In 1991 – after 20+ years of Army service, engineering school, MBA, R&D, sales, and sales management – I decided to step out of corporate life and do my own thing.
I felt tired and cornered. Quietly suffocating while waiting for somebody to approve my next step up the ladder. More than anything, for better or worse, I wanted to take control of my own life. After a year of planning, dithering, and second-guessing, I jumped overboard. Things worked out.
I identified my #1 marketable talent (writing), graduated from Columbia’s Journalism School, and struck out on my own doing marketing communications, press releases, speeches, and B2B advertising for former customers in the electronics sector. In 2008, I added executive resumes to the mix.
During my final years in corporate America, I thought I hated sales. Wrong! Actually, all I wanted was to sell something of my own. I got my wish. Nowadays, I really do enjoy direct, face-to-face selling of my own services and information products. Maybe I enjoy it too much.
INAPPROPRIATE COLD-CALLING IN TRINITY CHURCH
Every year at Christmas – sometimes twice in Xmas season – I watch the live performance of Handel’s Messiah, the longest-running production of Messiah in the USA (since 1770).
The best seats are only $100 and many high-end financial types occupy them – a very high-end clientele corralled into a small area – a perfect selling opportunity.
On the subway, enroute to the performance, a random sales impulse came over me. Could I pitch a resume in Trinity Church without getting thrown out? Jesus himself had evicted sellers from the temple – the only time he ever got physical – a one-way ticket to hell, so at least I’d have minimal competition, right?
By the time I entered the church, I had a cold-call script running in the back of my head. I showed up a little early, found my seat way up front, and just sat there like the spider and the fly.
Four people showed up in my section. I started a little discussion with the person to my left, which led to my asking, “What kind of work do you do?”
“Investment banking,” then his question to me: “What kind of work do you do?”
“I package people like you for boards and high-end recruiters”
“Really? What do you mean, ‘package’”?
“Oh, bios, resumes, websites, social media, personal branding … a whole menu of things” He took my card – what else could he do – barely a two-minute exchange. During the intermission, I buttonholed two more likely prospects – just enough to see what’s possible.
I don’t hold my breath waiting for sales like these to close – but sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. When you are selling your own services, inappropriate cold calling is fun like sport fishing. Gets my adrenaline going!
HOW ABOUT YOU?
I like having something of my own to sell. I like making money directly for what I do, and I especially love the validation of referrals from happy clients. But striking out on your own is not a great idea for everybody – you can just imagine the downside.
As a career coach, I meet many people who remind me of myself in 1991. Rebellion is brewing inside them, but they have no idea what they really want. I know what they want. They secretly want freedom and no amount of job changing or resume tweaking can help them, for example:
- “I’m tired of working for big companies. I could make a much bigger impact at a small company.”
- “I thought I wanted to work for small companies and start-ups, but to make a big impact, I need the resources of a big company.”
Are you suffocating? Suppose you’re only mid 40s – way too young for retirement, but feeling the heat from youngish whiz-kid sadists who enjoy torturing you? Why not explore the possibilities of personal freedom?
Or maybe you want to cut loose and make lots more money – I’ve met many prospective clients who tell me that.
Especially, if you’re approaching “retirement” and you do NOT want to retire – it makes little sense to jump into another job search. Explore your options for self employment.
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE!
Imagine this: If you’re 60, you’ve got at least another 10+ years ahead of you – a very long time to be stewing in a work situation that you cannot stand.
So if you’re feeling “career claustrophobia,” I hope you decide to break free in 2015. Who knows? Within a year or two, we might pitching each other in Trinity Church.
Happy New Year, and I wish you the very best of good luck in your search!