I am currently in the process of re-evaluating my career objectives.
For the last five years, I’ve been on my own, working as an independent consultant holding various responsibilities related to Marketing, Communications, PR and Management with several different companies.
This is my second five-year stint as an independent contractor (in between I was employed, full-time permanent status, for a position I had been filling on an interim status as a consultant). With the end of this five-year period, though, I’ve come to realize, that five years is my limit for self-employment.
Don’t get me wrong – consulting has been great.
Consulting, overall, has been a great experience.
It has allowed me significant flexibility, control over my work schedule and a high quality of work-life balance.
As a consultant, I was able to establish and enjoy a firm work life – personal life separation to a greater extent that I had ever been able to do as a traditional employee. When I left work, I could successful switch off until I returned.
Contract work has provided extremely varied work environments and experience in several different industries and even sectors. I’ve had the opportunity to work for a not-for-profit organization, a couple of start-ups, as well as multi-national and blue chip companies.
I have worked on diverse and challenging projects, usually with limited resources and unlimited scope, which has honed my entrepreneurial skills and expanded my tolerance of risk.
I have met countless people and had the opportunity to interact with them in several different capacities providing me the opportunity to grow, learn and build a phenomenal network of knowledgeable contacts.
I have also valued being appreciated for my contribution, rather than any perceived seniority, rank or position.
Working as a consultant has made my ego very manageable – titles become less important, as does hierarchy when you don’t have a formal role. As a consultant you basically do whatever you’re asked to do, roll up the sleeves, lend a hand, whatever is needed.
Being outside established organizational bounds has usually provided me perspective and distance, which permitted minimal involvement in office politics. As a result, I could maintain objectivity about circumstances and situations which might normally have caused emotional reactions. It’s not that I didn’t care, but that this distance could allow me to be more phlegmatic about issues. (Although this also may be partly attributed to maturity.)
My experience has also been that there is more obvious gratitude for work, that my efforts are less taken for granted. Or maybe, when one signs off on a check every week, there is a closer relationship between deliverables and compensation.
My challenges with independent work include:
Over the two, five-year periods where I was self-employed, contractual and consulting, however, there were some challenges which, have lead me to understand my preference is for full-time permanent employment.
While working without a net can be exhilarating, I prefer the support, processes and infrastructure, which, once understood, are a reliable and consistent means of getting things done.
I benefit from having a routine. I am extremely disciplined, but that discipline thrives on having a defined structure. Relying on myself to provide both is, over time, a huge drain.
At some point in the five year stretch, I come to resent having to spend time on building/maintaining the business and all the administrative tasks required to run one’s own shop: billing, expense tracking, taxes and reporting. On top of the hours devoted to the assignment, the added layer of admin lead me to question the value for the return.
I believe that consulting can disadvantage one’s c.v. Accomplishments may be harder to quantify, or not be as impressive as when support, structure and direct responsibility are in place. And, the multiple placements associated with consulting can be interpreted as lack of continuity and stability.
I am grateful for what working as a consultant has taught me about myself.
I have learned that while I am a talented marketer and Coms person, marketing myself is not one of my strengths. Promoting myself doesn’t come naturally, and it’s important not to miss out on any chance to make people aware of you, when you’re self-employed.
Time and time again, I have become so focused on the work/project I am involved in, that I neglect business development and networking. I see the value, understand it’s a necessity, but dislike doing it, so it falls down on the list of things to do.
I am not an entrepreneur. I am comfortable in an entrepreneurial environment or organization, but I do not want the ultimate responsibilities of human resources, the livelihood of staff, stakeholders, the financial burden of having one’s own company. I want to share the load.
I’ve learned to be quietly confident. To speak when I have something to contribute, and to hold my silence when I don’t, rather than finding something to say, just to have something to say. I offer help when needed, and am always grateful for any help given to me.
Specify what you want to the Universe
I have a friend who believes that, in order to get what you want in life, you must tell the universe in very specific detail.
It’s very interesting that since clarifying my thoughts on this matter and committing them to “paper” as a draft for this post, I have been rehired by a company I wish to work for full-time.
Here’s keeping fingers crossed.