October 01, 2014
This post is part of the Professional Independence Project series. As an independent management consultant, I'm what some people call a solopreneur. Many days, my associates are Me, Myself, and I. Thankfully, I’m in good company. The U.S. Census Bureau recently counted 22 million other “non-employer” businesses (read: freelancers, solopreneurs, and self-employed). Related: Act Like A Business Owner To Advance Your Career That’s a big number, and it may seem like everyone wants to be their own boss. Is that the right move for you? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you one thing:
You’re Already In ChargeA career is not a non-stop flight to success with an unknown pilot charting the course. It’s much more like a cross-country road trip with lots of stops and detours. The best way to see everything you want along the way is to hop in the driver’s seat and map your own route. Chances are good that you’ll hold more than 15 or even 20 jobs in your lifetime, so seeing yourself as chief executive of a company-of-one is critical. As the boss of you, finding satisfaction and fulfillment in your entrepreneurial life adventure depends entirely on two things:
- Your ability to determine what you want.
- Your tenacity in pursuing it.
Don’t Wait For FateAs much as I enjoy being self-employed, I was actually a solopreneur long before I struck out on my own. My journey to the top of Me, Inc. began with strategic career moves while working for employers ranging from early stage startups to enterprises as big as UPS. With thousands of co-workers, I didn’t consider myself an independent entrepreneur at the time. My bosses told me what to do, set my schedule, approved my expenses and decided whether I’d get a promotion or not. Like many of you, I was fulfilling someone else’s vision. I also had my own game plan. Instead of waiting for fate, I decided what I wanted and made it happen. When opportunity peeked around the corner, I pounced on it like a cat on a mouse. Of course, things didn’t always work out and the setbacks were hard. (After all, who can survive a layoff without feeling at least a little bruised?) Instead of giving up, I adjusted my course, worked around obstacles, found alternative solutions and tried new things.
Create Your Own FutureThe CEO of your career is a job that belongs to you alone. No one looks out for your interests like you can. If you’re in a habit of relying on people like your boss, family members or a mentor for direction, keep in mind that no matter how much they care about you, they can't see what's inside your heart. Your secret ambitions, personal hopes and dreams and even fears about success or failure are things only you can manage. The best strategy to get what you want is a proactive approach. Managing your career like a business means setting clear goals, being realistic about what you can achieve, and holding yourself accountable for the results. Take charge by assessing where you are, then plan a few steps ahead:
- Are you happy right now? If not, can you change the scope of your current job to be a better fit, or do you need to a make a move?
- If you’re in transition, will you take a job just to pay the bills, or be more strategic about finding the ideal fit?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years? If you’re not already on track to get there, what do you need to do now to get ready? Is there education or experience you need to add to your resume?
- What will your legacy be? Envisioning how you’ll be remembered is an eye-opening exercise I do with CEOs on a regular basis. Are your current actions are in line with your aspirations?
Think Like The BossCEOs set the strategy of a company, but they don’t do every job. They use delegation, partnerships and trusted advisors to bring their plan to life. As the boss of your company-of-one, you have plenty of resources at your disposal. Use them wisely:
- Take advantage of tools your company or community offers to learn new skills, invest for the future and grow as a leader.
- Find an accountability partner, peer group or a coach who forces you to stretch.
- Create a support team to give you tough love and honest advice when you need it.