Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Should Career Development Professionals Recommend Self-Employment?

"Our role isn't to prepare people for destinations; it is to
prepare people for journeys." Paula Wischoff Yerama
Leaping from full time permanent employment to self-employment wasn’t something I had put much thought into and it certainly wasn’t something I had prepared for. It was, for all intents and purposes, a reactionary decision. I made the decision to quit my job in isolation and set up my business, without a formal business plan, in a relatively short period of time. Somewhere along the line I took an online entrepreneurial readiness quiz. The results essentially told me I wasn’t cut out for self-employment. I went ahead and incorporated Career Designs for Life anyway. Did I do thinks the "right way"? Probably not. Was my decision the best decision given my situation? Not necessarily. If I had to do it all over again, would I? Absolutely – with a few adjustments! While admittedly I could have gone about becoming self-employed more effectively, the lessons I learned along the way were invaluable.

Whether to recommend or not recommend self-employment as an option to clients is a source of great debate amongst career development practitioners. As professionals we have a responsibility to our clients to support them in making decisions that are in line with their values, interests, and abilities; informed decisions. We also have a responsibility to be open with them about our scope of practice and expertise, and to connect them with the information they need. Self-employment isn’t for everyone but that isn’t for us, as professionals, to decide. Our role isn’t to prepare people for destinations; it is to prepare people for journeys. Self-employment is most definitely a journey, a journey that has both rewards and challenges.

In my role as a self-employed career development professional and the Chair of the Career Development Association of Alberta I have had the opportunity to talk about self-employment with people who are both envious and skeptical of my employment situation. Some of them were seriously considering self-employment before they talked to me, and some had never considered it as a viable option. I don’t have a firm stance on recommending or not recommending self-employment as an option to the people who ask me about my own experience and would never advise someone one way or the other. My story has been inspiring to some and discouraging to others. I don’t tell my story to dissuade or persuade anyone but rather to give them one more perspective to help them make an informed decision. That’s the key to making any decision isn’t it, to have as much information from as many different perspectives as possible?

I am certainly not a business expert, but my own experience with self-employment has taught me that self-employment readiness quizzes aren’t they ultimate perdictor of self-employment success. The best way to support our clients is to connect them with and guide them to as much information and as many resources as possible. When it comes to information and resources there are all sorts of self-employment courses and programs, checklists, inventories, quizzes, articles, workbooks, and blogs. Our role as professionals is make our clients aware of the resources, services, and tools that are available, help them to seek out the most appropriate sources of information, and encourage them to talk with people who have struggled, and succeeded.

We can best help our clients to explore self-employment by treating it like any other employment option and encouraging them to research self-employment like they would any other occupation. It is also essential that we be knowledgeable about the programs, services, and resources available to them and to support them in making those connections.

Wishing you all the best with your self-employment conversations!

Paula Wischoff Yerama is the President of Career Designs for Life Inc. and a Certified Career Development and Rehabilitation Professional with a passion for supporting and inspiring work searchers, career transitioners, and employees to be their finest and best every day. Her eclectic background includes experience in customer service, human service, career development, human resources, and team building. Paula frequently responds to requests for information interviews and shares the story of her self-employment journey with her clients and can be reached through her website, http://www.careerdesignsforlife.com.