Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Market the business or find a real job?

I have only known one kind of working life. However, the further I get from the 9-5 mode of gainful employment, the more I realize that this model never really worked for me. Even as I grew my career and had greater flexibility in how I structured my days, I still had a boss. And therein lays the primary reason why I do not fare well in the traditional structure of the workplace.

It turns out that I am not so much for authority. “Question Authority” stands among my favorite quotes listed on the syllabus for the history course I teach at a local community college. I’ve had this quote on my syllabus for as long as I have been teaching. This should have clued me in a long time ago about my relationship to the workplace. During my 3 years at my last job, I questioned authority on regular basis to the great annoyance of my supervisor.

My job layoff happened at an auspicious time in my life. Since June 2007 I have cleared a path away from a relationship that did not satisfy my heart, I moved for the first time in 15 years, my sweet dogs have all passed from old age, and I lost my job. It’s been a whirlwind of emotion, of change, of reflection. I feel very lucky for this opportunity.

My musings on authority are part of this reflection. I am coming to understand more about myself in relationship to the traditional workplace. Since August, when I deposited my final paycheck, I started my business and began looking for jobs in earnest. I was (and still am) willing to move to Dubai for the right opportunity. I applied for positions that made sense in light of previous jobs. Willing to a make a career change, I networked with professional fundraisers and development officers, and applied to those fields, too. I have been on the occasional interview; and there are no job offers in sight.

In between looking for and applying for traditional jobs, I build and market my business. And the more I build and market A Clear Path, the more I enjoy the process of building something from nothing, and the freedom that self-employment brings.

Pretty soon – heck I may even be there now – I believe that I will unsubscribe from the many employment list-serves that filter job notices to my in-box.

Doing that, will free me to continue to build and market my business. I can devote my energies to gainful self-employment, rather than going after a paycheck and health insurance. The beauty of self-employment is that I can tap into my own creative process and move A Clear Path into any direction that feels right and good.

I hesitate though. What if… the business doesn’t do well? What if… people think I’m a loser because I cannot seem to find a job in an academic environment?

What if…I became really successful as a sole business owner? It’s definitely a goal worth exploring!

Next time… ideas to market by.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Follow Every Lead

I don’t know who taught me this axiom – follow every lead – but I am all over it these days.

I have to be. I started a new business this summer. I do wonder, of course, about my potential for success. While I refuse to believe that current conditions will gage my success, news agencies and economic gurus report with urgency that the U.S. is heading toward another great depression, or worse.

Just a few months ago I was not thinking about engaging in an entrepreneurial undertaking. I had a job; I’ve always had a job. And although I did not like my last “regular” job - it zapped my spirit – I have always had the next thing to go to. So I was not prepared for the layoff and quite honestly I thought that I would be the one to give two weeks’ notice, well before the Dean handed me the letter that said my position would be eliminated.

I am a trained historian with a PhD in the history of immigration, gender studies, and Asian American history. In graduate school I adapted, utilized, and otherwise made up techniques to keep my dissertation organized. Unbeknownst to me at the time, these new-found skills prepared me in part for what I am beginning to think will be my new career as a professional organizer.

In the 1990s I was a doctoral student gathering data on the history and the lives of Japanese women who married American GIs in the post WW2 occupation of Japan. My research included interviewing dozens of people, and pouring over legal, congressional, and National Archive records, biographies, and histories of Japan and the United States. The data moved from books, to index cards, to boxes. As it turned out – there were lots of boxes, one for each chapter. I became the uber-organized doctoral student. Little did I know these survival skills would give me some of the bonafides I might need to prove that I can organize the office of a campus professor like nobody’s business.

In many ways, a career as a Professional Organizer isn't so far off. I have been organizing all of my life. It is inborn, innate. It is what I do. I see a mess, I clean it up. If a friend complains her chaotic a garage, I hope her next breath is to invite me to help her make it work for her! Reorganizing jam-packed kitchen drawers and cupboards is just great fun! My family and friends are uncluttered beneficiaries of my desire for order.

So I am now the proud owner of my new business. I call it A Clear Path: Professional Organizing for Home, Office, Life. And everyone thinks it is a good name. To build this business, I follow every lead. Get a DBA? Done. City business license? Done. Join a professional organization? Wait, a professional organization for people who clean clutter? Done. Website, business cards, marketing tchotchkies , social networking… done, done, done. And now a blog.

I believe that I can be as successful as I want. I really, really believe this.

Next time… Marketing the business, or finding a real job