This post is part of the Professional Independence Project series. I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was over 25 years ago – March of 1988 to be exact. I got a call from a friend. We used to work together. Now, he and his wife were independent training and organization development clients – something I’d always said I wanted to do. My friend was working as a contractor for a large consulting firm. He said that they needed another consultant to help them on a big project and that he mention me to the project manager who thought I’d be a perfect fit. I was a little taken aback at first. I had a well-paying, although somewhat dissatisfying, job with a good company. I told him that I wasn’t sure if this was the right time for me to become an independent consultant. He said, “I thought I’d give you a call because you’ve always talked about leaving the corporate world and getting into business for yourself. Here’s a perfect opportunity, what are you waiting for?” Good question, what was I waiting for? For the past 15 years, I told myself and anyone who would listen that my dream job would be as an independent consultant and coach. Yet, I never seemed to really do anything about it. Here was an opportunity staring me in the face, and I was reluctant to pursue it. Why? I was scared. Leaving a well-paying job with a good company that had a pension program and a 401 K as well as great health benefits was a scary proposition. As I thought about my friend’s question, I realized that my fear was not a good enough reason for spending another 23 or 24 years working in a soul-sucking job just to get my 90 combination (a combination of age and years of service) that would make me eligible for a full pension. So, I spoke to the project manager. He asked if I could start on April 1. I said “yes.” I went to my boss and resigned, telling him I was leaving to start a consulting and coaching business. He told me that I was crazy. I said, “Maybe so, but at least I’ll be happy in my craziness.” That was over 26 years ago. I’m still in business for myself. I have lived the life I said I wanted when I was in my early 20’s. Every year on New Year’s Eve, I take a quiet moment for myself, raise a glass, and toast myself for making it through another year without a “real” job. The point to all this? Independence. I took my life and career into my own hands. I made a decision to follow a path that scared the hell out of me. It scared me so much that I worked harder than I had ever done to make sure I wouldn’t fail. You don’t have to take as drastic a step as I did to declare your independence. But if you want to create the truly successful career you deserve, you have to take charge of your life and career. You need to figure out…
- What you really want to do, and where you want to do it.
- The companies for whom you want to work. As in my case, this could mean working for yourself.
- How to network effectively, to find people in the companies in which you’re interested or who can help you as you set off on your entrepreneurial journey.