The 6 critical mindset shifts needed to go from corporate career to successful entrepreneur: Part 1.
I'm not going to pretend that life is normal right now: It isn't. It's weird, surreal, and downright unsettling. COVID 19 has thrown us all off-course.
In the space of a few weeks normality and certainty uprooted and moved out. Part of the fallout is that lay-offs are becoming a stark reality for many people. And that means self-employment has become a very real consideration. If anything good has come from this terrible situation, it's that people are taking time to slow down, think, and dig deep into their souls to find out if the 'normal' they think they want to return to is really what they want. For some it will be; for others, they'll take a different path. For those wanting to seize the moment and make self-employment a reality, the opportunity is right here ready and waiting to be grabbed by the short and curlies. There are numerous smart, talented, educated professionals each more than capable of setting up shop and going it alone. Anyone can do it. But, like most things worth having, there are a few challenges; all of which are surmountable if your head is screwed on straight.
The biggest challenge for ex-corporates is this: Making the mental leap from corporate citizen to entrepreneur. Initially it's exciting and full of promise. But in the absence of some conscious mindset shifts, excitement can easily turn to overwhelm, and self-belief can turn to self-doubt.
When I left my Fortune 500 executive role to become self-employed, I was quietly confident my experience, formal education, and solid connections would get me where I wanted to go. They didn't. They didn't hurt, but they sure as heck didn't help either. I was only half-kidding when I told friends that outside corporate life, my MBA stood for "Means Buggar All'!
Outside the boardroom and everyday formalities of corporate life, formal education and documented experience means very little. No-one cares what letters you have after your name, what you used to do, or what your title used to be. No-one is impressed by the car you drove or how close to the door you parked it. When you leave corporate life to build a business around your experience and passion, people care about just one thing: How you are going to help them. And that means you showing up and leaning in in a way you've never had to before.
Here's the problem we ex-corporates face. Corporate life is an artificial environment. There's an unwritten and unspoken code by which we all abide and it breeds conformity. Though it can be stressful and demanding, corporate life also feels safe, comfortable, and familiar: Whatever happens, you generally know what to expect. But when you leave that behind, when you head into the wild west of entrepreneurship, you feel exposed, vulnerable, and - let's be honest here - incompetent. You're not, but that's how it feels. So one of two things tends to happen: You either figure out you need a mindset transplant, or you run back to the safety and familiarity of the corporate world.
For anyone shifting from corporate to self-employment, let me tell you this: You have everything you need to succeed. You can do it. You have the talent and wisdom to make it. Your title and role in the corporate world have absolutely no bearing on your potential to succeed as an entrepreneur. That's determined purely by what goes on between your ears.
There are six critical mindset shifts you'll need to make. None of this is complicated, but it does take conscious effort.
The first mindset shift is to go from being predictably corporate to being completely and absolutely yourself.
Ex-corporates struggle with this (trust me, I know!). We get used to the expectations placed and bestowed upon us by our titles. Titles are intensely comforting and they lend us perceived organizational and societal status and self-worth. We become our titles, so when we exit corporate we often feel completely disoriented, unsettled, and confused. As much as we like to think we hold onto our individuality within organizations, we don't.
So start here. As soon as you leave the corporate world, get to work on losing your corporate facade and reclaim your real identity.
Shake off the title, forget the corner office, expense account, company car or whatever else you're used to, and get back in touch with the real you. Wear different clothes, grow your hair, cut your hair - dye it pink if you must - and rediscover what makes you tick. Delve into what sets you alight, what you love to do, what excites you, what makes you who you are, and what makes you human. Seriously, really think about it and trust your gut. Avoid the overwhelming temptation to be drawn back into your corporate form and just do you. It sounds like motherhood and apple pie doesn't it? It's not. It's hard. You'll feel exposed, vulnerable, weird, ungrounded, and 'floaty'. But this work is important. In fact it's vital. Find out what lights that fire in your belly and then throw it at the page. Write it all down. It doesn't matter how it looks; just write, scribble, draw, doodle, go nuts.
The first step to being successful outside corporate is to be completely and utterly your fabulous self. Let it all out. Release it. When you're building a business around your experience and passion, your success boils down to one thing: You. So start there. You do you. It's liberating. And it's absolutely essential to your success.
The next mindset shift in this series: Stop caring what everyone else thinks.
It's mindset - not strategy - that will get your business off the ground and thriving.
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