The Career Coach Stripped Bare

A few months ago, the usual stream of work had dissipated, and I started to explore my options. After doling out career advice to thousands of people over the years, I was getting a taste of my own medicine.

It all began in 2005, when I took a leap of faith and plunged into self-employment. After more than two decades of a coddled corporate life, I was a sole-trader with no promise of work in the pipeline. Slowly but surely, projects came my way. I enjoyed working without the shackles of an employment contract, and the newly found freedom allowed me to commute between a city apartment and a house in the country.

Eventually, I developed relationships with several consulting firms which provided me with a variety of assignments, added value to my expertise, and offered the collegiality that sole-traders often sorely miss. As I settled into my new routine, I created a website and started blogging. Seduced by the new age of social media, I devoured the articles, posts and ideas written by ‘experts’ and consumed e-courses that offered the promise of a thriving online business. My income supported a modest lifestyle, in exchange for a schedule on my terms. But the gut wrenching moments of this rollercoaster ride were always around the corner.

Then during 2014, the tides began to change. My elderly mother’s health was deteriorating. As I was living interstate without a family of my own, I decided it was time to sell my apartment, get the country house ready for the market, and go home. I’d been away for 30 years. Although I’d maintained a few old friendships and sown the seeds of new network, once again there was no promise of work. Still optimistic about the potential of the online world, I created my first e-course. But as my arrival coincided with a contraction in the local economy, career transition coaching helped me to settle and get reacquainted with my hometown again.

I cherished my time with Mum during the last year of her life. I wound-back my professional commitments as I dealt with the emotional and pragmatic consequences of her death, including the sale of the family home after 60 years. After that property sold and settled, I collapsed into a self-imposed extended compassionate leave.

In mid 2017, I tippy-toed my way back to work. Before long, it was that time of year again – when the sole-trader’s cashflow takes a battering. As Australians enjoyed the festive season and summer holidays, I engaged a savvy young digital marketing consultant to review my business. Her recommendations reinforced what I’d known for a while, and it didn’t involve delivering online services. Despite my best efforts to challenge the status quo, I couldn’t find my career coaching niche in the online world. Still fascinated with corporate life, I wanted to re-direct my energy to working with organisations in real-time, and help their people to navigate their careers – in person.

The new year came and went, and as children returned to school, parents got back to work. With an election looming, the state seemed to grind to a halt, as did the usual projects that keep my revenue stream ticking over. Although used to the ebb and flow of self-employment, this time it was different. I was in a smaller city without a well established network, and fewer opportunities. It was back to the drawing board as I did the research, make the calls, had cafe conversations, learned more about the local market, and tried not to take the silences too personally.

Although here’s nothing more humbling than walking in my client’s shoes, there were a few other valuable lessons along the way.

  • Networks are cultivated, developed and sustained over long periods of time. Trust is earned through a series of mutually-shared experiences and often as a result of a series of different jobs. I didn’t have these in my hometown – my expertise and value was unknown and unproven.
  • Although I left my extensive network behind a few years ago, these deep relationships have held me in good stead. That network has provided ALL of my work since I returned home. Clearly nurturing these relationships pays dividends and I am forever grateful.
  • As I plan to remain in my hometown, I need to be open to how I work, and develop my local network. As a 50++ woman, this will look and feel very different from when I left home all those years ago.

Thankfully, resilience is part of a sole-trader’s toolkit. While I’m still on that rollercoaster, work is trickling my way again.

To learn more about my expertise, and how I work with organisations, please visit my website and LinkedIn profile.

Photo credit: Nadim Merrikh via unsplash.com

Over 50 + Not Done Yet!

When I turned 50, I didn’t think about “slowing down”. Retirement was some far-flung destination. I didn’t give populist chatter a second thought + chose to make career moves on my terms.

After all, 50 is the new career midpoint.

Unless you have a fabulous inheritance or superannuation fund, the reality is that your working life is likely to exceed that of previous generations. And as government + company policies can’t influence community perceptions + behaviours fast enough, I want women to feel empowered to generate their own career pathways – well into their sixties.

This starts with an understanding of our signature strengths, articulating how we add value in an organisation + knowing why employers love having us around. It involves upbeat attitudes, defying the deluge of negativity, being prepared to make compromises + work differently. And finding ongoing career opportunities also means focusing on the sectors, industries, organisations or individuals that make us welcome + allow us to shine.

As a career consultant, mentor + coach, I’m on a mission to help women galvanise their wealth of experience + expertise, communicate their worth with confidence + continue to make meaningful contributions in a job market in a constant state of flux.

