While I’m a big fan of starting something on the side, while keeping your day job (see Part 1 of this series), it’s a time-consuming strategy and not suitable for everyone. Another strategy is to switch day jobs to where you can maintain some aspects of the day job you like but also move closer to your ideal career/ business idea (thus trying you’re your idea without starting a new business outright).
Tony asks: I am considering leaving my career that I have been doing for the past 15 years and starting a coaching business. Should I get a job related to consulting and training first?
If Tony were to migrate to a training job first and then start a coaching business, it makes the leap from day job to a full-fledged business a two-step process. Instead of quitting your job for a business, you first migrate the job closer to your business interest and then you start the business presumably once you have some credibility and contacts in the new area. This may seem like a compromise move or a less risky step, but there are still some major considerations:
You will need to launch this job search around your current day job, so it is very similar to starting a side business while balancing a job. In this competitive market, the branding and networking required to land a good job is similar to the activity you need to expend to start a business.
Your job search will have a heavy sales component because you will not be doing exactly what you did before. You are a career changer who will have to convince the marketplace (of prospective employers) to buy your services (hire you) amidst alternative offerings (from candidates who have already done the job).
There is risk in making a career change if you decide to go back to your first job. Yes, going from entrepreneur to employee is a big return trip if you start a business and decide you want to go back to your day job. But, making a career change and then going back is also tough. There is still a risk that your skills, experience, expertise and contacts will migrate enough when you change jobs that re-entry to your former position is not guaranteed.
There are good reasons to change jobs in preparation for a move to entrepreneurship. It does enable you to develop your skills, backed by the resources of an established company. It enables you to have a ready network of contacts that could be helpful to your business later on. It does keep one anchor constant (you are still an employee) while you shift other things (your industry or functional focus). But if you are relying on a job change to be easier or less risky than starting a business, that’s not true and not a good enough reason to go this route.
This post also appeared at my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:
The beginning of November marks the beginning of shopping, parties, and family get-togethers. I also recommend we mark the beginning of November as the kick-off of next year’s goals. That’s right: outline your 2011 resolutions and start working on them in November. This is not to add more pressure, responsibility, or expectation to what can already be a stressful season. Rather, beginning your goals now will contribute hope, empowerment, and anticipation to what should be a joyful time of year.
By outlining your 2011 goals in November 2010 you can piggyback off of holiday inspiration. During Thanksgiving, we are reminded to be grateful. During the winter holidays, we are reminded to be giving. We are surrounded by family and friends, and the giving and the gratitude remind us of the true meaning of our lives. Even at our jobs, we are working on year-end summaries and reminded of what contributions have impact. This time of reflection is a great time for reflecting on what we’d like our next year to be.
By starting your 2011 goals in November 2010 you have two extra months to start new habits. In January, you’ll be too exhausted by the festivities that just passed to start something new. Instead, use the adrenaline kicked up from holiday shopping to kick off now. Start that exercise routine with extra laps around the mall. Start that balanced budget with a sensible gift-buying strategy. By January, you’ll already be established in a routine.
In this season of giving, we also have to give to ourselves. Making time for our goals now is one way to carve out that personal time. Making time for our goals now (rather than the revered January start) also reminds us that our goals are within our grasp today. Change can start right now.
Last week, I talked about managing your time and energy when balancing a job and a side business. This week, I cover another frequent question (and pitfall) I hear: the struggle with perfectionism and an inability to move forward.
Darlene: I have done months of background work on writing and setting up my own blog. What I am stuck on is finding a “provider” that I can work with that provides the templates that I like and who does all the behind the scenes work. There is literally soooooo much information out there that I am getting confused and not moving ahead. Suggestions?
Darlene’s question seems specific in its details but it is universal. It is less about what specific technology solution she needs and more about how she can move forward.
When you are starting a business, it will seem like there is an endless amount to do. You will also hear a lot of advice. In fact, you can spend all of your time just reading business how-to literature. But at the end of the day, you know your business is moving forward when you have customers.
In Darlene’s case, the real question is: Do you need the blog to get customers? She might be better served focusing on something else, and therefore tabling this technology question for later. If she is determined to blog, then the question is: What blog is good enough?
For the early part of your business, it’s more important to focus on what directly generates business, and then getting something out there that’s good enough to test that. Stop waiting for perfection. You will always have to tweak and refine, so why not let the real market give you feedback rather than guessing on your own.
