If you find yourself facing the possibility of having to leave an organisation, perhaps after many years of service how do you make that transition?
A friend of mine M, is faced with this now, in midlife. Don’t believe the stories about front line work not being cut… she is a front line manager making critical decisions on a daily basis but six of her peers will have to apply for three jobs. She has a large mortgage and she has never done anything but what she does now. she is in a real quandary. Is she too old to retrain – if she does retrain what should she do instead?
Well I did say to M that maybe my experience would help.
I left a very high-powered career working for a large multinational business ten years ago.
Why did I leave? I left because the project I had been working on was coming to an end and I could either take redundancy ( ah those were the days when you had real redundancy pay outs!) or go back to my old job. My old job entailed working 12 hours a day and lots of international travel. If you think international travel is glamorous… well yes when you first go somewhere it is fun, but after a while flying to Detroit once a month in winter, having to be at Heathrow at Sunday lunchtime really doesn’t appeal. I was also a single parent of a 5 year old daughter and although she had a full-time nanny, when I came home I was stressed and tired and really all I wanted to do was to collapse in a heap, not be the night shift! So in a way the choice was not difficult and I know I was in the lucky position that I could make a choice and that I had some savings behind me. Not everyone is in that position.
Ten years on I have what is euphemistically called a “portfolio career”: I do accountancy and life coaching and I teach business skills to those who don’t know about or don’t like business ( such as musicians and therapists), I have written a book and have a number of websites. I have a 3 year plan to be able to do as much as possible online/ passive income so that I can travel and work and that is what I am working towards. Does it work? Well there are times of the year when I am extraordinarily busy… when there is a clashing deadline ( tax return season and marking assignments for students which happens in January), but generally it works, yes.
I know that some people will look for another job immediately, but what if you are taking this opportunity to be your own boss and get out of the office rat race, or indeed if there are no relevant jobs out there?
Here is the strategy I adopted, and it worked for me and it has also worked for some of my coaching clients.
1. What are your skills, knowledge and experience? Make a list of what experience skills and knowledge you have and don’t forget to include areas outside the workplace as well. Can you bake an awesome cake? Are you a dab hand at working out people’s computer problems? Are you great with children and keeping them entertained?
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses… this is not necessarily the same as point 1, it is looking more at your innate personality and attitude. There is no point being able to sort out people’s computers if your weakness is that you get very frustrated with machines and get stroppy ( I have to put my hand up to that one!!). At school we are always told to address our weaknesses and improve them. In business though we will always be struggling against people for whom that is their passion and strong point. In business we need to play to our strengths not our weaknesses. We can usually delegate weaknesses to others. There can be difficulties stating our own strengths… we just take them for granted and we assume everyone can do it… so ask the help of close friends ( or even enemies!!) to assess what they think your strengths are.
3. What are you passionate about? What is special about or unique to you, that only you can supply? In the information age, into which we have slipped there is a growing market online for smaller and smaller niches catering to people who are equally passionate ion that particular niche. Of course the downside is that the barriers to entry are much lower than in the past and the competition is global. All the more reason to be honing up your strengths.
4. What opportunities are there in the market place? When I first set up my business coach work ten years ago I didn’t want to take on the expense of an office and I wanted the flexibility of working from home so that I could be at home at 3:30pm when my daughter came home from school. So I made a virtue out of necessity and advertised that I went to the client’s premises (as part of my unique selling point – what differentiates me from everyone else). Not surprisingly this went down well with those who could not easily get to an office, because of mobility problems or lack of transport and also with those who didn’t want to have to stop and dress up just to see their business coach and accountant (for example working in a dusty woodworking environment).
5. What resources can you bring together? This is not just funding but also what other resources you have access to… this may come in the form of use of an office, or contacts in a specialised area. Remember you don’t have to own the assets, just be able to access them, even if you pay for one time rental ( this has long been done in the creative film industry where a lot of equipment, technical skills and locations are bought in for the use in just one project). This idea can be transferred to a number of different businesses.
6. How much time can you devote to this enterprise and what will you have to give up in order to do this? Trying to squeeze in something on top of everything else doesn’t work. I know I’ve tried it and seen the resulting burn out in myself and others around me who have also dome the same. Sometimes the sacrifice is easy to do ( mindless tv), at other times it is more of a wrench ( giving up a salsa class and keyboard lessons both of which I enjoyed but which required more time commitment than I could realistically give them).
What if there is only a limited market for the business, or you can’t make much money in that area? Well this is where the portfolio comes in – a series of different income streams bringing in cash flow. I have income coming in from investments, royalties from my book ( and to a lesser extent from a music business I used to co-own), the intention was to have rental income – and that may still happen using the rent a room scheme, teaching and accountancy and coaching income. Of course it will be different for you. The advantage of this is that your are not reliant on one source of income and if like me you like variety no two days are the same. The disadvantage is that there is not the same certainty of cash-flow coming in, or it is skewed to different times of the year, which makes planning more difficult.