I had a cup of coffee with a good friend last week. She wanted to know how to make a smooth transition from a corporate professional (aka corporate junkie) to an independent consultant.
She is in her 40’s. Making a gigantic career shift in your 40’s is different than in your 20’s and 30’s. When we are younger, we tend to be more receptive to change and are not quite as settled in a specific location or comfortable lifestyle. In order to make changes in her 40’s, she will need to focus on three aspects of her life.
Be Financially Smart
Before going off to work for yourself, the first step is to talk to your spouse, then your CPA and/or financial advisor. If you have a spouse, his or her support is a must! Then, go through your finances and analyze your monthly cash outflow, especially if you have a family to look after. If possible, make sure that you have enough savings to last for 12-18 months without income. You will stress out less if you can proactively manage your finances. If you have enough equity in your house, you can get a line of credit. Occasionally, you might need to tap a line of credit to float your cash while waiting for vendors to pay you.
The first thing I did after incorporating my business was to source a SaaS-based accounting software to track and manage my cash flow and expenses. I use Xero but there are other wonderful accounting tools out there. Monitor your cash flow like a hawk! Be wise how you spend your money, but don’t penny-pinch.
Be Mentally Tough
I told my friend that she needs to prepare herself mentally if she decides to strike on her own. There is no established team to help you out. Be prepared to wear multiple hats for a long time. You are your own admin, IT, sales, marketing and accounting departments. It will take a while to build a support network. Be prepared to make a lot of mistakes. Be prepared to experience a lot of rejection while you make sales pitches. Be prepared to fail and make an effort to learn from it.
It’s like getting ready for a marathon. Before running a marathon, people prepare themselves mentally and physically for the 26.2 miles. A ‘Can Do’ attitude is essential. Making a change after 20 years of a stable job requires you to think and act differently. You need to think on your feet and be nimble. Although the knowledge you acquired is what differentiates you, you still need to acquire new skills (e.g. using WordPress to launch your website, deploying marketing automation and lead gen tools etc.). Be mentally prepared to learn something every day. Be mentally prepared to embrace failure every day.
Embrace Emotional Vulnerability
I love Brene Brown’s TED talk, the Power of Vulnerability. She talks about having the courage to be imperfect and to be vulnerable. Dealing with failure and rejection can be emotionally draining when you make a career change in your 40’s, especially if you have been successful in the corporate world for many years. I told my friend that she will go through an emotional spectrum like a roller coaster ride. When you win a major deal, you are super high. When you can’t close any deals for months and have no income, you will feel like you are at the bottom of the abyss and the misery never ends.
Don’t let the sense of failure and rejection eat you alive. Be open to talking about your frustration and feelings with close friends, mentors and family members. Let your vulnerability be seen! Acknowledge it and work through it. Going through highs and lows is a norm if you work for yourself.
After listening to my affirmation, she took a deep breath and told me that she has a lot to think about. She will start having conversations with her husband, her CPA and financial advisor. That’s a great first step!
Here is the truth: there is no such thing as a smooth transition. Every transition in our lives is rough and bumpy. You learn to deal with what comes at you. At the end of the day, if you are still standing and breathing, you are OK. Good luck, my dear friend. You will find your way!