When people ask me what I did before I became a career coach, I say, “Have you seen the movie “Up in the Air” with George Clooney?” At which point, they say, “Yes!” Then I say, “He had my job.” Sometimes, I even throw in the random additional fact the George and I share the same birthday too. (Sorry George, you’re older!)

I Got Paid to “Restructure”

My last two major roles in the corporate world involved me “restructuring” divisions of companies as a way to turn them around and make them profitable. In short, I got to sit people down, one by one, and tell them how they were moving on to a new, better chapter in their lives. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of one of those conversations knows after the words, “You are being let-go,” you don’t really hear much else. Your body goes stiff, your pulse explodes, there’s a buzzing in your head and a rush in your ears. Well, let me tell you what it’s like to be the one delivering the news…

Just Keep Talking, Get it Done

I remember how my heart would race as I calmly explained what was happening. I would watch their facial expressions and body language sink while I was saying over and over in my mind, “Just keep talking, get it done,” as a way to stay focused and on the task. I would try not to move too much for fear the would see the sweat stains under my arms. It never got easier. Never, ever. The pit in my stomach was accompanied by a high-strung anxiety level that could only be calmed that evening by eating a huge fat-filled meal. I’m not kidding. I would medicate myself with a food coma.

The Strange Reputation I Got

Ironically, it was the horrible experience of letting people go that also gave me my passion for coaching. The pain of laying people off was softened when I could at least assist in some way at helping those affected find a job. Honestly, I would get so excited when an ex-employee would call me and say, “I got the BEST new job. I’m so glad you let me go! I had no idea how miserable I was until I got out of there.” In fact, I got so good at helping people, I became known as the manager to go to secretly if you wanted to leave the company. Yes. That’s right. Employees would come to me and say, “I think I need to find a new career.” And then, we’d work together to help them figure it out so they could leave. To me, it made perfect sense. I got a heads-up the person was leaving so I could prepare to backfill their role and they got to leave on great terms. Not to mention, it helped me stay in touch with them in the future.

How to Never Get Laid-Off

As a result of my experiences, both as the person who used to do the laying off, and now as the person who coaches those let go, I feel I’ve become pretty good at determining the best way to avoid being in the hot seat. The answer is simple: Stop being an employee. Instead, see yourself for what you really are: A business-of-one. Today’s professional needs to know that on any given day, one of two things can happen. Either:

A) Your employer doesn’t want to do business with you anymore.
B) You don’t want to do business with your employer anymore.

In both cases, you need to have built up a marketing plan and a sales strategy that allows you to find a new customer. That way, you can make the switch on your own terms.

So, What Are You Doing to Market Your Business-of-One?

In the coming weeks, I’m going to write about some of the ways I see savvy professionals taking full ownership of their business-of-one. (Here’s my own story of how I left corporate America.) I’ll also be talking about the outdated techniques many professionals are using that are hurting their business-of-one’s reputation – a/k/a ability to get hired. I’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences. So, I hope you’ll follow me here on LinkedIn so we can all learn from one another.