A friend was recently let go from a company he's been at for 24 years. Wow. Within those big companies you do change jobs and flex with the times, but deciding on the next steps way outside of the comfort of a big organization is a huge deal. Having recently left a job I was at for just 5 years, I'm finding even that shift is a little more challenging than I expected. Change is good, but it can be hard.
In that vein, I thought I'd write up some of the advice I've given him, based on my own life - switching careers several times, going from entrepreneur/consultant to contractor to full-time employee and back again.
1) Not sure what you want your next step to be? Volunteer or take a class. It's a great way to get to know an organization, a field of study or an area of interest. See if it's something you want to pour your heart into before making a big commitment. It's also a great way in. I was able to switch from volunteering at a children's museum to a full-time job even though it was a new field for me, because I was a known quantity after a year.
2) Conduct informational interviews. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and their work. Most people will make time for you because people are generally just nice! Reach out to people you know and the people they know.
3) Pick a niche and define your personal brand - what do you want to be known for, what makes you different from everyone else?
4) Shore up all of your social media to promote and support that brand (I'm xx, expert at xxx, here's my logo, what I'm great at and you should hire me to do X) You can always branch out but people you need other people to sell for you and you need a succinct sales pitch/explanation. For others to be your best advertising, you need a simple clear message and focus.
5) Put up a website, simple is ok, but some place to point folks who want to know more (Weebly.com is great, but you may like something more complex)
6) Decide what you want your life to look like. Do you want to work alone, with or for others? Full-time, consultant, contractor or just what comes your way?
7) Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Want a 30 hour a week gig? Want to work 4-10's and have Friday's to work on your art? Ask! The workplace gets more flexible every day.
8) Deal with the business of business. Hire or contract with people who can do the things you can't or don't want to like accounting and legal.
9) Get liability insurance if you are giving companies advice so they can't come back and sue you if someone gets hurt based on your advice.If you are setting up consulting, figure out the legal stuff (llc, scorp, etc.), taxes (which will help you know how much to charge) - Personally I recommend an LLC.
10) I think people still use pesky paper business cards - again, support your brand (moo.com and many other sites make it easy to design a simple card)
11) Network near and far with people you've known forever and new people. Tell them the 3 best leads/clients/jobs they can find for you. Do the work for them.
12) Go to other people's LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter etc and see if they know people that you want to know/meet/interview/work with or for.
13) Try it! Jump in, have fun and be fluid, learning from the process. You may not end up where you planned, but I know you'll find some great opportunities.
Here are a few websites with more great information, details on starting a business, things to think about, etc.
Great resources from soup to nuts:
Oversimplified, but a good starting point:
My coach: (her advice on changing my LinkedIn profile landed me my current gig)
NOLO great info and often free forms:
Those are my thoughts on the subject...let me know your experience and if you'd add any ideas or resources.