We may be over 50, but we’re not done yet!

You can read my earlier post Career Savvy After 50 here.

10 Things to Consider Before You Take the Leap from Corporate to Solo

These days many professionals yearn for a lifestyle that offers greater flexibility on how they manage their work, energy + time. And as companies restructure, change shape + outsource their functions, a new economy of small business operators has filled the voids.

In their recent report Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy, McKinsey claimed that up to 162 million people in Europe + the United States – or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population, engage in some form of independent work.

Solopreneurship is now a word + is only a resignation or redundancy away. Although the idea of more autonomy + freedom is romantic, it’s not for everyone.

So what should you consider before you take that leap from a corporate role into self-employment?

  1. Review your marketable skills.

    You may be a highly valued employee + earn a healthy income, but does this translate into self-employment? Undertake an audit of your skills + expertise. Which of your strengths are readily transferable + in demand elsewhere? What sets your experience apart from others in the field? What industries, organisations or individuals might be a source of ad-hoc, short-term or project work tomorrow?

  2. Seek out relevant training + development now.

    If you’re planning to leave your job, is there any further training + development available within your current organisation that will help with your transition? Accreditation in specialist instruments + methodologies can be expensive when you’re starting out on your own. Take advantage of opportunities that bolster your credentials + expand your offerings to potential clients.

  3. Test the support of those around you.

    While a healthy dose of confidence + self-belief are pre-requisites for going solo, it’s important to get other people on board. How does your partner or family feel about the change? Are there expectations to manage or compromises to be made? Talk to coaches, mentors, sponsors + other networking contacts. What kind of feedback + support do they give you? All of this input will be useful as you consider your options + clarify if you’re cut out for it after all.

  4. Re-position yourself, if needed.

    Changing the perceptions of your reputation + what you offer, can take time. If you’d like to focus on something new + different, you might need a portfolio of case studies to share with your new client base. If you can’t do this after hours, explore the possibility of developing expertise via secondments or projects with your employer. It’s easier to make headway before you leave.

  5. Be prepared to do something you don’t enjoy.

    If you’re used to working for a large organisation, you may find the mundane tasks of self-employment daunting, time-consuming or just not ‘your area of genius’. Of course anything can be outsourced. But if you’re starting up on a tight budget, these costs add up. Research free + affordable user-friendly software + apps that help you to manage the admin + operational sides of the business.

  6.  Create a business plan.

    Solopreneurship is quite different from corporate life. When you work for yourself, you’re no longer protected by a well-established organisation or strong company brand. A business plan is a roadmap + a reality check about the costs of going solo. What services or products will you offer? Have these been market tested? Do you need to create systems + processes? What fees, rates + prices do you expect to charge? Will these cover your overheads + pay you a salary? If you need assistance, look for free or inexpensive small business courses, mentoring programs + grants in your community.

  7. Start a business savings account.

    As there are many incidental costs involved with establishing a business, savvy professionals often set aside six months salary before plunging into self-employment. To make the transition easier, build a financial buffer +/or find casual work to help with the inevitable ebb + flow of  your new income stream.

  8. Identify business partners.

    If you’re starting from scratch, it can take time to identify clients, win work + develop a track record for repeat business + referrals. The reality is that as a solo operator, you may not be considered to have the capacity to deliver the services you currently manage in corporate life. Seek collaborations with like-minded individuals + identify associate relationships with larger service providers + consulting firms. The variety, depth + volume of assignments will develop your reputation + expertise as you build your own client base.

  9. Create your intellectual property.

    Developing your own products +  IP will avoid copyright issues + help to differentiate you in the market. Review the resources you’ve already created which can be re-purposed + branded for a new client base eg models, templates, techniques, presentations, research papers etc.  All of these will become part of your tool-kit + can be incorporated into your marketing and communication activities.

  10. Establish your brand + thought leadership.

    If you’ve already thought about a business name, check to see if it can be registered in your state/country + if the website domain is available. Once you have a business name, you’re ready to share it with the world! It only takes 1-page to kick-start your on-line business presence – the rest of the website can be built later. Start sharing your ideas + professional expertise on a couple of social platforms eg LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

    Now you’re well on the way to taking the leap from corporate to solo!

Redundancy SOS is now LIVE!

Restructuring, down-sizing and redundancy have become business as usual. It can be planned or random, unexplained and brutal. And although it no longer has the stigma it once had, redundancy can trigger a range of emotions, leaving many professionals feeling disheartened, and bewildered about the next steps.

