My Declaration Of Professional Independence
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.
When you declare your professional independence and take charge of your life and career, you are choosing to stop being a victim. You stop whining and complaining. You begin taking personal responsibility for yourself, your life and your career. And let me tell you, this feels great.
I still have friends who stayed at the company I left. A couple of them have climbed the corporate ladder very successfully. One is on the Executive Committee – the top 20 people in a company of over 100,000 employees. He makes over $1 Million a year and has a bunch of stock options. He told me that his kids and their kids will never have to worry about money.
When I mentioned this to another friend of mine who also worked at that company before starting an advertising business, he said, “That’s great for him, but just think, he had to work there for 35 years.”
I thought about what my second friend said, and realized he was right. The big title, money, and stock options wouldn’t have been worth it for me. Pursuing my dream was. While I’m not as well-off financially as my friend who stayed with my former company, I am very comfortable. And, as Elvis and Frank Sinatra said, “I did it my way.”
That’s what you need to do, too. Figure out what your way is, declare professional independence, and go for it. You’ll be glad you did. Trust me on this one.
Want to take control of your career?
If you want to take control of your career, check out our fall series, the Professional Independence Project. Throughout the month of October, we will be sharing expert advice and insight on how you can build a successful career you love.
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