Nearly three years ago, I made a choice I hailed as my most brilliant decision ever. I became my own boss and started a consulting firm. I would advise organizations in Ethics and Compliance after leaving a company I’d been with for 13 years. Having been a consultant before, I was excited by the prospect of doing it again, this time for myself.
Working for myself was wonderful. I loved my boss! We had the same values and priorities, and she supported me when I decided to be selective about which engagements I’d take and which I’d decline. That meant I enjoyed the work more, because I chose engagements where I could make the most difference, and worked with clients I enjoyed. I also spent more time with my family. For the first time, I felt my work fit into my life, instead of fitting my life in around my work. I vowed never to return to working in-house.
Recently, though, I’ve begun to wonder what it would be like to work in-house again. I’m becoming – dare I say it? – work lonely. Given that I’m not around people as much as I used to be, I’m feeling that gap of wanting to be a part of a team and community all working toward the same goals. The drama of being so invested in the outcomes seems to be missing. Trouble is, everyone else seems to be leaving their employers, often finding the same gaps on the inside. In November, more than 4.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs, leaving a near-record number of job openings.
Does my future lie with my current boss, or should I, like two thirds of the working population, be looking for a new job? The work environment in this seemingly never-ending pandemic seems to be making everyone generally dissatisfied. LinkedIn keeps prompting me to consider jobs that match my qualifications, and they sound wonderful. But would I be running toward some great opportunity, or just running away from something that’s making me temporarily unhappy?
I think it could be either. With all the movement in workplaces now, there seem to be some genuinely great opportunities. And as a result of the pandemic, changes in priorities, work styles and remote-friendly processes have added some upsides that didn’t exist in most companies before.
This situation keeps reminding me of the time I ran away from home when I was 5. My parents wouldn’t let me walk to the 7-Eleven a mile away, past vacant lots, construction sites, a park, and roads with speeding cars, all without sidewalks. I couldn’t continue to live under those intolerable conditions. I packed my blue and white kindergarten book bag with a few important items including my piggy bank, and set off.
I met my friends at the corner, a few houses away from my own. Seeing the road before me with choices to the right and left always seemed like reaching a milestone. They were about to set off to the right for 7-Eleven, but suggested I go home and talk to my mom before going further. I refused to be dissuaded. I mean, I was packed. I was on the road. I did agree, though, that I should probably go back and say, “Goodbye”.
When I reached home, my mom sweetly opened the screen door and listened to me announce that I was running away, and that I had just come to say, “Goodbye”. She said in a soft voice with softened, dark brown eyes that she was sorry to hear this…and that coincidently she’d been in the kitchen making my favorite meal. It was too bad I would miss it. Or maybe I’d like to come in and talk about it over dinner?
I want to have someone open the door and welcome me in that way again. I want to go home. I, like many others, just don’t know where that will be right now.