There are organisations which manage redundancies with grace, and ensure all departing employees are equipped to navigate the next chapter of their careers. And despite a range of career transition and outplacement options available to them, many companies still handle redundancies poorly or not at all, which can leave former employees vulnerable in a competitive job market.

And no matter how well prepared you think you are for a redundancy situation, it can overwhelm the best of people.

This is why I developed ‘Redundancy SOS: Kick-start Your Job Search in 5 Days’, which is now LIVE!

You can read more about Redundancy SOS here.

Redundancy SOS is an online course which is designed for professionals whose employers may not have included career assistance in their redundancy package, and want/need to get back into the job market with confidence.

I’ve distilled the best of my insights as a career transition coach into an accessible, mini bootcamp to help professionals (this includes team leaders, managers + executives) prepare for a return to the job market.

Redundancy SOS is hosted on a dedicated membership website, and I’m really pleased with the final result, which you can check out in the video here.

But this course isn’t perfect for everybody.

You can read more about Redundancy SOS + purchase the course here or click the button below.

 

 

 

 

What’s does your career look like in 2017?

A new year always fills me with optimism about the boundless possibilities and serendipitous moments ahead. Personally, I can’t wait until the never-ending festive hoopla (which is very protracted, given it’s summer down-under) is over, and everybody gets back to work!

But for others, a new year can fill them with dread.

Just before New Year’s Eve, my friend mentioned that she hates this time of year. Why? She already knew what had happened that year, but didn’t know what lay ahead in 2017. A lack of certainty or fear of the unknown, made her uncomfortable.

While I view a new year as an exciting clearway, the lack of planned pit-stops may stress others.

In a new economy where jobs for life are all but extinct, and redundancies are common, we all live with varying degrees of uncertainty. Some of us deal with it better than others.

My mission is to help professionals make career moves on their terms. And when they hit some unscheduled turbulence, I can point them in the right direction.

If you’d like to give your career a nudge, or know a professional who’s planning a job change, here’s a few ideas to jump-start some proactive career management in 2017.

REDUNDANCY SOS E-COURSE

My new e-course ‘Redundancy SOS: Kick-start Your Job Search in 5 Days’ launches soon. For more information see https://careerstylenotes.com/redundancysos.

30 DAY CAREER STYLE CHALLENGE

If you’re planning to a job change or just want to give your career a little TLC, this challenge will help you get job market ready. For more information see https://careerstylenotes.com/careerstylechallenge.

CAREER STUDIO

To join my closed Facebook group ‘Career Studio’ – where I share posts + articles related to career development + career change, please join my VIP list here .

 

The Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Takeaways

This is the final day of the 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge. And just quietly, I’m a little relieved.

Writing isn’t one of my ‘superpowers’. A blog post takes me an excessive amount of time and energy to produce. After a trail of Ds and Es at school (and once an undignified F, when Dad helped me with my homework!), my teacher was gobsmacked when I snagged a B for English in the Year 12 exams.

I joined this Challenge to get back into the swing of writing again. I don’t pretend to be a blogger or an academic. I like to write accessible, practical posts to help professionals as they navigate the twist and turns of their careers. As an integral part of my website, the blog also gives potential clients a glimpse of how I think and work.

Today’s final blog challenge is to review my experience over the last 10 days:

What I enjoyed most about my experience of taking part in the blog challenge

Although I’m not a natural writer, I liked being pushed out of my comfort zone. The daily challenges were mini business planning sessions, which was timely as I focus on the year ahead.  As the challenge progressed, my posts became more like journal entries, which gave me further clarity about my career coaching practice.

My favorite challenge day and why

Day 2’s challenge on ‘Discovering your Why’ was my favourite. The post Why I’m a Career Coach gets to the heart of my mission, and niche in the career management arena. This post reflects how I will communicate about my business from now on.

The biggest takeaway I’ve had from it

My biggest takeaway is that I already enjoy a huge amount of freedom in my life. Although I can do more to build a sustainable business, the spade work over the last 10 years is paying dividends.

The next step I’m going to take to make my freedom plan a reality

If I’m going to develop a successful online business, I need more information and feedback on what my ideal clients want and need for their careers, how they’d like services delivered, and where I can help them.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 10 

Wherever I Lay My Hat, I Work Then Play

Since I escaped from the cubicle nation, I’ve enjoyed a flexible lifestyle, which is just the way I like it.

