Getting on to the Next Path Archives

Job Loss Rebound – How to Do It “A.S.A.P.”

Published on February 18th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“We often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door
that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: In working with individuals who have suffered job loss, the following question is frequently posed to me, in the words, or in the eyes, of my clients: “Got any good ideas on how to deal with this?”

Over the 32 years of my practice, I’ve thought a lot about how to answer that question. Out of those thoughts, and observing those of my clients who have rebounded most quickly, have arisen four steps almost all of the “rebounders” seem to have taken.

Like all “Four Steps to . . .” solutions, it is not a “magic pill” that will instantly solve your problems. Instead, it is a way of looking at things, comprised of a series of phases one must go through to reach the next step in life, whatever that might be, as soon, as soundly and as successfully as possible.
Is it simplistic? Yes, a bit; yes, you might say that. But from the comments I have received from clients with whom I have shared this four-step process, it seems to be considerably helpful. In my own experience, when it comes to bewildering problems that engulf us like a fog on a dark night, sometimes the simpler the solution the better. And, too, the simpler the solution the more applicable it may be to the greatest number of people.

I know this four-step analysis has helped others, and I am hoping it will help to you, or someone you know, deal with one of the more painful and dislocating experiences of adulthood.

LESSON TO LEARN: Job loss is often experienced as a series of blows – to one’s confidence, to one’s sense of self-worth, to one’s sense of direction, to one’s financial security, and to one’s sense of having a place in the daily affairs of the world. The four “steps” that comprise what I call my “Rebound A.S.A.P. Method,” seems to help smooth out, soften and shorten these blows.

I have shared them with my clients over the years, and present them to you now. Each addresses those blows in a somewhat step-by-step fashion. Coincidentally or perhaps by some design, the first letter of each of the four steps together spell out the acronym “A.S.A.P.”, and thus make it a bit easier to remember.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are the four steps I have found can help those who suffered job loss rebound “A.S.A.P.”
Read the rest of this blog post »

“Got a New Business or Business Idea? – 10 Steps to Credibility”

Published on November 18th, 2014 by Alan L. Sklover

“Credibility is the art of accepting responsibility.”

– Julian Hall

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: Almost more than anything else, Federico wanted to own his own business. Since childhood, he had wanted to start, build and grow “Federico, Inc.” When he was younger, he was always looking around at how other people began and ran their own businesses. Each time Federico passed an empty storefront he felt a little sad because it signified to him that someone’s dream of opening and thriving in his or her own business had not worked out. At 44 years old, he was beginning to wonder if his dream of being his own boss – and his own slave – would ever materialize.

Without warning, within two weeks’ time Federico received word that (i) an aunt he was close to had passed on and left him a sizable inheritance from her will, and also that (ii) he was being laid off from his job of 14 years, and was going to be provided six months of severance. Both were terrible news, but together they could just possibly represent a rare, once-in-a-lifetime chance to open his own business.

What Federico had been thinking about for a long time was something that he, his family and his friends always longed for: an internet service that locates historic sites of interest to those of Hispanic heritage, one that listed the sites, explained their significance to Hispanic history and culture, and suggested both restaurants and hotels in the vicinity. He knew how it would ideally look, how it would ideally work, and why it had such a great chance of success.

But Federico also knew he needed others to work with him: besides customers, he needed lenders, vendors, investors, partners, contractors and affiliated hotels, restaurants, and the like. The problem he faced was that no one seemed to take him, or his idea, seriously because Federico was not already operating a profitable business. He wondered how he might get other people to take him seriously, and consider sharing with him (a) their time, (b) their attention, (c) their money, and (d) even possibly their own business reputations: Frankly, no one seemed to want to take the time to talk to “this guy with an idea.” And, no one seemed to want to be part of an “experiment.”

What Federico learned was that the more you are making your idea “real,” the more it will be viewed to be “real” by others. Said differently, having your mind and your act together makes others want to get together with you. That simple line sums it up.

LESSON TO LEARN: It is a well known fact that many people would just love to leave their jobs, and start a business of their own. There must be 10 new television shows devoted to that very topic. The advantages are many, and it seems like a lot of fun. The problem is that there is no simple pathway to success and no “courses” out there to teach you how to do it.

