You’ve probably never heard the term professional loneliness, but many of us have experienced it–and felt it. I define professional loneliness as not having someone “at the ready” at work. There isn’t someone to roll your office chair over to share an idea, question, or frustration. There isn’t someone to provide on-the-spot feedback. Or maybe there is no one who “gets you” and what you are trying to do with your business.
With so many entrepreneurs, solo practitioners, and small businesses these days, it may be hard for some to relate to what it was like to start a small business pre-internet, before cell phones (I had a “bag phone” for my car though!) and without access to so much technology for running the business.
But I did it. In late 1998, I took the leap to start, what I thought would be, a very part-time consultancy. Why? So I could have more time to parent 3 kids under 6 with a schedule that better supported our love-of-travel lifestyle. Oh, and I decided I would run this business from my home, as I didn’t want to waste time with traveling to an office before and after hours.
Why this trip down memory lane for me? As I sit on an airplane after spending two weeks in a row with the Women Sales Pros and then the XY Planning Network, I realize that what I didn’t have back then was a large supportive community.
I was a young woman in the solo consulting world. My competitors for training initiatives with financial sales were companies with consultants who were white, male, and over 50…not people to whom I could relate. Or who “got me” and the struggles of traveling overnight for work or the daily struggles of running a business from home.
The business was started out of my Why around my family. Not a big vision of what it could become. The impact it could have. The hope it could provide. And while I was excited and committed, I had a BIG bout of professional loneliness.
While I was blessed to have two fabulous women, Melissa Blair (@melissablair) and Sharon Ellis (@sharonqellis), it was a small group to pull from. We often had daily phone calls where we supported, collaborated, and challenged each other. But that was it, and we could wear each other out with so many questions and so much support needed at times.
And now as I reflect on my time with the two groups I just spent time with, and the power of a larger community who have similar values, are willing to share everything to help each other, and to not just support but promote and lift up each other without looking for something back, I am in awe of how far the business world has come in starting, supporting, and tapping into communities.
So, a big shout out to my tribe within Women Sales Pros. For 14 years now, the days together each year leave me inspired, challenged, and humbled. Started by THE Jill Konrath (@jillkonrath) and carefully curated and grown by Lori Richardson (@women-sales-pros).
And a shout out to Alan Moore (@ralanmoore), Michael Kitches (@MichaelKitces) and the entire team and community of #xyplanningnetwork like Maddy Roche (@madeline-roche-25962032). Being a partner within your community fills me with awe and appreciation for the work you do to help people have access to the important financial services you all provide.
Okay then. What is the cure to professional loneliness? Community and collaboration.
And, if you don’t have a community, start one. The payoff will be far greater than the time and effort it takes.