But there is one constant in my daily life. As I mentioned in my earlier post, mornings are like gold to me. And wherever I am, there’s the same ritual – whether I’m at my desk, heading off to work with a client, or travelling.

I’ve been living a double life for a decade. My partner and I had the best of both worlds, a city apartment and 100 acre property in country Victoria. It had a pine forest, kangaroos, wombats, and a gorgeous garden – pure serenity. Five years later, we traded that hideaway for a house on the lake. The jaw-dropping backdrop and fluctuating moods of the lake, stole my heart.

I always had a dedicated work space, the ability to connect with others, and my work day flowed. After I started coaching people on the phone and then via Skype, the world of possibilities opened up.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been sowing the seeds for an online business. One which will galvanise my freedom, and reach more of the kind of people I love to work with. Apart from a shift in income stream, I don’t expect there’ll be a dramatic change to my day.

I will continue to dive into my work from 8am-noon. After that time a cafe beckons, wherever I am in the world. For two opportunistic hours I could be anywhere and everywhere. I become an observer of life, and strike up conversations with both familiar and new faces. I’m engaging with my environment and the tactile side of life.

After this fix, I’m re-energised  and motivated to spend a few more hours in my work space again. Wherever I lay my hat, I will always work first, then play.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 9 

A Sunday Soul Adventure

I love Sundays. It’s the one day of the week that I want to ‘sleep-in’, get to a favourite cafe before it’s packed out, but still enjoy the freshness of an early morning walk with the dog. All before 10am.

This morning I won the trifecta. We were at Kensington Gardens early enough to give Chica an off-lead run, and bump into Robert. He has three small dogs – Chloe (who has arthritis and often rides in a pusher), Toby (who’s had a cataract removed) and young Rebel. That little pack had already been walking for miles, and were on their way home. Those pups always make me smile.

Kensington Gardens was my childhood playground. It has majestic gums, and a creek cuts a diagonal course from one side of the park to the other.

I used to love wading around the pebbles in the creek. After the recent deluge, two boys were playing in the same spot today. At high school, I completed a geography project on the twist and turns of that creek.

Although playing fields were quiet this morning, the whistles of Saturday afternoon sport (which I could hear from our house a few streets away), still warm the cockles of my heart.

There’s a bench overlooking an oval where Chica and I make a quick pitstop. It’s named in honour of my father, who helped create those memories.

The healthy-start breakfast and soy latte in a cafe with happy, familiar faces wraps up my adventure. My soul has been nourished and I’m ready to go home.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 8 

Knock Overwhelm on the Head

Right now, I feel overwhelmed with every fibre of my being. I need to restore my mojo pronto. After being on the back-burner for way too long, I plan to launch my first e-course Redundancy SOS: Kick-start Your Job Search in 5 Days, before the end of this year.

As my recent tropical holiday came to an end, I signed up for a few online courses. I figured they’d help me to focus on my business after I returned home. But despite a clear diary, there’s a backlog of homework competing for my best time of day.

How do I go about it? The idea of a schedule makes me twitchy. I prefer to allow wriggle room for the unexpected. And unlike some outcome-oriented professionals, I don’t get a buzz from ticking off my list of accomplishments at the end of the day.

So what’s one action I can take, rinse then repeat for the next 30 days?

At the end of each day, I’ll review and prioritise the chunks of work that need my morning brain power, using Bob Boyd’s Urgency vs Importance Matrix. I’ll then identify the one or two jobs from Box #1 for the following morning.

urgencymatrix

This simple process will not only organise my workload, it will knock overwhelm on the head.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 7 

Finding My Tribe

If you’ve read my posts during The Freedom Plan Blog Challenge, you already know that I want to give career transition and change a makeover. I plan to challenge the traditional career management model, and deliver my coaching services online.

My dream clients inhabit organisations. They are HR and people managers who support their employees through career transition and change. They’re also professionals who want to make career moves on their terms.

I’ve sat through endless video tutorials, downloaded a gazillion guides, and spent thousands of dollars on e-courses. While there are plenty of people I’ve learned from, admire and follow, sometimes I feel like a wallflower at a party. I haven’t found my tribe yet.

But there is someone who’s setting a cracking pace, and chalking up impressive achievements in my arena.

Kathy Caprino has blogs on Forbes.com, Huffington Post and LinkedIn. She’s interviewed many business luminaries, written a book , has a podcast, and built a strong online community. Kathy also runs an e-course called the Amazing Career Project.

While I don’t wish to mimic her business model, I think Kathy will get me. She provides a shining light as I pursue my online career coaching practice.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 6