A few of years ago after leaving the corporate sector to pursue a new phase in my life as an independent consultant, I invested in a year-long program with a business coach. Over that year, I blogged about what I was learning and applying to switch my mindset from “employee” to “self-employed consultant.
At the time, I recall that one of the modules I found most informative was the Sales and Marketing module because I had to put away my own disdain for this, overcome my fear of it and instead approach it with a practical and pragmatic approach because I wasn’t going to rely on a paycheck anymore. My wage was going to depend entirely on my own actions. This was a scary thought.
In one of the exercises, my coach asked me to come up with a list of services and products I offer and then determine how many I need to sell to achieve my preferred annual income. It was an eye-opening activity as I listed:
- The Name of the Service (eg Network Builder Coaching Program)
- The Cost ($1300)
- The Monthly Target to Sell (4)
- Monthly Total ($5200)
- Marketing Channels to sell this program
and then repeat this for every product and service I had until I reached the annual income I wanted to achieve. (It looked good on paper and easy to do, but don’t forget to factor in the amount of TIME that you invest in marketing in order to determine if it’s really a good return for you which then explains why you’d want to automate and streamline this process and provide repeatable non-changeable products and services). Too often people forget this aspect and when you do your sums, it ends up COSTING you more.
Unbeknownst at the time, this exercise was teaching me something else about how to view a “career” to an acknowledgement of understanding “income streams”.
Work Is Changing
Over the recent years, I’ve been seeing many changes in the workplace. As someone who has been through four major redundancies in her work life, gone through countless restructures where I’ve had to reapply for the role I was sitting in; submitted my resume for hundreds of jobs over my working years; gone on many job interviews and even been on unemployment benefits (the “dole”) for six months in the early 2000s after the dot-com crash, I believe I know the trials and tribulations of a worker nowadays. I’ve also had experience of working as a full-time employee, part-time employee, casual, contractor and now, consultant as well as had experience in private and public sectors. I’m also highly qualified with many certificates, diplomas, graduate degrees as well as an MBA.
I think I’m a pretty typical case nowadays especially for someone my age. Everything I mentioned above is certainly not out of the ordinary when it comes to the changes many people have been experiencing in their work lives.
I’ve been reading the work of Heather McGowan who talks about the Future of Work Being Learning and the importance of learning agility. You can see a couple of her videos on YouTube. However, she’s not the only one. A myriad of other consultants are also now talking about the Future of Work, Lifelong Learning, Work 3.0, LearningU and so much more. It’s the new fad that business is now focused on as they automate business processes that impact the roles that employees do with the realisation that they need to provide them with long-term “life skills” that would support the next phase of their life.
You can also see the increase in articles about the changing nature of Learning and Development as well to be able to support employees to not only perform the jobs they do but to also encourage them to be continually learning.
I believe that not only is there a need to teach people new skills such as lifelong learning – but skills in being able to generate income especially in periods of longer unemployment and uncertainty – and to use this time more effectively for their own development.
My Personal Situation
Recently, I held a Meetup Group at We Work for a group of five learning professionals. Four of the five were independent and one was employed. As we sat in one of the meeting rooms at WeWork, we discussed what work meant to us and how the nature of a career has changed. Much of what they shared was in line with conversations I’ve had with my peers, friends and ex-colleagues who understand that it’s harder to find work; it’s harder to stay in work, and it’s harder to enjoy work.
The majority of my peers are disengaged with their roles feeling that they are spending longer at work; their wages have stagnated over the years; they’ve not had a pay rise in years, and they feel that they’re “always on”. The delineation between life and work is blurred and while they appreciate the flexibility this affords, in some cases, it can be a distraction because their mental energies are still focussed on something else other than themselves or their family.
I had long since accepted the change of definition of a career some years ago when I saw that I couldn’t progress any higher in the corporate sector beyond a team member within a Learning and Development team.
Meanwhile, at the same time, as a Commader in the Navy Reserve during my evenings, weekends and 2 weeks per year on military duty, I was Assistant Director of the Navy Reserves Public Relations with a unit of 63 personnel and a team of 7 people who were responsible for recruitment, induction, training, pay and general administration to provide public relations and communications support on ADF missions in Australia and overseas.
My mind couldn’t wrap around the fact that there were two jobs I was doing at the same time that were as different as chalk and cheese.
Sometimes, my corporate performance review times were amusing especially when you were told that you “lacked leadership” or “lacked strategic vision and foresight” meanwhile my Navy performance reviews mentioned that my tendency to know the operational and technical details of the work itself was seen as a limitation. It was a no-win situation – and quite laughable at the time – but it did teach me a lesson that I had to take charge of my own career/life journey (I’m finding the word ‘career’ is the wrong word for me nowadays) – and not let other people define what it means for you.
So this week, during our discussion at the meetup group, the question was asked, “what kind of career do you want?” At the same time, Donald Taylor’s tweet “what is a career?” has been playing in my mind.
— Donald H Taylor (@DonaldHTaylor) May 3, 2018
For me, my focus has now changed to one where I look at ways to “generate an income” (because I still need to pay bills and survive) but do it in a way that I don’t have to sacrifice the time to do what I want and when I want.
In effect, I’ve been using the same process as I did for my coaching activity to look at different ways to make an income over the year. These could be through:
- Taking a short-term contract (weeks-months)
- Taking up temp or casual work
- Donations and crowdfunding
- Consulting services I sell
- Downloadable products and resources
- Selling stuff on eBay or Sunday trash and treasure markets
- Rent out one of the rooms in your house on Airbnb (husband put his foot down on that one)
So now, work for me is really a mish-mash of different activities that need to generate an income for me and which still leave me the time, space and the mental energy to devote to my peace of mind. The hardest thing? It’s fighting the perception of others where success may still be dependent on your employment status.
Maybe helping people to identify ways to generate incomes in different ways is also a new 21st-century skill that we need to help others? Also, to provide them with support that their peers and indeed, society, will not think of them less as a professional for doing this.
This blog post by Helen Blunden was written in Melbourne, Australia and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.