Today’s Wall Street Journal features a story about ex-convicts who started their own business. A classic example would be a former computer hacker who now consults on security. You can read the story here.
This story isn’t new. Frank Abegnale, hero of the book and movie Catch Me If You Can, became a security consultant. He claims he’d have headed back to a life of crime if he hadn’t been able to start his own company. Nobody would hire him, even to run a movie projector in a dark room of a theater.
But convicted felons aren’t the only people who have trouble getting jobs. If you’re over 50, not especially attracdtive (or even unattractive), experiencing a visible disability, have an odd work schedule or just don’t fit the mold, you might be unemployed for a long time.
I know: career advisors aren’t supposed to say this. We’re supposed to offer you cheery, upbeat advice on how anybody can do what they want if they just put their minds to ti.
The truth is, you need to start developing your entrepreneurial chops as early in life as possible. Create a business – even a micro-business – where you have to come up with a service or product that people want. Figure out how to get them to buy it. Learn how to anticipate their needs and how to deal with clients and customers.
My dog walker had been a school teacher for many years. When she started earning money as a dog walker she opened a business and walked out of the classroom for the last time.
Her horrified parents said, “But we spent all this money on your education!”
She replied, “I couldn’t pay my bills as a teacher. I can make more as a dog walker.”
Of course she’s more than dog walker. She asks, “How can I make even more money?” So she subcontracts to others who walk dogs and check on cats whose owners are out of town.
My dog walker in Seattle came up with a different solution. She created dog adventuers: she bundles up 6 dogs in her large car and takes them to a secure dog park. She charged just $25 per dog per visit and she made more than if she’d walked each dog individually for an hour. She still had time to offer shorter walks and look in on cats in the evenings.
That’s the kind of spirit you need to cultivate. These dog walkers will be bringing in a comfortable income while their friends in more traditional office jobs are terrified of layoffs or worse.
When I work with clients in Career Strategy Sessions, we often identify ways to get started. During those sessions, after I understand my clients’ needs, I can recommend additional cost-effective resources.