Monday, 3 September 2012

Bridges

There's two parts to this post.

First

Periodically, I get asked by people in 9 to 5 employment whether they should consider going self-employed. I usually send them back a few self-questions, point out that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and when’s the right time to go self-employed (when you have a financial buffer and some contacts who’ll give you paid work), and when’s the wrong time (when you are thinking of buying a new house, and you’re going solo purely because you don’t like your current job or boss).

And bundled in there are a few bits of advice. Of which the most important is:

Don't burn your bridges.

I probably mention this every year on whatever blog I’ve been writing on. But, it’s true, and it’s just proved itself to me again. Though contracts have yet to be signed, I’ve picked up some work from a connection with a colleague from way back. In fact the last time I saw her was in (thinks hard) September 1998 - exactly 14 years ago.

That’s quite a while.

We’ve keep in occasional touch over the years, but then I popped up on the radar as someone who does what her service now needs pretty much exactly. That doesn’t mean that I got the gig purely because we were friends ‘back in the day’; a lot of negotiating had to be done, and the first version of the specification was rejected. The process has been professional.

But if we hadn’t kept in touch, or worse I’d burnt my bridge here with her, or her service, then this would simply have not happened.

For the benefit of Mr Powell

And it isn’t the first time this has happened. Virtual World Watch came about partially because I knew Andy Powell ‘back in the day’. I hadn’t met him for nearly a decade, but we’d been work colleagues at UKOLN. Then, he ended up as the big cheese director of the Eduserv Foundation, and after online chats due to our geographical differences of the time, the foundation hired me to do one snapshot report. Which became unexpectedly popular, a few more followed, and we negotiated the Virtual World Watch service. Which again, took some - professional - work, and again the first version of the specification was rejected. No easy ride just because we shared the same work kettle in the 1990s.

The moral here is; when you leave a place of work, try not to do it on bad terms with colleagues there. Sometimes, this isn’t possible. For example, one person from my past who took public credit for some work I did - nope, never working for or with him again. We’ve all got our lines, and mine was crossed there. But if there’s no need to rage out of a place, no matter how bad or disillusioned or whatever the reasons for going, then don’t. You never know when the old work colleague, a year, two years, five, ten, fifteen, down the line is running something big and is in a position to work with you on something major.

Andy as bat

Oh, and also, this fits in with the sensible advice of ‘be nice to people, unless you have a good reason not to be’.

Second

Support from loved ones is always good. Guess that's what makes them, to some extent, loved ones.

So, the other factor in me getting the aforementioned work is Becky. Who, despite ending up with a sickly boyfriend, then fiancee, never lost patience. Even when she had a lot going on (insane amounts of work; house hunting; buying a house; dealing with the largest cat in midwest America). And even when I was losing patience with my own health and wondering if it was ever going to get fixed. (It turned out after a year of dealing with the NHS in a myriad of ways that there were four things wrong with me, all of which are now being dealt with).

She sent me this, months ago. This I get. This is Becky:

And that's one of the many reasons I love her. Without her support, in many ways, I might possibly have gone mad. More likely, I wouldn't have been up for negotiating for the aforementioned work, and which I got. Due credit to Becky, without whom the difficult things would have seemed, and been, impossible.

Third

Because I can't count.

I'm realising this evening that the next 100 days is going to be mad for me. It didn't take my old colleague and new client very long to start posting messages about whip-cracking and deadlines.

Adding to that a whole bundle of other things - not optional, but essential bad-things-will-happen-if-they-are-not-done things - that have to be done before mid December. And several opportunities that, if not taken by December, will be missed.

This evening I've rewritten a to-do list for those 100 days. Some things I wanted to do this autumn are now reluctantly moved onto a new list entitled "2013, hopefully". And the new list looks, frankly and realistically, impossible. But then again, the seemingly impossible can be done; a good example being my favorite sports moment of 2012. If someone had told Richard Whitehead several years ago that he would do this...

...then he would have probably thought it impossible, too.

Roll on the next 100 days.

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