It was a proud moment in my professional life when I opened the local Sunday newspaper and saw my picture as the face of a weekend marketplace event.
I was the owner of a gift business and believed that showcasing my gifts at this consumer show was a smart marketing decision. My belief resulted in many sales and a decent amount of referral business in the coming months.
The business was just 1-1/2 years old and wasn’t lucrative enough to sustain my lifestyle, which means I still worked at a full-time job.
Moments after arriving at the job on Monday morning, an employee came to me with his newspaper in hand.
“Shirley, you’re in the paper!” he exclaimed, as if I didn’t know or hadn’t seen my picture.
“What were you doing? You own a business?”
The questions kept coming.
That person showed the paper to another worker, and more people came to my cubicle to announce they now knew about my pursuits.
I owned a business and knew just about everything to say to prospects and customers wanting what I offered, but I hadn’t prepared for co-workers and their questions.
Thankfully, I was not ashamed of my media notoriety. Seeing my face and knowing that potential customers were reading the story was a triumph.
When you own a business, you have to market in whatever way gets the word out about your firm. That means there’s a chance that people employed at a company you still work at will ask questions if they see anything in the media related to you.
Thinking back, I was incensed about the questions. None of the employees were prospects or clients, and I wasn’t working undercover as I did in this article. They were nosy and had no business asking about anything I did outside of the job. Still, people ask, and before you find yourself in this position, you have to be ready to respond tactfully.
How to handle it
What you are creating with your business defines part of your life’s purpose. Be proud. However, decide in advance how much you’re willing to share with people who are not entrepreneurial, especially at a job.
If a boss learns about your outside pursuits (and trust me, the boss will find out from a menacing worker), also be ready for questions in her closed-door office.
You have the right to pursue whatever you wish in life, and if the media comes calling, do not back away. Business is challenging, and getting media exposure is part of the glamour and risk you take to succeed.
Depending on the questions, you might respond with:
- “Thanks, but it’s not something I talk about here.”
- “I keep my home and work lives separate, and I hope you can respect that.”
- “I don’t discuss at the job what I do on my own time, but thanks for your interest.”
Keep a level head when responding no matter what you say. Try to keep your temper down and positive energy high. You don’t want what you achieved for your business to be crushed by other people’s inquisitiveness.
Also important is realizing that you are now being watched closer than before. Your Internet use on the job may be monitored, and the same is true about your telephone usage. Of course, your cellphone is the go-to device, but any long-term time spent away from your desk will be questioned. An employer can begin building a case for termination if it’s thought that you plan to leave, and that case may deny you unemployment benefits if you’re terminated before your business generates enough income to fund your lifestyle.
Live with no regrets
Remember, the publicity you pursue on your own time is your business. Go after media attention as often as possible. Do not stay away from opportunities unless you’re so concerned about employment that you can’t take a chance on losing that job. Stay mindful, though, that a job can be terminated at any time. You don’t want to think back and say, “I could have ______” or “I wish I had ______.”
Looking back at the above picture and story, captured in the summer of 1992, I would do it all over again. The only change I’d make would be preparing for the onslaught of questions from co-workers who felt it was okay to hound me about my pursuits during non-working hours.
How would you handle it?