November 29, 2016
Six months ago, I started a new adventure into full-time business ownership. The first two, I spent thoughtfully contemplating who I am, who I am not and what I want for this next stage in my career. For as confident as I was about the decision to leave my full-time position in higher education and career development, I was afraid of the change that needed to be made. So how did I get here?
I knew I had taken a chance on myself. I recalled that gut feeling inside of me that wouldn’t quiet down; the one I could no longer ignore. So instead of reporting every day at a specific time to an office full of colleagues, I now spend my days with my parents and Pyrador rescue, Oliver, working on my deck or in various rooms in the house to secure and prepare speaking engagements for local companies and non-profit organizations, partner with men and women on navigating their career choices and taking on projects with large companies to serve the professional growth needs of their clients.
About a month ago, I visited a non-profit organization called the Perfect Fit for Working Women, a program of the ALLENTOWN YMCA & YWCA that supports low-income women entering the workforce by providing professional clothing for job interviews and their first week of work. The two women running the program mentioned that they were going to speak to the Women Can networking group, a diversity and inclusion initiative at Olympus, which is a medical devices and surgical products, scientific solutions, and cameras and audio products company, in the area.
I simply asked if I could go to listen to the manager tell her and the organization’s story at the event.
Fast forward to November 15…I arrived at Olympus, the building was fresh, white, and open with plenty of windows and natural light. I was stopped at the front desk to be checked in and escorted back to the event room. As I walked through the halls, employees were smiling, some were grabbing lunch at the bustling cafeteria, while others were playing ping pong or sitting in the large lounge space connecting with coworkers. It felt wonderful to be back in a space where action was happening; where it wasn’t just me thinking about my next move or if I was “doing this whole business thing right.” I noticed individual reactions to my presence.
At first, I thought it was the big visitors’ badge on my suit jacket but then I realized…I’m wearing a suit and for the first time in months!
I forgot how a suit made me feel or how much I had denied the power that it gave me from within. Since March, I have mostly been wearing yoga pants and other such athletic wear just in my home office. I noticed how differently I was treated by the employees moving out of my way in the hall to let me pass or how they allowed me to go first if we met at crossroads in the building. Not only that, but I was attending this event as a guest of the women from the Perfect Fit so the event organizers even treated me as a…confident woman in a suit.
I truly had forgotten about the polished businesswoman in me. The one others reminded me existed when I decided to make this change to business ownership and the one that I now know will come out to “play” when she is called upon as a speaker, trainer, panelist or partner at companies in the future. The one who will freely share her experience and emotional reactions to such moments for these are the ones that shape our identities, affirm the changes we make in life and remind us to stick up for those gut feelings we have about what we need most.
What’s more is that the accumulation of these experiences led me to believe that we must first give ourselves permission to change from within to grow beyond what we know we are capable of accomplishing. In order to find the “perfect fit” in just one facet of our lives, a deep dive into another may be required. Similarly, the Women Can networking group believes in the power of connecting internally, across divisions to explore and grow professionally.
I needed to uproot some of the comforts of my personal life to address my professional dissatisfaction. This shifted the dynamics of my personal life, allowing me to focus on the gains I could make professionally.
Isn’t it poignant that the exact organization to which I reached out to as a potential volunteer, whose mission is to provide women with the clothes and personal support that will set them up for professional success, also delivered me the opportunity to personally feel the emotional effect that clothing, and others’ reactions to it, can have on your confidence, professional growth and reflective practices?
So I ask you now, in what ways are you pursuing or denying yourself a “perfect fit”?
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