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Before I began my life in marketing consulting, I spent 25 years working in the same industry – higher education. It was an atmosphere that allowed me to pursue my passion of being a lifelong learner. On any given day, I was writing about a range of faculty and their research and learning as I was promoting their work. From the human circadian rhythm cycle, to camelid health, to the correlation of gut health to mental illness, to using telescopes to see past black holes - when you work in a university setting, your faculty widen your understanding, your education and your awe of the world.

But in practice, I was a highly-honed marketing and communications professional. I thought for many years and into my first year of consulting of that being the box I was meant to maneuver within.

What a blessing that tutelage from faculty was for me, and a blessing that I had no idea positioned me to be curious freelancer. It took me an entire year to believe that the skills I had and the knowledge that I had attained would allow me to branch into other fields of interest. I put a toe in the water recently, pursuing on a whim my interests in aviation, wine and tourism. I also put myself out there as someone who could work with international organizations. I did all with a tiny bit of trepidation. I knew a great deal about the science of wine, the economics of tourism, the mechanics of aviation. But my international experience was limited to, well, Canada and some time in Russia. But I wanted to grow in both my education and my practice so I pursued opportunities outside of higher education. And I now have a broad portfolio that is based in my university clients, but peppered with some of the most fascinating, knowledge-building, career-stretching work I have ever pursued.

I feel a new life and hope emerging as I start to apply what I know I do well to other industries. My portfolio now includes emerging drone technology, wine and tourism, architecture and now a client in Australia. I feel so alive and excited about the work that I do. Taking the leap into believing in myself enough to try for these contracts was a thoughtful and somewhat emotionally ardent process. For others in consulting who want to try something new, here are a few things I learned:

  • Joy Inventory – it sounds silly, but one lazy day, I made a list of things that gave me joy in the context of also earning income. The list was long, and I carefully reviewed the list, narrowing it to the things I valued most, enjoyed immensely and had some contacts that could advise me on how to enter the business. The list included: emerging applied technology products, wine, hiking/nature activities, agriculture, place marketing (tourism). Of these, I had friends who worked in three of the five areas. Two were areas that I had a great deal of knowledge, but no contacts.

  • Networking – I began by rekindling my colleague relationships in the three industries. To my great delight, all responded affirmatively. One even working hard to expand my business, not only hiring me, but introducing me to many in the industry and touting my skills.

  • Taking Risks – one of the new areas to me – emerging applied technology – was open-ended enough that I thought I could couple my other interests with companies who were developing tech for those industries. Indeed, when I saw an ad posted in a wine newsletter that I subscribe to for a marketing director for a start-up drone company focused on the wine industry, I polished the resume and cover letter and applied. It worked out. I am now working in aviation, wine and ag – a three-for-one deal based on a chance that I took. And, I am learning what it is like to kick-start a start-up company. The learning is wonderful, and the challenges are fulfilling to me as a person and as a professional.

  • Be Open to Crazy Ideas – It’s a long story about how I built up my confidence to land an international contract. But it started with a consultant friend who told me her story of starting with people she knew and worked with in the past and then pursuing contracts abroad. She had worked with community colleges in America and now has a portfolio of clients in England, France, Germany and South America. She counseled me to change my attitude about myself and my skills. What I know is valuable across borders, she said. And I am bright and confident enough to study cultural nuances and adapt. Her pep talk made me see myself as perhaps being a global citizen- a thought I never had before.

  • Fail – I applied for many freelance positions in my areas of interest and never got so much as an interview. But that is the rule of freelancing – it sometimes takes a mile of work to move an inch of productivity. At first I was crushed that I never made it to the next step, but then I convinced myself that everything happens for a reason and clearly, I was not intended to work in that position if they did not call me. Over time, the right positions emerge. It is a little amazing. Consulting is a gamble and generating new business is a constant stress and chore. But when you land the contract, it is often one that will be satisfying and dynamic.

I am loving my new additions to my consulting life and the relationships I am building. But I am keeping an eye on my core mission. I know the in’s and out’s of higher education marketing, and I want to never lose that focus. It is my foundation, and I won’t leave it. But it is a wonderful opportunity to have the freedom to learn and advance your interests and passions. I remain a lifelong learner. Only now, I control the subjects I am immersed in and the people I get to meet and promote. In the spirit of season, consulting is indeed a “wonderful life.”


Portfolio Diversification
Consulting is a Wonderful Life


Life Without Gravity

A blog chronicling the up's and down's, trials and tribulations, fear and happiness of moving your life from the expected 9-to-5 job to a life of consulting. While it is a big and often scary decision, it is a time of discovery, rejuvenation and introspection that will help you remember who you are and who you were supposed to be. It's a wonderful journey.

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