to imagine how one could create a thriving business around the idea of prioritizing the “BEING” in organizational contexts that mainly thrive on DOING. Not only is the concept of BEING an abstract idea, it also can be perceived as a direct threat to a world that single-mindedly focuses on action, deadlines, and results. The business case for BEING is not an easy one to make and therefore most people close to me either advised against it or hesitantly supported this bold initiative.
My response at the time was to reassure my loved ones that if my entrepreneurial ambitions didn’t work out after a couple of years, I would simply turn around and get another job. At least I would have followed my dream and given it my best effort. At the time this was a very reasonable approach, but it was also the beginning of a story – a story that equated going back into the workforce with failure of my entrepreneurial venture. As I start my job search, I notice this story is still alive inside of me.
By reworking my CV and applying to jobs am I admitting that Being at Full Potential did not live up to its potential? Am I admitting that those who doubted me ten years ago were right? What does it even mean to live up to expectations or fulfill potential?
If it’s about impacting lives, creating a movement, thought leadership or giving birth to innovative tools, then it would be considered a great success. On the other hand, if the measure of success is a sustainable business that my family and I can reliably live off, then there is still some way to go.
This is the moment to reshape the story. What if opening up to rejoin the workforce is a continuation of the entrepreneurial journey rather than an end to it? When I look at my work through a broader lens – one where the focus is on human potential realization, then it doesn’t really matter so much what vehicle is used to get me there. Being at Full Potential may have been the vehicle that served me best until now, but maybe going forward I can be more impactful in realizing my mission as an internal change agent within an organization.
This new perspective takes me out of the either/or, success/failure paradigm and brings the focus back on the unique value I can bring to organizations. The purpose remains the same, it’s just the vehicle that changes. This is the new story I am embodying and want to share as I explore re-entering the workforce.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that it is important to make a choice. Either I’m an entrepreneur, and continue building Being at Full Potential, or I drop it and re-immerse in a job that leverages my past experiences and aligns with my future aspirations. The idea that a choice is necessary is perhaps the most ingrained story that I have been telling myself over the last years. In fact, it lies at the essence of what Being at Full Potential is about:
We are what we CHOOSE to BE.
In other words, there is a direct relationship between what we are able to attract in our lives and the choices we make. As I write this, I am reminded that the story of choice is more subtle and complex than first meets the eye, and therefore can easily lead to misinterpretation.
As I further break down the story revolving around choice, I see how easy it is to confuse CHOICE at the superficial DOING level and CHOICE at the deeper BEING level. I also realize how important it is to make this distinction and genuinely enquire within myself where I stand on these different dimensions of choice.
Am I re-entering the job market because I’m prioritizing financial stability over my calling? Or am I re-entering the job market because, at this point in time, it may be another vehicle for me to realize my calling & purpose in life?
On the surface it seems like the same choice is being made (re-entering the job market) but at a deeper BEING level they are in fact very different. The first one is coming from a need for security and stability and the second one from a place of service and openness to new forms of realizing my purpose. In other words, the WHY is more important than the HOW.
In this respect, the story of success and the story of choice are very much intertwined. When success is defined as serving organizations in harnessing the human potential of their people then there is no need to choose the “right” vehicle. Instead I simply need to be open to all possible vehicles and boldly explore the gifts they have to offer.
This is the choice I am making!