In 2007 I decided to make some changes. After realizing that many of my peers in academia were moving on to multiple positions at many schools or accepting positions in administration, I knew that it was time for me to make some changes as well. It may have had something to do with the new house my husband and I had purchased at what we *thought* was the low-end of the housing market drop, and the need to have a more sustainable, long-term income.
Freedom to Travel
After diversifying my employment options – moving into a lot of contracted positions for publishers, small businesses needing courses designed for clients, and schools needing one-time course design jobs completed – I realized that I liked the freedom from being dependent upon one employer. I liked the security in knowing that I had options. I LOVED the freedom I had to travel.
New Global Model?
This may be the new global model. Gone are the days of working for one employer for 40 years and getting the gold watch at retirement. Gone are the days of the pension. Gone are the days of the 9-5. One-off contracts are popular. Outsourcing is popular. Not only are these models more popular, they can often be more lucrative per hour for the contractee than the hourly rate for the employee.
But how to diversify? Aren’t we in an economic stagnation? Aren’t employers laying off employees? Yes and yes. Which is why it’s a good time for those who can reinvent themselves, for those who want to diversify their jobs over several employers, and for those who want to be virtual (aka “location independent”). Employers, too, are looking for flexible options. They don’t want to pay the 40-hour-per-week employee when they can get a contractor to do a job for a fixed time or on a part-time basis. For them it doesn’t make business sense.
Here is what I learned. Maybe it can help you, too:
Do a personal inventory. Retrain if needed.
What are your existing skills? What is in demand now? What can you learn how to do? Udemy offers classes you can take for free such as how to build your photography business with an effective website or paid classes ranging from programming for iOS app development to publishing on Kindle. (I’ve taken the publishing on Kindle class, and am using the advice as I set to launch my first ebook.)
Get all of your documents in order, on your desktop, ready to share.
Do you have an updated version of your resume or CV? Get it done. Don’t feel like doing it? You can outsource that job (yes, this post is going meta, I admit. But maybe that’s a skill you have that you could do for others?) to experts who have a track record of success in doing this. Get your transcripts ordered if applying for a position that needs to see them. Scan them. Get them ready to go. Get three or four letters of recommendation from those who can attest to the quality of your work. Scan them. Get them ready to go. Get samples of your work to share in a format that can be attached to an email.
Have all of these things at your fingertips in a file folder on your computer labeled “job packet” will make your life and your next steps so much easier.
When I decided to diversify, it involved 5 applications a day for positions. At the end of 4 months I had seven new, long-term, contracts.
Whatever it is you want to do, you need to take daily steps to get there. My daily steps involved searching for design positions or contract positions to review content as a subject matter expert in my field. I decided on 5 new applications/emails/connections per day would be my goal. Yes, it’s a lot of work and yes, you will get a lot of rejections but it’s the dollar-cost averaging of job applications. You don’t get rich from investing sporadically in the stock market and you don’t get jobs by applying just occasionally, when you feel like it.
Default to yes.
Did an employer contact you about a job that would only last for 3 hours and pay $40/hour? Take it! If you’re not diversified yet, this is a good way to get started and to get experience that you can use. It also gives you a contact with that employer who may like your work enough to let you do more in the future.
If you’re in a position of being able to turn down the short-term or low-paying offers, then great! Keep working your connections for those higher paying gigs.
In those early days, I made connections with people who were pleased with my work. We connected later on LinkedIn. They moved into new and better positions. Guess what? They brought me along when they needed contracted work done. Make those connections early, follow-up with them occasionally to remind them you’re still alive, and keep moving forward.
Be an entrepreneur or at least think like one.
Here go the clichés: Stop thinking like an employee. Don’t have the employee mindset. Stop working for someone else. Become your own boss.
How many clichéd ways can I say the same thing: change your mindset.
These employers are your clients and your contract is only good for the term defined. Don’t ever, ever become dependent on them. Diversify. Get new clients all the time.
Okay, this may be just my own travel-obsessed mind at work here, but travel motivates me. If you’re reading my blog about travel, it probably motivates you, too.
In the height of the recession – 2009 and 2010 – my husband and I planned two big trips. The first was to Alaska. The second was my dream trip: Western Europe. The Alaska trip was incredibly affordable. We went in May when the cruise ship costs and airfare were low. The western Europe trip was the height of season but the only time we could go. So we mapped out the costs, and saved. And saved. And saved. And cut back. But it gave me motivation, it gave me something to look forward to, and it gave me something to work toward. Those pictures I have on my wall from that trip serve as inspiration for the next trip.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it is through serving others that we learn who we are and who we can become. When we learn more about others, when we engage with them purposefully, and when we seek to help others with no expectation of something in return is when we discover really interesting things about ourselves. We may also receive blessings in return. But don’t expect that because it changes your focus.
Serving others is like the mantra I have about taking action. In both cases it’s when we do these things that we are bombarded with new ideas.
It’s not like you’re going to do all of these things so you can, one day, end up at your dream job working in a cubicle for someone else. Please tell me that’s not your goal! Location independence means working hard on your terms, in the location of your choice. This may mean that, like friend of mine Kent Perry, you work from your home in Florida for a company in Ireland, giving you the opportunity to volunteer at your kids’ school, take announcing gigs, and practice your stand-up comedy in your free time. This may mean that, like another friend of mine, you work part of the time from your home teaching, writing your next Kindle eBook, and doing book editing (thank you for editing my book, Leslie Bowman!), and part of the time from your camper while on the road, or part-time at self-imposed writers’ retreats in the Appalachian mountains. Alternatively, you could be like a peer of mine, Mark Lawler, who teaches geology for community colleges online while leading tours in the Adirondack mountains. Mark always seem to be on a hike! Or maybe you’re like my friend and lawyer, Eliza Gordner, who runs a legal advising website for entrepreneurs. Maybe you’re like my friend, Carissa Pelletier, who publishes an online magazine for parents called “Grown Ups”. (details forthcoming!) Maybe you could start a website like a friend of mine has called Teacher Confidential. Or you could be like me, traveling with a laptop, textbooks, and a mifi so that you can see Europe while staying connected to your students, writing ebooks, and building websites and social media strategies for entrepreneurs.
Share your thoughts here. Join my Laptop Lifestyle Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/laptoplifestyle/ But most important: take some action that points you in the direction of your goals. Doing so feels empowering. Go for it!