May 28, 2004
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If you are working as an independent high-tech consultant,
there may come a time when, due to financial pressures or personal preference,
you need to “return to the fold” of a classic corporate job.
While the reasons for your return might be varied, there are a few ways
to insure that your return is as painless and productive as possible.
In your time away, you have surely expanded your education and experience.
Both of these can be instrumental in easing your re-entry back into the
corporate world. What will hinder you is that nagging feeling of having
failed at going it alone.
Not a failure
More than likely, you set out on your own to gain further control over
your life and career. A return may signal a loss to you, but I would disagree.
In the end, regardless of what we want out of our high-tech career, we
have to address the needs of this career first. If you are finding it
difficult to make ends meet as an independent, it only makes sense to
return to a more stable job. No one wants you to suffer deprivation just
to make a point and you shouldn’t either.
Returning to a corporate job after a freelance stint may, for some, be
a welcome return. Everyone is different and many people do fine in corporate
jobs. They continue to develop and grow and find themselves accomplishing
things that might never have been possible otherwise. Perhaps your career
goals require the backing of a large, strong and financially secure institution.
If you realize that this is a factor, don’t hamper yourself trying
to go it alone.
The truth is, regardless of your financial success, working as a freelancer
has gained you experience and education beyond anything you may have found
in the corporate environment. I am not talking about formal classes, educations
seminars or even high-tech information. I am talking about the knowledge
gained about yourself, your work and your desires.
Stretching yourself is always a large learning experience regardless of
the final outcome. You have learned how to manage yourself, your time
and your work. This not only makes you a better high-tech careerist, but
gives you great insight into managing others. You may never have discovered
this information had you not left the 9 to 5 nest, even for a short time.
In fact, when interviewing for a new job, these are the aspects that you
should address most energetically. Focus on everything you have learned
while you have been freelancing. Tell stories of how you handled difficult
technical, and business, issues when you could only rely on yourself.
Show them how you managed a variety of projects from beginning to end.
Finally, and most importantly, show them how you learned to coordinate
teams of other consultants in accomplishing things for clients that you
could never have done on your own.
People like to think that the consulting life is that of a “lone
wolf,” relying on no one, doing it all by themselves. I am direct
proof that this is not so. I have friends and peers that I call upon for
database development, networking assistance and more. Just as these contacts
are important to you now, your ability to call upon these contacts in
your new position will be equally important.
Workers who never leave the protective nest of the corporation often have
fewer contacts to call upon when they need honest and clear information.
You bring a great resource to your new company in these existing contacts.
Not only will you benefit by sharing these contacts, you offer your contacts
access to new client and work possibilities.
The most important lesson you have learned in your time as a freelancer
is this: You should now have the confidence in yourself and your work
that can only come from working for yourself. You have faced the bright
lights and the dark days that face all freelancers and survived. You can
stand up to absurd corporate rules, bureaucracies that stymie productivity
and bosses and co-workers who need to understand the difference between
showing up for work and getting good, worthwhile work done. Presented
in the right way, your experience can help any company break out of its
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