Keep your business cards. Don’t discard them when you get a job!

I got a big blow for the first time from Mr. Layoff. I was given a glossy exit package from my management job and escorted to the doors of an Outplacement Specialist. These professionals help ease the pain of job loss and push you rapidly into your job search. My specialist gave me the best piece of advice, after glancing at my then sketchy resume:

  • Welcome to the world of consultants, Mala. You are not unemployed. You are a consultant in Strategies, Planning and Research. My first company was named SPR Associates!
  • Make your business cards and keep them forever – don’t dump them when you get your next job.

I see people scrambling to become a consultant after losing their jobs. They print business cards, get a website going and desperately search for clients for their consulting, while job-hunting – losing six months of valuable time. I am never in-between jobs, since I have a permanent business card as consultant, trainer and coach. When I was restructured out again in 2005, this strategy gave me the courage to ‘go for good’ in the direction of consulting/ training without much time wasted in learning to do it.

Here are 3 Tips to all those employed in corporate America:

TIP 1: Keep your consulting hat on and build network of positive relationships

This helps you look at work projects from a strategic angle and builds your confidence as an expert. You are what you project – it will make a difference with your peers and superiors at work, if you have to call on them in the future for consulting assignments.

TIP 2: Help people informally and gain references. Here are some stories to back up my advice:

People see me as a Presentation Expert

I help many technical friends to communicate their message without drowning audience in data. A friend from business school was at her wits end because she had been given a challenging assignment by a tough boss, who knew she did not have the qualifications.  Her job was at risk. She reached out to me and I put on my strategic thinking hat, sat with her for a few hours, looked at her project and helped her develop it into a dynamic presentation piece – convincing her to self-promote through this piece. I gained her trust in me as an adviser.

I am a Multicultural Communications Expert

My former colleague called me to ask, Hey, Mala, I am calling on physicians to market a service. Some are Indians. What gifts do I give them for Christmas? My advice: You don’t give them gifts for Christmas. You wait for their big holiday and surprise them with confection from an Indian store. It was a hit!

TIP 3: Follow up with the friends who benefited from your advice.

I am now teaching technical professionals how to deliver data without tranquilizing them with details, and educating outsourcing professionals and their clients to see business interactions through a cultural lens.