In an economic downturn like we are currently facing it requires those that are searching for career opportunities to really take charge of their situation and their career. For some it means doing contract work, for others it means multiple part-time jobs, and for my friend Joel Rivers it means saying so long to the corporate rat race, staking his own claim and starting his own business.
Here is Joel’s story of why he chose to work for himself and how it allowed him to ‘really’ be him.
On a Saturday morning, three days after my position was eliminated, I had one of those experiences where that little voice inside told me what I needed to do. It said, “You need to start a business and start it now!” I’d had a successful consulting business for the eleven years prior to my job, and so knew what it was like and really wanted to do it.
But everywhere around me people were saying, “You’ve got to get a job. You can’t trust this business thing. There are too many risks and it might be a year before you build up enough business to provide an income. ” And so, I took a dual approach, networking for business contract work to get me started and networking and advertising myself on the web for a job similar to the one I’d had. In other words, I didn’t really listen to the little voice, and my dual approach diluted my efforts on both sides.
I also found that I wasn’t getting much response on the job-seeking side. Everyone told me I had a great resume with great experience—an HR director for a national manufacturing company, a successful OD consultant, a senior training and OD specialist for Vanderbilt and a professor of industrial and organizational psychology for Purdue-Fort Wayne. I also had a Ph.D. in psychology.
Eventually, one recruiter asked, “Is the Ph.D. on your resume giving you any problems?” I had wondered about this being a red flag and, sure enough, as I talked to others who would be honest with me, I confirmed that it was. And I knew from being an HR Director that I would have red-flagged my resume, because of the Ph.D., the consulting experience and the professor experience. I would have thought here is a guy who won’t stay with us very long.
I followed the recruiter’s suggestion and began to downplay the over-qualifications in my resume. I think it produced a little more response, but it’s hard to hide who and what you really are. Then I began to think, “This is crazy. Why downplay all the valuable background and experience I worked so hard to get. I should be doing something that makes use of it and rewards me for it.”
I began to make the mental switch to more focus on the business side of my strategy. My previous business had focused primarily on strategic planning facilitation and implementation, along with various training and OD interventions related to my clients’ needs. The work seemed to just flow to me, because of reputation, word of mouth, etc. But knew it would be different this time. I would have to actively sell, and I didn’t see myself as good at that or experience at it. I also knew I would need a better-defined product/service niche instead of just taking whatever work came to me that I could do.
About this time, I got a call from a company called Profiles International who is a major world-wide producer of assessment tools that are used for talent management purposes (hiring, development, transfers, promotions, succession planning, etc.). They wanted me to go into business as a strategic partner with them to sell and service their products—because of my background as an HR director, consultant and Ph.D. in psychology.
This felt good to me—finally, people who seemed to value who I really was! But my fear kept holding me back. Profiles wanted me to visit them in Texas for their annual convention and to learn more about them and what they do. At first, I turned them down because of all the unknowns involved. But that night I couldn’t get it off my mind. I said to myself, “You dummy. When are going to stop letting your fears hold you back.” I called Profiles back the next morning and told them I was coming to visit.
Everything I’d hoped for was confirmed in the quality of the product, the company and the people. And very importantly—they provided an excellent approach for sales that I could learn and a well defined product and service that I needed to go along with the others things I could do.
So, I went for it. I’ve started a business called Rivers Edge. I specialize in Business Strategy and Talent Management. The two things go together well. I help companies increase profitability by figuring out where to go with their business, how to get there and how to have the right people in the right places doing the right things to make it happen. My challenges so far have mostly been in just restructuring how I use my time to accomplish my goals. Selling is different for me, but I have found that I can learn it. Another challenge has been in developing my company image (logo, business card, brochures, website, etc.) so that the business has a professional look, while at the same time trying to be conservative in spending. But I am getting there.
I am still in my first quarter of business and already beginning to have sales and see a lot of need and potential for what I do. Given today’s economic conditions, there has probably never been a bigger need for business strategy and talent management. I know I’ve made the right decision.
My advice to people in similar situations is to listen to the voice inside you, know where your real value lies and make use of it. If your qualifications are really unique, consider a business possibility. If a business seems to be the right thing, make up your mind and get going with it. Define your unique product or service. Get some solid training on how to sell and how to operate your business. And most of all, don’t let your fear hold you back. It’s all about faith. Remember that there is always a way to do whatever is the right thing to do.
I hope you enjoyed Joel’s story as much as I did. If you would like to contact him you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, good hunting and good luck!