Helping you love the independent life
I was just digging into another Tuesday at my desk in 2009 when I had a call. “Carl, it’s Rob. Can you come to the Presquile Boardroom for a meeting, please?”
That’s odd, I thought. Rob was my manager at the engineering firm Golder Associates, but he was based in the Calgary office. I was working 5000 kilometers away in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga. I hadn’t known he was in town.
Entering the boardroom I had a sudden grasp of understanding. There was Rob, seated next to the local office’s Director of HR. It was to be That Meeting. The one that starts, “Carl, there’s no easy way to say this. We’ve got to let you go.”
Actually, I’d seen it coming. Much of Golder’s work focused on the mining sector, hammered by low commodity prices. So, as I told Rob, this is not unexpected. But really, there’s no way to prepare for the reality of losing the best job I’d ever had.
Pushed out of the nest – to fly or hit the ground
And just like that, I joined the ranks of highly skilled, educated professionals faced with the need to find a new source of income. At age 52, I knew that age discrimination is alive and well in today’s job marketplace.
One big advantage I had, compared to some. Before joining Golder full-time, I’d worked as an independent consultant for several years, and Golder had been one of my clients. I knew how to build an independent consulting practice.
So, I consider myself to have been unemployed for about three seconds, before I said to Rob: “I’d love to go on working with Golder as an external consultant.” Rob’s response was immediate: “Done.”
Though I walked out of the building without my access cards, I carried with me my first client relationship for my new business.
And it grew from one firm to a wide range of clients. As my business grew, I started to see that new prospective clients were checking me out online, before I met with them. I’d find a prospect at a conference, and then soon I’d see that they’d looked at my LinkedIn profile, and maybe requested a connection. Or, they’d sign up for my newsletter. Probably, they’d follow me on Twitter. In a subsequent conversation, they might mention something from my “About” page on my website.
I started to get approaches from firms that had found me based on an online search.
I discovered that having an attractive online profile is important – partly for people who found out about me from some other means and were investigating further. Partly, it was for people who were looking online for my kind of expertise.
A new kind of job security – recognized expertise
I became increasingly aware that security came not from having a job, but from having a skill that was recognized in the marketplace.
The evidence came gradually – my former boss Rob lost his job about four years after he decided I wouldn’t be a Golder employee any longer. More members of the marketing team were also pushed out, including the most senior and experienced leaders.
I came to see that the supposed security coming from a full-time position was illusory. The “security” of employees is based on the decisions of other people – including mistakes that might cost many employees their jobs.
Getting known for expertise is key
However, having expertise can mean that you just sit at home, drinking coffee and watching daytime TV a lot (as far as it concerns, none of that is too much). If potential clients for your expertise don’t know about you, you’ll not get a chance to show them what you can do, build your skills, or … earn any money. You need to:
- Get known to potential clients
- Inform them what you can offer them
- Convince them that they’ll miss out if they don’t hire you right away
I’ve met many independent professionals who haven’t made this jump. It means that they earn far less than they could, and some end up taking a survival job (hello, Wal-Mart!) just to pay the rent or mortgage. It also means that the rest of the world misses out on what they have to offer.
Helping build your own enduring security
That’s what the Thought Leadership Institute is all about. It’s supporting people who have significant expertise, and want to do better by helping potential clients see, what they have to offer. The “you” I have in mind here is an independent business professional, but these ideas also work for any business consultant, including those in a larger firm, and who want to be recognized for their expertise.
The information is based on my own experience in building a successful consulting practice, Global Reach Communications Inc. My firm helps business professional companies show the expertise of their senior experts. Many of the techniques I developed for that reason, I’m willing to share as part of the Thought Leadership Institute.
I hope you’re able to use the ideas here, to become significantly more successful in your career as an independent business professional.
If you haven’t yet done so, get registered to receive regular short, actionable mailings on how to build your professional profile. I promise (!!!) that I won’t share your address with anyone, so you won’t get spammed with offers that you don’t want.