Leaving the Family Business to Find Yourself
I’ve been working in the family business since high school. Since graduating from college, I’ve been at it full time. At 29, I’m leading a relatively small business unit, but it is profitable and our fastest growing division. I love my family and appreciate the opportunity afforded me by our family business but nothing feels right. Working isn’t satisfying. I don’t feel that I’ve made my own choices or that I’m in control of my destiny. I don’t really know what I want to do or what I should do. What do you think?
We think that you dramatically demonstrate why young people in business-owning families should get significant outside experience before joining the family business. You’ve never taken the time to know yourself and establish your own independent identity. Unless you get a sense of yourself based on experience and feedback gained outside the context of your family, the questions you raise are extremely difficult for you to answer. Currently, you seem uncomfortably dependent on your family and its business. You can ease your discomfort only by achieving the ability to make an independent choice whether you wish to remain in your family business or take another path. Once you are able to make that choice, you would be able to develop a healthy interdependent relationship with your family and the business.
We think it’s not too late. You are young enough to leave your family business, to explore new paths, to develop yourself. We recommend that you approach the matter with great deliberation. Use a career counselor who will administer and analyze various vocational interest tests. Consider additional education to prepare you for new directions. Spend several years working elsewhere to hone your skills, apply your abilities and gain perspective about yourself, work and how organizations function.
Finally, we think you should be careful not to burn any bridges. Explain your feelings to your family and the reasons for any decisions you may make. Give yourself the freedom to leave with an attitude that you will not necessarily return to the family business...but don’t preclude the possibility that someday you just might decide that the family business offers you your best career option.
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