While I’ve done contract marketing and market research work in the past — during times when I was looking for a permanent position in my field — it’s been about six months now that I’ve devoted my energies full-time to making consulting work my permanent employment.
Trying to get a consulting practice started is not for the weak of heart, particularly a marketing consulting practice. Part of the reason for this is many organizations I approach about the expertise I can offer already have a marketing agency or consultant in place. If they are an organization that’s been around for any length of time, marketing is essential to their well-being and it’s likely they’ve already solicited outside help to optimize marketing efforts. In fact, many have long-term contracts in place with marketing agencies that can’t be easily severed. And, I’m also finding the newer, start-up businesses are difficult to identify and many use family members or friends to help them out on a pro bono or low-rate basis while in start-up mode.
Bottom line of all the above is that, in order for me, or any business offering consulting or other services to make a successful go at it, we have to be skilled at networking. It’s imperative that we use our connections or the connections of our connections to get our feet in the door. Being more of a strategic behind-the-scenes person, that’s a challenge for me, but I’m rising to the occasion and I’m glad my business is causing me to grow this skill for a couple of reasons.
First, as a marketeer, even if I didn’t need to be out there trying to make sales and there was a sales team in place whose work I supported with marketing materials and activities, it’s very beneficial to understand the challenges, roadblocks, questions, concerns, etc. that a sales team faces on a daily basis. Secondly, the need to network is causing me to reconnect with individuals with whom I worked closely and had strong friendships with at different points in my career.
I’ve been working in the Boston area now for about thirty years. Thirty years. After studying in France my senior year and graduating from UCONN with a French degree, I attended the Katherine Gibbs’ three-month entree program. I always refer to it as a program that gave liberal arts majors the office skills they needed to get jobs. I will say attending the program served me well. After completing the program, I was able to obtain temporary office work at great organizations like Stone & Webster and Dana Farber, and soon landed permanent jobs at BayBank Harvard Trust and Fidelity Investments. After obtaining my M.B.A., mostly at night, I’ve been employed at Market Facts, Berklee College of Music, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MA, Bay State Federal Bank, Best Doctors, Network Health, and BMC HealthNet Plan.
I list all of the above because it’s a good reminder that I’ve worked a lot of great places and made a lot of strong friendships and working relationships throughout my career — of which I should never lose sight. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people (since I’m a transplant from CT to MA, many of my closest friends are former co-workers). The need to network has caused me to reconnect with some of the many individuals with whom I haven’t stayed as closely in touch, but with whom I really enjoyed working. It’s been so much fun learning what former colleagues are up to, both professionally and personally. So, I’m grateful that networking has prompted me to “catch up” with these people. There’s nothing like tight schedules, heavy workloads, and what seem like impossible challenges for forming strong bonds. I’m really enjoying revisiting those bonds. If you aren’t already doing so, I encourage you to reach out to former co-workers. I know you’ll benefit in a variety of ways from the experience.