With a side business, you have even more limited time because of your day job, so you have to be choosy and quick. Focus on revenues and customers. Try different things and cherish your mistakes because they can point you to better directions.
The benefit of good-enough choices also applies to your day job. If your day job is the means to cash flow for your business, then the advantage of being able to stop at good enough is very clear: you save your energy for your side business, but you still do enough on the job to maintain it. If your day job is more than just cash (i.e., you like it and want to have a career here) then going above and beyond in terms of work performance is recommended.
Don’t wait for the perfect strategy for what to do next: the perfect idea for your exact long-term role, the perfect time to network, the perfect moment to ask for a raise. There is no perfection, and the benefit of movement almost always outweighs the benefit of waiting for the better time.
When you have a job and a side business, you are incredibly short on time. You don’t want to get bogged down in endless detail before asking yourself if whatever is holding your attention hostage is actually worth your precious time. Even if it is, you don’t want to overwork your activities and move too slowly forward in the process. As noted choreographer Martha Graham says, “Nothing is more revealing than movement.”
This post also appeared at my new Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:
I often coach on the topic of career change, including the option of starting a side business or project while maintaining your current job. This is a strategy I advocate whenever possible because it lowers the financial risk (you have money coming in from your day job), emotional risk (you try out your idea and/or interest before making too drastic a change) and transition risk (you have time to build experience and skills before migrating 100% to your side pursuit).
This strategy is not just for aspiring entrepreneurs but also for people looking for traditional employment. You can consider your job search or career change as your “side business.”
People like the benefits of this strategy but have problems with execution. So this post is the first of three to answer the most popular questions I get around balancing a job and a side business.
Lisa asks: How should I balance my time and energy so neither is neglected? Should I very slowly take on one client at a time?
I recommend a clear timeline for how long you plan to juggle the two and decide what success markers you want to see along the way to ensure you are on the right track. If you take on new business very slowly, this enables you to get used to the balance, but it isn’t an accurate portrait of your actual new business.
In addition, it is hard to ensure such measured growth. Businesses launch in fits and starts. You don’t always know what works, much less how to control your marketing so you only get as much business as you can handle. You might find that your efforts to grow a small business are not what you need for the actual business you want. So your experiment doesn’t get to the heart of what you’re trying to do.
Another option is to go full out on the side business right away but for a set period (say six months) and then review at that point whether to continue as is, dial down, ramp up or quit one or the other. Yes, you will be busier but for a shorter time period. You can freely explore the business, see what works and what doesn’t, and get a feel for what you enjoy or not. This option may not be feasible if your day job has unpredictable hours or long hours. If you find the prospect of going full out on both the job and the business too daunting that you never get started, then forget this suggestion and go for slow growth.
You also need to decide your objectives for your current job. Do you want to just get by, or are you going for a promotion? Is there restructuring or other changes afoot where you have to pay closer attention? The job/ side business juggle isn’t only for people who hate their job. Maybe you like your job enough but want an extra and/or different stream of income. If you like your job, you need to be clear about your goals there as well, not just for the new business.
Depending on what you decide to do with your business and with your job, the time and energy requirements are different. The slow growth side business takes less time than the full out side business, but in both cases you still need to carve out time. This means that something else has to go: you might use vacation days, you might reserve specific evenings and weekend hours, and you might have to inform family and friends that you will not be around as much. When you have to do things during normal business hours, carve out lunch and breaks to do this. Do not do your current job on autopilot and work through these break periods!
With energy, pay attention to when you do your best work. If you know that you are just too unfocused after a full day of work, then you have to get up early for your side business. Or you have to clear your weekends for it. Joining an entrepreneurs group or other support group of like-minded people is one way of keeping your energy and focus high.
For your day job, keep in mind that managing your career overall is separate from what you day-to-day. So you need to reserve time and energy to prepare for performance reviews, read up on industry news, network with colleagues in and out of your company and other professional development activities. If you are not committed to your day job, these are activities that you can switch out for your new business activities. But if you like your day job, these activities are in addition to what you do everyday.
This post also appeared on my new blog for Forbes.com Work In Progress:
Here is my Oct. 6 interview with Leon VanderPol about extreme career change on the International Coach Academy International Speaker Series:
If you missed my guest radio spot on Transformation Talk Radio, you can still hear me and Dr. Jeffrey Hull talking about “The Recession is OVER! Now is the time to JUMP START your career!”
