Dear J.T. & Dale: I was laid off from an engineering firm last November. I didn't see many opportunities to land a similar job, so I decided to start my own consulting business. So far, I've gotten only one assignment. How do I market my company? — Steven Dale: A lot of people reading your question probably are shaking their heads and thinking something like, "Try teleporting yourself into the year 2012." When everyone agrees that it's an awful time to start a business, then it's probably a good time ... at least, that's how you have to think. Sure, there are fewer projects, but companies have shrunk their staffs, so when they get some work, there's a good chance they're going to be missing some specific knowledge that you possess. J.T.: The key word being "specific." The natural thing to do is emphasize your broad experience; after all, you want to get any work you can. But that thinking leads everywhere and nowhere. Dale: That's because if you come across as a generalist, managers have lots of other, better options, including former employees or inexpensive rookies. J.T.: So you need to establish yourself as the "go-to guy" on some aspect of engineering, Steven. Then it's a matter of being a good entrepreneur. I've found business-opportunities.biz to be a good resource on running a business, and see if there's a SCORE chapter in your area (score.org) — if so, there are retired business owners who offer free advice and counseling. Dale: A lot of people looking for work, either as a job seeker or as a consultant, go around with a beggar's mentality — "Please give me work, I really, really need it." Needy doesn't sell. What sells is telling everyone, "When you need X, I can help." With that mind-set, you keep learning and growing, knowing you need to make yourself more valuable, while reinforcing a link in buyers' minds between your specialty and their needs. Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten's latest book is "(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success" (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
August 23, 2009