One particularly vexing problem faced by potential entrepreneurs is the “new business credibility gap,” that is, until you are up and running, it is hard to get others to help you get there, to work with you, to give you a chance, to consider being a lender, a customer, a partner, an investor, or to otherwise become affiliated with you. After all, who wants to be a surgeon’s first patient, a barber’s first customer, or the one to try out the services of a parachute folder? The issue is “credibility,” which really just means “being trusted and believed in.” The problem is, “How do you get business credibility before you have a credible business, that is, before you are “up and running?”

There ten things are ones you would be wise to do, and that are available to you to do, in order to gain the new-business (or proposed-business) credibility you need to get your new business or business idea off the ground. They are the “making it real” that Federico learned makes others feel you are “for real” and that is the essence of new-business credibility.

Having helped many people transition from employer-employment to self-employment over the years has given rise to these 10 steps to gaining credibility for a new business or new business idea and you’ll see what I mean.

HERE ARE 10 STEPS TO CREDIBILITY FOR A NEW BUSINESS OR BUSINESS IDEA: Bear in mind that no single one of these ten steps is essential to establishing credibility for a new or proposed business, but the more you put into place the more credibility your new or proposed business will enjoy. “Make it real, and it will be real, to you and others.” And bear in mind, too, that these ten steps are not the only steps you can take to engender credibility to your new or proposed business: Read the rest of this blog post »

“Thinking of Your Own Small Business? – Four Paths to Pursue”

Published on June 25th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

“If you have the courage to begin,
you have the courage to succeed.”

– Unknown Author

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: In recent years, I have assisted numerous clients – many of whom either lost their positions due to seismic shifts in their industries or just decided “there has to be a better way” – establish their own businesses. In fact, that is precisely what I did when I decided, decades ago, that working for a large law firm was not my “cup of tea.” Instead, I struck out on my own, and have never looked back.

Opening your own business, whether on your own or with others, is not an easy task. Being an owner is surely quite different from being an employee. Being a business owner requires a dedication and a discipline that can try even the hardiest of souls.

One client I helped about seven years ago, Carrie, had fourteen years experience in assisting construction firms locate and acquire construction materials, from concrete to copper. She had to know various sources worldwide, their reliability, their quality, and the ever-changing price of goods, on a daily basis. She was literally “on call” 24 hours a day, leaving little time for her family and personal pursuits. One day Carrie decided “there just has to be a better way,” and decided to establish her own firm to consult for construction firms who, quite simply, needed to know what she knew in choosing sources of materials.

Carrie now has her own consulting firm, with four full-time employees, and a roster of large, blue-chip construction firms as clients. Although she says she sees the world quite differently than she did when she was an employee, Carrie says the same attributes that made her a good employee – focus on client needs, dedication to quality over quantity, and thinking “a few miles down the road” each and every day – have lead to her success as a business owner.

Business owners have to think a lot about, seemingly every waking moment. But continually assessing “direction” is among the most difficult. Just as it helps for an employee to have a sense of what he or she wants “at the end of the rainbow,” so too must a business owner have a sense of the business’s “ultimate path.”

I hear from Carrie every now and then when she has a question about negotiation, or seeks counsel about leaving behind the “employee mentality” and thinking, instead, “like an owner.” Over the course of my conversations with Carrie and the many other former clients who I have helped open their own business, it seems there are four general “paths” small businesses may pursue as they daily compete for success in the business world.

These four potential paths are not mutually exclusive – one does not permanently preclude the other – but each has its sense of direction, some fitting the owners better than others.

LESSON TO LEARN: If you are considering leaving “employee life” and striking out on your own, or have previously done so, give a bit of thought to these four small business “paths to pursue.” Have a clear sense of direction, and focus upon an ultimate goal, will help you deal effectively with changing circumstances, altered business conditions, and mayhem of the markets in your industry. It’s like having a “compass” during a never-ending “storm.” Read the rest of this blog post »

Where can I find “niches” to further my career?

Published on April 7th, 2012 by Alan Sklover

Question: Alan: I recently read one of your blog posts entitled “Avoid the Obsolete Job Trap,” and it got me to thinking. As a veteran solo business lawyer based in Fairfield County, Connecticut, I was wondering if you could please elucidate for me your recommendation on new legal niches . . . and further resources I can seek out on what you mean by “water law” and “selling digital content on the internet.”

