Are you dissatisfied with your job, or reading the writing on the wall that suggests it may be time to think of your own exit strategy? If so, you are in good company. Mercer's What's Working survey, conducted in 2011 and surveying 2,400 workers in the United States over two quarters, found that "nearly one in three (32%) U.S. workers is seriously considering leaving his or her organization at the present time, up sharply from 23% in 2005."
A new Right Management survey found that you're probably working harder than ever and that weekends no longer provide the work respite they once did. According to the research, "more than one-third of workers regularly get weekend emails from their boss who expects them to respond. Another one-third reported getting such emails from time to time."
Whether your motivation is that you're miserable at work or if it's because you anticipate a layoff, you may be better off marketing yourself as a consultant or starting a business instead of looking for another traditional job.
Consider these five tips to prepare to become a business owner:
1. Start saving money. If you're the type of person who checks the calendar to find out when the next paycheck is coming because you're out of grocery money, it's time to scale back your spending and save a little for a rainy day. Freedom and flexibility come with being able to manage to cover your expenses even without a regular job. Audit your spending and saving habits and identify where you can save money to invest in a new business venture and keep a roof over your head at the same time.
2. Audit your free time. Think about how you spend your time outside of work; is there any time to start a new business on the side? We used to call this moonlighting; some refer to it as a "side hustle." Maybe it's tough to save money from an already small salary, but if you can create a new stream of income while you're currently working, and save that money as a deposit on potentially working for yourself someday, you may be able to take control of your work life.
3. Decide what you want to do. It sounds obvious, but if you want to run a business, you need to identify the intersection between what you know how to do and what people need and are willing to pay you to do for them. Most entrepreneurs who start a new business are probably working as many or more hours as they ever did when they worked for someone else. Typically, the difference is that they love what they do as business owners and enjoy working hard in pursuit of their own goals.
4. Evaluate your skills. Are you totally disorganized when it comes to managing money? Do you avoid writing like it's the plague? Do you cower in fear when it's time to attend an in-person networking event? Would you rather get in a pit of king cobras than speak in front of a group? If you want to run a business, you'll need to prepare to take on these and other challenges.
Once you recognize weaknesses in your business and communication skills, it will be easier to address them. You have a few choices. You can either make a plan to learn how to improve your skills in these areas, via formal or informal training or by identifying a mentor willing to help you improve, or you can find partners to work with you who have strengths in areas where you are weak.
5. Study trends and market needs. You may have great skills and a passion for a topic, but you need to know if people are willing to pay you to use those skills. Attend or learn about what thought leaders discuss in industry conferences, talk to people in the field where you'd like to start your business, and identify people who are active on social media channels to follow and learn what's hot. Trending topics and ideas that go viral online are good indicators of what captures peoples' attention.
Keep an eye on your competitors, review employment and industry trends via resources such as the Riley Guide, and tap into services such as Trendwatching.com's free monthly trend briefing.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.