Q: I was laid off a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been able to find some short-term work, but nothing permanent. I think my age is working against me. I’ve given up looking for a job and have decided to just go out on my own. What tips do you have so that I increase the odds of being successful?
A: Structure, discipline and optimism are all called for in this situation.
The inner game
A long layoff can be very disheartening, so first bring yourself to a state of mind where you’re feeling good about a new start. Let go of leftover anger or frustration related to the layoff and unfruitful job search; focus on your breathing, moving into a grounded state in which you can explore ideas for the future.
Your first decision is whether you want to do something entirely different, or build on your past experience. The former is a harder road, but may be worth it if you’ve had a dream; this could be your chance to try it out. This column focuses on ways to use your past experience to create a new job for yourself.
To start, make a list of all of the assets that you’d bring to the market. Break down your former role into its component parts — planning, people management, project scoping, ensuring quality implementation of plans, and any other key areas. Note which are particular areas of strength and interest.
Next, assess the needs in the market. For example, do many companies have a gap in people who can create a complete and actionable project plan? In that case, this could be a service that you emphasize as you look for opportunities.
The outer game
As you get started, I’d recommend finding an adviser such as an accounting firm that can help you make decisions about organizational structure (whether and how to incorporate, for example) and tend to your business taxes.
Continue your exploration of market needs, meeting with potential clients to listen, learn about their pain points, and suggest ways in which your services could help. For example, if they are talking about a surge of work that they aren’t staffed for, you could raise the possibility of a contract relationship that saves them from adding permanent staff. Your goal is to open doors to additional conversations and future options, so don’t be discouraged if these meetings don’t yield immediate work.
Networking will be key to finding opportunities — if you haven’t been doing that, you need to start. Talk to people you know, even if they aren’t likely leads, to ask them who they know. Go to professional organization meetings and talk to folks. If you’re an introvert, this may be challenging, but it’s essential to your success.
Create the infrastructure you need to deliver once you have a project. This may include access to technology, equipment or qualified subcontractors.
Don’t ignore your health — exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep so that you can stay the course. Also remember to have fun; structure your workday so it isn’t 24/7.
The last word
Let the process of creating your new venture be energizing; it’ll help lead to success.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.