I have an affinity for most things British. I love fish and chips, scones, Cadbury eggs, Jaguars (pronounced jag-you-are), The King’s Singers, Maggie Smith and Judy Dench. I prefer Masterpiece Theatre over anything else on American Network TV. I write my dates in the format of DD Month YYYY. I’ve read just about all of the works of Agatha Christie, and I adore a good “whodunnit”. You name it, I love my Brits. Lately I’ve been bingeing on a long-running British cop show, and it occurred to me that British actors are a marvelous lesson in career sustainability. Have you ever noticed how the same “character actors” appear on all the different shows? In effect, you might call them “Consultants”. From Midsomer Murders to Father Brown to Vera to New Tricks, and a host of others, the same faces pop up again and again. They’re not quite famous, and the parts are small, BUT they fill a need, and they’re working in their chosen profession for the long haul. How do they do it? They get proper training, they check in regularly with their agents, they build solid relationships with writers and directors. They do everything they can to put themselves out there.
Unlike these character actors, many of us sort of “fall into” our careers. An opportunity to use our gifts opens up to us so we take it. We don’t necessarily think it will become a career, we’re just happy to pay the bills while we’re waiting for the “right” role to come along. A few years later, after we’ve accrued some perks, we settle in. And suddenly a few years becomes many years and we have a “career” that we had never planned on. We start to think that the company will always be there to take care of us.
And yet, as the pandemic has shown us, the company will NOT always be there to take care of us. In the last six months, we’ve seen that the business models of many companies have proven to be unsustainable in times of crisis. That has left many of us unprepared and either unemployed or under-employed. It has also left many of us feeling deeply discouraged and afraid. It’s a pretty grim picture. BUT – there are things we can do right now, to make our careers more sustainable. Maybe we don’t want to claw our way into middle management, or become the next CIO or Corporate Superstar. But – like the character actors mentioned above, we can consider ourselves Consultants and take small steps every day to grow our careers and keep ourselves working. We put ourselves out there. We build relationships online, one person, one comment, and one post at a time. We look for inexpensive ways to get training, we join networking groups, and we seek out mentors. We let our bosses know what a great job we’re doing and what we want out of our careers. We may work for corporations, but we are the ones responsible for our careers, and thus, WE ARE ALL CONSULTANTS.
What small thing can you do to act like a consultant today?