October is Halloween time with spooky costumes, ghosts and witches, and other fearsome things. Career management may instill just as much fear. And like Halloween, where braving your fear and getting out there means you end up with a bag full of treats, so does the proactive career manager benefit when you respond productively to career fears:
Fear of downsizing? Then, find out from your manager how you’re doing. Find out from your department head how your area is doing. Read your company newsletters, annual report and trade magazines to find out how your company and industry are doing.
Fear of being stuck? Then, look at where you add value and make sure your manager knows about it. Sign up for training classes in areas where you’re weak. Sign up for projects in areas where you excel. Book breakfast, lunch or drinks at least once a week with a different person each week to ensure that you maintain your network.
Fear of living hand-to-mouth? Then, focus on getting ahead financially. Save something regularly, even if it’s your spare change that you then deposit at the bank. Sign up for your company’s 401K plan or boost your current contribution. Read a personal finance book or Money magazine or a biography of a person who seems to you to have it all.
No one comes to your house to drop off Halloween candy. No one is going to manage your career. The best way to conquer your career fears is by doing something. In the words of Paul Valery: The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.
There is a lot of anxiety on how to make a job the job of your dreams. Entry-level workers want to find the career of their dreams. Experienced professionals want to transition to the career of their dreams. Everyone’s asking: how do I fuel my passion AND get paid for it.
While that is truly the ideal – to earn a living while enriching your life — I think people put too much pressure on themselves to find this ultimate job. People seem to think that every job should, not only sustain their financial and physical needs, but also simultaneously sustain their spiritual, mental, and emotional needs as well.
If you find yourself in a job that doesn’t fuel your passion, that is definitely a sign to consider alternatives. But, don’t beat yourself over the head if you’re just working hard, earning your keep, but still not finding nirvana. Earning a living and actually living can be separate pursuits and should be separate depending on the circumstances. In this chaotic labor market, it is difficult to maintain a current job, much less initiate a career transition. If you have a creative dream (e.g., acting), it might not always be possible to rely on earnings from your art to get the bills paid.
This isn’t to say that you don’t pursue your passions. You just don’t have to do that in the context of every paying job or at least your job right now. This ultimate job is your long-term, not necessarily immediate goal. First, try living outside of how you earn a living. Take a class in something interesting but unrelated to your career. Make seeing your friends a priority. Spend time with yourself – to catch a game, to visit a museum. Once you get going on this small scale, you will be renewed, and it will have an impact on your life and career. These small actions might encourage you to make bigger changes, even a career change. Or, you might realize that the way you earn a living is just fine, and you can just continue living outside of your job.
Most everyone knows (or should know) that networking is THE key to getting a job. Here is a review of the basics:
Try networking everyday. Make small talk with people on the elevator.
Practice OUT LOUD the three critical pieces of your networking introduction: your name; your bio; your goals.
Go from low- to high-risk networking targets. Start talking with people you know, then referrals, and then work your way up to cold calls.
Be creative. Contact industry associations, editors of relevant trade journals, and names you see in relevant articles or conferences.
Remember to GIVE and take. Think about interesting and useful information to give back to your networking contacts. Recommend articles you’ve read. Refer people.
Continue networking even when you do find a job. The best time to network is when you don’t need anything. If you continually make contacts and build relationships, you’ll develop extraordinary people skills, make new friends, and be well-positioned in any market.
Two new events have been confirmed just in time for the busy fall season:
Sept. 28, 12p-1p ET, Beyond Balance: Integrating Personal and Professional Goals, an 85 Broads Jam Session
Presenter: Caroline Ceniza-Levine
This is a virtual workshop. There is no cost to attend, but seats are estremely limited and are for 85 Broads subscribers only.
Oct. 6, 9a-10a ET, Extreme Career Make Over!, an International Coach Academy teleseminar
Thinking of making the leap to a whole new way of working? Considering starting a small business while still working 9-5? Leon VanderPol of the International Coach Academy interviews Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart, on techniques for making extreme career transitions and how to triumph over the fears and barriers that keep us from moving to live our greatest dreams.
Presenter: Caroline Ceniza-Levine
This is a virtual workshop. There is no cost to attend. http://www.icoachacademy.com/en/ts/caroline-ceniza-levine