Stamford, Connecticut

Answer: Steve: Your question is a great one – in fact one that nearly everyone these days has on their mind, to one degree or another. I am no expert, but I am fascinated with “what is going on” in this respect. Here are my thoughts:

1. For a variety of reasons, on a worldwide basis, it seems to be getting increasingly difficult to make a living. I am not the only person who believes that it seems to be getting harder to locate and maintain a secure livelihood. It’s the same in every business, every profession and every income level. Looking at countries all over the world, it doesn’t seem to be too much better anywhere you look. Perhaps it is the globalization of the world economy, perhaps it is computers and other machines replacing personal service, perhaps it is the effects of the internet, perhaps it is the last gasps of a possibly outdated economic order . . . I am not sure. But it surely does seem to me that people from Cairo to Chicago, and from Greece to Greenwich, and from Pakistan to Peoria are having a harder time locating and maintaining a secure livelihood with which to feed, house and educate their families. Whether this is a temporary or long-term phenomenon, we still all have to deal with it in the present.

2. Notice that large organizations of every kind often miss emerging trends and new opportunities. In every segment of every society, social organizations tend over time to grow and grow, often just for the sake of growth, even when there is no need for that growth. By “social organizations” I mean corporations, universities, charities, media companies, health care organizations, professional firms, and even religious organizations. And when they grow, they have a tendency to become increasingly impersonal, cumbersome and slow to adapt. Their large budgets require they appeal to large audiences, not small constituencies. It is everyone’s experience: it is very rare that you get personalized, specialized, or made-to-order goods or services from most large organizations. Instead, you must choose between “Press Button One for Pharmacy, Press Button Two for Ladies Goods,” or “Item 8 on the Menu.” They must appeal to the thousands of customers, not the few, and therefore must limit themselves to offering only products and services that will sell to millions of people, not the a dozen or two.

3. But the “problems” and “weaknesses” of others can be your “opportunities” and “advantages.” It is simply amazing how one’s perspective can change one’s life. While some people see and bemoan the problems of the world, others see the problems of the world as their own challenges, their own opportunities, and their own potential advantages. Problem: kids are not learning math. Opportunity: if you work in the education field, open up a tutoring service, or suggest your employer do so. Problem: people are increasingly unhappy about the level of chemicals in the public water they drink. Opportunity: consider opening up a water-testing, or filtering, company. Problem: your employer’s sales are going downhill. Opportunity: be the one and only person who takes the time and initiative to contact former customers to ask them why. Seeing the problems of others as your opportunities is a key to success in any field, because one way or the other, we all make a living satisfying the needs, wants and desires of others, and unfulfilled needs are where growth will take place.

4. For individuals and small groups of people, “niches” are an important career, professional and business strategy. Large organizations tend to miss the narrow and newer opportunities all around us, what is commonly referred to as “niche” opportunities. Whether in employment, the professions or small businesses, there is a valuable lesson here: look for human needs and desires that are not being satisfied by large institutions, and become either the person who does so, or the first and only employee in your company who does so.

Problem: Sadly, the incidence of autism is on the rise. Opportunity: If you are the only lawyer in your state who “specializes” in the legal rights of parents of autistic children, you will be busy and secure for a very long time. Likewise, if the neighborhood where your employer’s business is located is seeing the beginning of an influx of immigrants from a certain country, be the first to carry some of the goods and services desired by that new neighborhood demographic. Niche opportunities – for employees and for entrepreneurs – arise every single day, and they are all around us.

5. To locate valuable niche opportunities, start with demographic changes. Let’s say you are a real estate lawyer and because of the housing crisis and poor economy your real estate law practice is in the doldrums. No one is buying houses. No one is leasing new offices or stores. No one is building buildings. But think about it: Isn’t it true that more and more people are unmarried but living together? Isn’t it true that more and more young people who can’t find jobs are moving back in with their parents? Aren’t many seniors moving in with their adult children because they can’t afford nursing homes? Maybe you can develop a niche expertise in “agreements between co-habitators” to address division of responsibilities and liabilities Is it possible that compatible small businesses in hard times can “share” storefronts with each other? If you develop ideas and ways to take advantage of those “problems” of others, individuals, landlords and smaller business tenants may all love your services. If small businesses are having a hard time paying the rent, perhaps you could offer a service that negotiates lower rents from landlords for a percentage of the rent saved.

Once you have located and tested any one of these potential “niches,” it can become the centerpiece of a new, and perhaps revolutionary, “real estate law” practice. Write articles, offer seminars, start a website. You could be the first attorney in this new field of law, even the field’s “pioneer.”

