Following my last blog ‘Pursuing my idea of freedom‘, I said that I would a few follow up posts on the different things I did to prepare for self-employment. So in this post, I’ll talk about what I did both professionally and personally to get ready for the change.
The biggest thing that always terrified me about going out on my own as an HR Consultant was the fear of not knowing enough or having enough experience to back up the work I would be proposing to do or that I would even get any work! It was classic imposter syndrome that kept creeping up and I couldn’t figure out a way to silence it! When I was working in the HR Consultancy, I had the back up of a wider team around me that I could tap into and rely on if needed, I wasn’t completely out on my own. In most cases that was excellent, however, in other cases, you can find yourself relying too heavily on others when you know they are there.
So, here the biggest things I did that were the most important and practical for me.
Getting the right experience
My experience up to my redundancy was already quite varied. I had experience in three different public sector organisations (now that’s an experience) and then had some exposure in the private sector and working with smaller businesses. So I knew I was covered enough in the public sector, so it was time to get more private sector exposure.
When I started job hunting after the redundancy, I was very clear about what I wanted in my next role. I listed it out and also noted why it was important for me to get that specific experience:
- Private sector organisation – small to medium size
- Senior HR position – needed a step up in challenge and responsibility
- Have a team so I could still learn from them, but the role needed autonomy as well
Once I was clear about that criteria, two positions became available that would have fit the criteria. One fit more than the other and so it was a clear decision which one was the right one for me. It was a fixed-term contract which was even more perfect as it had an end date for me to travel some more and then come back to start the self-employment life.
Over the year I was there I worked as a Senior HR Advisor and had a fantastic HR Advisor alongside me who I was able to guide and coach in her role as well. It was exactly the opportunity I was looking for to develop my skills further, particularly in working with Senior Executives with no HR Manager present, coach and manage an HR Advisor and increase my exposure working for a multi-national business (NZ, Austraila, and the USA) and they had 360 employees.
It’s really key to look at the experience you have to date and see if there’s any gaps you might like to fill, i.e. if you’ve only ever worked in one industry, it might be worth getting different industry exposure to broaden your skillset. If you’re in an advising, coaching or mentoring role – having a diverse background in different organisations and industries is a huge advantage as you’ll likely have had to adapt how you work and how you use your skills. Which is really key when you’re going to work with different clients.
Adjusting my mindset
My mindset needed a lot of work, fear loves to hang around, doesn’t it? Loves to just be there and kick you at the knees when you’re about to jump into something new! I’ve had a mentor for about 6 years now, he’s more a best friend now than anything else (hi Richard :D), but he helped me work through my mindset a lot. All throughout my career, my work was great, I did a good job because it was important to me to excel in any role I had, but for some reason, I always thought I’d be caught out, that I would be found out that I don’t have what it takes. Imposter Syndrome. It’s crippling and it will likely affect every person at some point, whether personally or professionally.
Richard gave me the book ‘Imposter Syndrome’ by Dr. Harold Hillman, which is a fantastic book and a must read! He explains imposter syndrome simply and gives you practical exercises to work through it. It doesn’t necessarily cure it for you, but it does give you give the right prompts to become more aware of how it plays out in your life. It prompts awareness which can then instigate changing the thoughts associated with it.
Through reading, researching and continued professional development I’ve also found helped my mindset a lot over the last few years. Keeping up to date with what’s happening in the profession is a great way to upskill yourself and boost your confidence by having more information to rely on when needed.
Make an effort to take note of the thoughts you have around a career change or becoming self-employment. What do you focus on? Fear? Excitement? Once you know what your thought patterns are, you’ll be able to identify how best to work through them and change them (e.g. meditation, expressive writing, etc).
Having a Mentor or Coach
I can’t recommend getting a mentor or coach enough! It is so beneficial having someone objective to talk to and bounce ideas off when you need it. They also play a role in pushing you to figure things out for yourself and don’t default to just giving you the answers you want.
Richard knew what my career goals were, they changed over time but he always knew what the overall vision was, so that when it came time for me to make a decision on a career move he could be as objective as possible and ask me the right questions in order for me to make the best decision for myself.
A mentor would likely be someone who works in your profession, they are more likely to give you guidance on things directly related to what you do. A coach can be someone completely outside of what you do (like a life coach or career coach), which brings a different dynamic of questioning and prompting to get you to the end goal.
Take some time to figure out what guidance you’re looking for and how someone more experience could help you. Ask yourself whether you want a mentor from your industry that you can bounce ideas around with, or do you want a life coach who will hold you accountable against goals you want to achieve.
Networking, networking, networking!
Yup, networking. It’s all about who you know. The last four roles I’ve worked in has come about because of who I knew, it was my foot in the door. Over the last six years, I’ve built a presence on Twitter and blogging (when I use to blog about HR) which helped me a lot with getting opportunities that were right for me. I am also quite vocal about what I want and where I want to go (Richard would laugh at that), so people tend to think of me when something comes up “Tash might be interested in that”, “oh Tash mentioned something about that before”.
I mean, don’t annoy people, but build good relationships and give out help often and it will always be returned to you (but don’t only give with the expectation of return, just give because you’re a nice person).
Check out Meetup.com, there are so many meetups on there for every single profession and industry I’m sure that you will find like-minded people to connect with. Participate and mingle so you become known and people may start recommending you. If you’re in HR, make sure you check out the Auckland HR Meetup 😀
My first three clients were all word of mouth recommendations from people I knew. 😉
You can take networking to the next level by speaking at an event or founding/co-founding your own!!
So, there you go! A few of my biggest tips to get ready for self-employment. If you’re right at the start of your journey or you’re in that annoying place where you’re not quite sure what you actually want to do with your life (can I get an amen!), I highly recommend the book “How to Find Fulfilling Work” by Roman Krznaric.
It is an excellent book on different pathways you can take to find out what you might want to do next. You can either quit your job or take a career break and jump in head first, you can go part-time and explore different options or you can do research by learning from others in careers/industries you find interesting. He also gives great advice on how to overcome the fear of change, which is the BIGGEST barrier to most people going out on their own and one I’m still overcoming!
I hope these tips have been helpful, if you’re self-employed and have different tips, please share them! We can all learn from each other!
– TashTastic –