Is it time to take charge of your career? Have you always secretly wanted to work for yourself? Why not make a change? There are lots of good reasons why your workplace may no longer be tenable, but nothing ever stays the same—why should you?
If you need a new challenge, want more control over your life, or feel it’s time to strike out on your own, consulting is a great choice. Before the curtain rises on your second act, why not do some serious thinking about what you want to do, where you want to go, and how best to get there.
This new blog series is designed to help you explore key career transition issues. Today, let’s start with some basic questions.
1. What do I really like to do?
Until recently, your career was dominated by financial concerns, family imperatives, and a need to climb the organizational ladder. Drivers like these can overwhelm your personal vision. They may be long gone, but you may still feel pinned to that older version of yourself. Let’s think about the kind of work you really enjoy, love to talk about, and imagine doing even better. Maybe that’s where you should be headed.
2. Should I stay in the same field?
In your line of work, you know the landscape, the people, and the politics. You know how to get things done. Think about the needs and issues that never get addressed. Could you solve these problems? If this does not appeal, look next door to an adjunct field. Could organizations there use your skills if they were packaged just a bit differently? What about your personal hobbies and interests? Is there an area that calls to you—if only you had time? Put aside all your concerns and hesitations for a moment. Where would you really like to work?
3. What services should I offer?
If you have a sense of your field of dreams, imagine yourself there three years from now. You are an in-demand consultant. Your skills and innovations are catching fire. You are sharing your unique approaches and hard-won wisdom. What exactly are you doing? With careful thought, you can identify the intersection between your skills and needed services. We need wise people now more than ever. Why can’t you be one of them?
4. How do I find my market?
You have worked with many agencies and organizations in the past. See them as potential clients. Remember projects that were particularly successful. Who was involved? These are key individuals to contact. Ask for their advice and suggestions. Tell them you are thinking about exploring some new options but don’t ask for work. These are simply information interviews that will help you define your potential market. If you don’t ask, you won’t find out. It’s a low risk activity, so get started.
5. What should I worry about?
Of course, financial viability is the top of the list. Happily, findings on career change for older workers are positive. A 2015 report from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) found that 82% of people aged 47 and older who tried to transition to new careers in the last two years were successful; 70% saw their pay either increase (50%) or stay the same (18%); and 87% said they were happy with that change.
If these topics catch your imagination, think about consulting. Your audience is waiting!
Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.
- Written by Gail Vallance Barrington