Sunday, October 07, 2007

Constant Reinvention - the challenge for the independent professional

One of the key challenges facing all independent professionals is the need for constant reinvention.

I think that it was David Maister who said a long time ago that we all mine our experience. This provides the stock-in-trade, the knowledge and skills, that we use to gain clients and to meet their needs.

The problem we all face is that needs change. As they do, a gap opens between our existing knowledge and skills and market requirements. Sometimes this translates to a slow erosion in market position. At other times, sudden market shifts can lead to a sudden collapse in work, leaving the independent floundering around.

This problem is common across all professions and for all professionals. But it is most acute for the independent, because independents generally lack the back-up and professional interaction that comes from belonging to a firm.

Ian Dean, one of my Ndarala colleagues, argues that the solution to this lies in regular reviews of what we do, how we do it, what we have learned. At the end of every six or twelve months you should be able to point to specific advances that you hope will provide the basis for future work.

Ian is right, of course, but dear it can be hard to do in the midst of the pressures of daily life, harder still if your work is dropping and you are worried about getting the next job.

Problems here can compound through loss of confidence and consequent decline in self-image. This affects the way we think and present, in turn affecting the way clients see us.

I do not have a magic solution to this problem. I do know two things, however.

The first is that we have to try to build some development activity into our daily life, no matter what the pressures. Second, we have to stop letting external problems including the reactions of others dictate how we think about ourselves.

I know that the last is more easily said than done, but it is still critical. We cannot control the external world. We can, at least to a degree, manage the way we respond to that changing world.

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