Take a Leap After 50
Every Friday, we share a big leap from a guest contributor. Here is my good friend Ken Jacobs! The Ken Jacobs. Please thank him for sharing with us his leap after 50. It was Fall of 2006. My last senior agency position had ended in spring of that year, and it hadn’t ended happily. I had been searching for another senior level spot, and while I had some good prospects, I hadn’t received the offer yet.
Talk about scary.
I had a mortgage, a wife who teaches, one child still in and one child soon to be in college. That was also scary.
I had an honest conversation with my coach about opportunities. I began to realize that over the age of fifty, getting a position as a senior executive in a PR agency could be particularly challenging. That was really scary.
Then we began to look at my career in a new way. What if I created a career where instead of depending on a boss, I could take greater control of my own destiny?
That was also scary, because while I’d enjoyed being the #1 or #2 leader in a PR firm, I had never wanted to be the owner. I never wanted to worry about making payroll, or paying the rent, or keeping the lights on, handling benefits, and being solely responsible for business development and marketing.
And to be frank, in the past, when the agencies where I worked hit a rough patch, my income, while not guaranteed, was steady.
But what if I could create a business limited to doing only what I loved and was good at, for clients I respected, every day? That was compelling, because while I loved many of my previous positions, I couldn’t honestly say that I loved everything I did, or only did those tasks at which I excelled.
I knew my new career would involve some combination of giving the best advice I could, and not worrying about if it was taken or not, teaching/training, and helping professionals achieve their business and personal goals. Naturally, it would be related to the PR/communications agency world.
So we developed a personal vision, and it became clear that I needed to create three related companies in one:
- Consulting with the owners and leaders of PR and communications agencies;
- Leading training workshops at agencies; and
- Executive coaching to communications professionals.
So while I had spent my entire 25+ years of my career at agencies serving consumer-facing marketers as my clients, now agencies would be my clients.
So I took the Big Leap! I created a company name, incorporated, got registered with the great state of New Jersey, got a federal tax ID and all that goes with it.
Then it hit me: unlike other new consultancies or agencies, I was doing so without one client. That was breathtakingly scary.
I dug in and wrote my business development plan and my marketing/PR plan (two related-but-different documents, in my opinion.) I generated PR industry media coverage of my consultancy’s launch. Started attending conferences attended by my prospects, like Counselors Academy Spring Conference, where I met Big Leap Creative’s Lisa Gerber.
I lined up speaking engagements and I became active in various communications organizations. And while I felt like I had no time for anyone or anything else, I started officially mentoring young professionals because sometimes you’ve just got to do the right thing.
I started to get clients, repeat business, helpful referrals, and actually made some money.
I’ll admit that during the first few years, I’d see job postings for which I thought I was perfect, and it was tempting. But I didn’t send one resume. That would have been playing it safe and I owed it to myself to give this a shot.
Then the Great Recession of 2007 hit that Fall! Talk about not-great timing!.
Somehow, I never felt scared. I had survived around three or four previous recessions. I knew I could weather this storm, because I had taken my big leap and I was doing what I loved. Every day.
I’m happy to tell you, I weathered the storm. While I’m not yet ready to purchase The Washington Post, (heard that’s been done) I can tell you that Jacobs Communications Consulting is thriving. I lay out quarterly goals and “knock wood,” I’m making them. Some quarters, I even beat them.
I’ve jumped into social, and am guest blogging on some pretty influential blogs. While my digital footprint isn’t yet where I want it to be, I’ve made great progress, thanks to smart counsel and encouragement from a variety of good friends who are experts in that field.
I’ve got a terrific group of clients, and nearly all of them treat me like a client! Is it hard work? I’m working harder than I ever thought I would be at this point in my career. But I’m far happier than I ever thought I’d be. And that’s because I took “The Big Leap.”
At least once a week, I encourage someone I know to take it too. And now I hope I’ve encouraged you.
Ken Jacobs is the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, which helps public relations and communications firms grow and manage business, and improve team performance, communications and leadership skills. It does so via training, consulting and coaching. Ken blogs at www.kensviews.com