Many executives have been taught that starting a business carried more risk than working in a corporate job or professional service.
In today’s world of work, you can’t assume that any job comes without risk. Your ability to remain in a job may be due to factors beyond your control: your company’s success, a new management direction, technology that alters your contribution, a regulatory change or a change in company ownership.
You can change, too. If you wake up one day and realize, “I’ve changed. I no longer want to do this job I’ve done for the last 20 years,” you’re far from alone.
You could also have changes in your personal life. I once met a former Microsoft executive, now turned real estate developer. What changed? He got a dog. (I couldn’t make this up. You meet all kinds of people in a dog park.)
One of the best ways to deal with uncertainty is, ironically, to build your entrepreneurial skills and mindset. I’d never encourage anyone to quit a job to start a business. And if you’re between jobs, I’d never tell you to stop looking for a job and start a business, unless you have an incredibly large nest egg or you’re in a position to retire without working.
But these days everyone needs to consider the possibility of self-employment. It’s the best way – sometimes the only way – to deal with age discrimination. it’s like career insurance: you’re able to take more risks and come across more confidently if you’ve got something going on the side.
You can begin by taking courses, live or online, on entrepreneurship. In the US many branches of the Small Business Administration offer complimentary talks and even consulting. You can sign up for mentoring, coaching or consulting; the price tag will be higher, but you will get more personalized attention.
Don’t commit to a long-term and/or high-end program in the earliest stages of exploration. You’ll be making too many changes.
Even with world-class advice, ultimately you have to be motivated and action-oriented. It’s up to you to come up with a business idea that will be attractive to a hungry market, and often you have to try a few things to get the right “hit.”
If you’re interested in working online, a good way to start is to work as a Virtual Assistant. Don’t be mislead by the title: some people promote themselves with titles like “Business Concierge” or “Virtual Project Manager.” You work with someone who’s already successful enough to pay you to carry out tasks they don’t have time to do.
Your range of opportunities is nearly unlimited. Some VA’s do nothing but schedule and follow up on appointments. Some maintain websites. Some handle software, such as setting up ebooks for Kindle, membership sites or video editing.
Many VA’s have gone on to develop their own businesses where they hire their own VAs. Some expand their business to become business managers, charging significant rates.
As a side benefit, you get to learn from people you work with. You’ll see how they prioritize, decide, choose and act. You’ll learn software on someone else’s dime.
Of course, this option isn’t for everyone. Some people want to dive in as coaches, consultants, techies or bloggers. Some prefer to work in the real world, not online.
Regardless, start thinking about how you can build a business while you’re working.
I just came across a video by a VA who started her business while working and raising a young family. If you’re mid-career, your family might be less of a consideration and you’ll have more experience, but you might also need (or want) to replace more income.
You can view the video here. I don’t get anything from this video -it’s just a good resource.
And of course if you’d like a consultation to plan your own career moves, click here.