A middle-aged executive unexpectedly receives a letter and/or is summoned to a meeting with his direct superior and someone from HR is sitting in the same room. Does this sound familiar to you? Perhaps you are already a Corporate Eject. If so, at what point did you regain control of the process? Did you have a plan for self-employment?
Perhaps your career is still in the ascendant and you are chased by head-hunters enticing you to jump ship. Perhaps you are clinging to your current appointment and hoping that it will continue for many more years. The regular salary and other perks are great after all. In either of these scenarios, you are probably experiencing a false sense of security. Experience shows that only a fortunate few will stay in the Corporate world all the way through to retirement age. Do you want to stop work when you reach retirement age? Most companies will expect that you do, whether or not that is your wish.
The shock of unexpected redundancy after many years of steady, stable employment is massive. In my case, it came after 9/11. Eventually, three years later at 54 years of age, I was able to get back into the Corporate world for another 11-year stint. I doubt I would be so lucky today. I meet many middle-aged ex-Corporates that cannot find new employment in their old careers.
My message, and the motivation for this piece, is that it pays to have a contingency plan. If you cannot, or do not want to, remain employed in the Corporate world, then self-employment is likely to be the best the alternative. Far from fearing this, you should embrace the opportunity. The control that you gain over your time and quality of life is worth any perceived reduction in security that comes from not having a regular third party pay cheque.
For me, the shock of self-employment the first time around was profound, at times I was in ‘one day at a time’ mode and just surviving. The second time around, I knew it was coming and could prepare, and manage the transition from employee to self-employed more smoothly. It still took time to adjust, and I did look back more than once when prospective employers came knocking with unfulfilled promises. However, the only reason that I look at job vacancies now is to be able to clue in my younger friends and contacts to opportunities that they may otherwise be missing. I find working with small business owners to be both varied and fulfilling. Most of the people I meet were forced into self-employment by redundancy and I find that I am generally able to help them to improve the profitability of their business.
My message to the currently employed is this: plan ahead. Create a business plan that you can keep in reserve for when you judge it to be the right time to launch on your own. Keep it current and you need never fear unexpected redundancy. In fact, quite the reverse, you can come to view redundancy as the opportunity for liberation of your lifestyle for which you have been waiting. The more preparation you can do while someone else is putting money in your bank account each month, the easier the transition to self-employment will be when it comes. And come it will to an increasing proportion of the population. Do any of you work in a Corporation that is increasing its administrative head-count?
When the time comes, will it be your finger or your bosses on the eject button?