By the way, I often refer to “water law,” as I see the scarcity, quality and availability of water to be growing human concern and a potential looming crisis, in which “experts” in the field – including attorneys – will be in significant and long-term demand. I have also noticed that “content” on websites and blogsites is becoming something of a tradable commodity, capable of being exploited by many different online businesses, but without for the moment any “brokers” who specialize in the field. These two “problems” seems especially ripe “niches” for investigation and possible development.

6. Sorry, I know of no real experts to consult; to locate and exploit “the riches of niches,” the best “guides” are an open mind, an adventurous spirit, and a willingness to take a risk. I have heard that there are centers of entrepreneurship, and even colleges that offer programs in becoming an entrepreneur. I rather doubt that there can be courses or programs to teach people how to locate and evaluate niche areas of employment, professions or businesses. Rather, I would suggest reading several magazines and newspapers each day, and consider what it is people are concerned about, what people are dissatisfied about, and what people want more of that they can’t seem to get. Then it’s just a matter of figuring out what you have within you – intelligence, compassion, creativity and discipline chief among them – that you can use to satisfy that human need or desire.

Finding and filling a niche in your workplace, in your profession or in your business field is a potential key to success in a world increasingly dominated with mega-stores, mega-hospitals, mega-donut shops, and mega-everything else. For employees, professional people, and small businesses, niche focus is a key strategy, and I recommend it without limit.

Thanks, Steve, for writing in. I hope this is of help to you.

Al Sklover

Is a Friend facing a problem at work? Great Gift:  Model Letters for Job Loss, Severance, Resignation, Bully Boss, or Performance Improvement Plan. Just [click here] to view our list.

P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other workplace-related subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations. (Even 5-minute “Just One Question” calls). Just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can be accommodated.

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™   

© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“I’m thinking of leaving my job, and going freelance. What do you think?”

Published on October 28th, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, Alan! I’m currently working in the printing industry here in Manila as a Layout Artist. I’d like to know if my situation suggests to you that it’s time for me to lose my job. Here it goes:

1. I feel unhappy at work.

2. I’m always harassed by clients.

3. I feel uncomfortable with our office/workspace. 

4. There is too much pressure stress I can’t endure nearly every day.

5. My workload exceeds what I’m supposed to do according to my job description.

6. Though my boss is good, he doesn’t listen, and does things that unnecessarily complicate my job.

7. I think my boss is getting too greedy for new projects.

I’m thinking of leaving my job because I’d like to be a freelance artist. By that, I may be able to manage my time.

I know you have the best suggestions on this. Thanks Alan!

Manila, Phillipines

Answer: Soap, it did not take me even a minute to conclude that, at the very least, you ought to consider leaving your job. The way you see your job, the way your job makes you feel, and the absence of positive purpose in your description of your daily life at work definitely all suggest that this job is not for you. That is easy to see.

Should you, instead, become a freelancer? That is a more complicated question, although it boils down to this: “Are you prepared to try to be on your own, which entails the greatest freedom you can imagine, yet the greatest burdens you’ve ever experienced, too?”

Being on your own as a freelancer permits you to work for whatever clients you choose, and to turn down clients who are just too difficult. You can work when you want, where you want, and do what you want. You can charge whatever you want. You can set all of the rules.

On the other hand, you’re also free to go broke, because there is no weekly paycheck when you work for yourself. You are also free to not get paid by unscrupulous clients after you have done great work for them. You have no more paid vacations, no benefits such as health insurance, no right to unemployment benefits, no more paid holidays. Just as you are unhappy, harassed and overworked as an employee, you may be unhappy, harassed and overworked as a freelancer, with one exception: as a freelancer, you can’t quit.

I think that every person – if they ever consider going out on their own – owes it to themselves to try going out on their own. I describe it as the best, and the worst, although overall the best, thing to do in life. I “tried” it about 25 years ago, and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I enjoy every minute . . . almost.

Six years ago I wrote a newsletter on this topic that I suggest you read:  “Navigating Yourself to Self-Employment – Your 10 Critical Steps to Going Out on Your Own.” To read it, [click here].

Hope that helps, as always. If this has been helpful, please consider “Thanking Us” by recommending us to a friend or two on Facebook, LinkedIn, or your other favorite social media. To do so [click here].    

    Best, Al Sklover

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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