Consulting After 50—Name Your Dragons!

There are many reasons why as a mature professional, you may be eying the door. It’s the second half of your life and there are more options available than you ever dreamed. You are standing on a frontier. Where you will invest your energy? Consulting is one exciting option. The attractions of working for yourself are compelling. It’s getting there that is the issue.

Before we start to develop strategies for your consulting practice, we need to explore the dark side, and look at the fear, insecurity and self-doubt that are holding you back. You can hear the voices of teachers, family members, supervisors, bosses, friends, and your own inner critic, all telling you that you can’t succeed at something as risky as going out on your own. You needn’t even bother trying!

They say:

·         You will never pull this off.
·         It’s a bad idea.
·         No one will hire you.
·         You haven’t got what it takes.

This negative self-talk is toxic and self-destructive. You really want a new challenge in your life so how are you going to change this narrative?

The Metaphor Game

Let’s call these negative voices your inner dragons. Their origins are rooted deep in your past. They are formidable foes and you have probably lost more than one battle to them. Who are they?

Let’s start a list:

·         Pride
·         Fear
·         Jealousy
·         Guilt
·         Regret
·         Procrastination
·         Indecision
·         Inferiority complex
·         Perfectionism
·         Self-sabotage
·         Add your own (the list goes on and on….)

But look—these dragons have been around so long that they are getting old and tired. They’re running out of steam (or fire!) Their wings are bedraggled, their scales are losing their sheen and are falling out, their ear-piercing shrieks are getting weaker. They will probably always be with you, but their day is over and it’s time they retired.

Pick your most terrifying dragons, visualize them, and give them names that amuse you. Miniaturize them. Make them into cartoons. Using humor can take the sting out of those late-night debates you have with them. Next time they raise their heads, give them a very tedious job to do, like counting staples or sorting the pebbles in your garden by size. Tell them to go back to their nests, stick their noses under their ragged wings, and go to sleep. By giving them permission to go away, you create a new sense of freedom and relief. You start to open up space in your life to plan your next adventure.

Changing your self-talk requires practice and commitment, but each time we stand up to our dragons, each time we defeat the negative self-talk and swap it out for something positive, we take a step towards our new goals. Each step adds energy and guides us forward and as we go we get stronger and more resilient.

Tune in next time when we hunt for buried treasure and start to explore your marketable skills.


Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Cameron, J. (2016) It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. New York: Penguin Random House.

McLeay, S.A. (2016) A Memoir Journal: Your Guide to Vision, Voice and Story. Calgary: Life’s All Write.

Photo: Pixabay

Consulting After 50—Your Audience is Waiting!

Is it time to take charge of your career? Have you always secretly wanted to work for yourself? Why not make a change? There are lots of good reasons why your workplace may no longer be tenable, but nothing ever stays the same—why should you?

If you need a new challenge, want more control over your life, or feel it’s time to strike out on your own, consulting is a great choice. Before the curtain rises on your second act, why not do some serious thinking about what you want to do, where you want to go, and how best to get there.

This new blog series is designed to help you explore key career transition issues. Today, let’s start with some basic questions.

1.      What do I really like to do?

Until recently, your career was dominated by financial concerns, family imperatives, and a need to climb the organizational ladder. Drivers like these can overwhelm your personal vision. They may be long gone, but you may still feel pinned to that older version of yourself. Let’s think about the kind of work you really enjoy, love to talk about, and imagine doing even better. Maybe that’s where you should be headed.

2.      Should I stay in the same field?

In your line of work, you know the landscape, the people, and the politics. You know how to get things done. Think about the needs and issues that never get addressed. Could you solve these problems? If this does not appeal, look next door to an adjunct field. Could organizations there use your skills if they were packaged just a bit differently? What about your personal hobbies and interests? Is there an area that calls to you—if only you had time? Put aside all your concerns and hesitations for a moment. Where would you really like to work?

3.      What services should I offer?

If you have a sense of your field of dreams, imagine yourself there three years from now. You are an in-demand consultant. Your skills and innovations are catching fire. You are sharing your unique approaches and hard-won wisdom. What exactly are you doing? With careful thought, you can identify the intersection between your skills and needed services. We need wise people now more than ever. Why can’t you be one of them?

4.      How do I find my market?

You have worked with many agencies and organizations in the past. See them as potential clients. Remember projects that were particularly successful. Who was involved? These are key individuals to contact. Ask for their advice and suggestions. Tell them you are thinking about exploring some new options but don’t ask for work. These are simply information interviews that will help you define your potential market. If you don’t ask, you won’t find out. It’s a low risk activity, so get started.

5.      What should I worry about?

Of course, financial viability is the top of the list. Happily, findings on career change for older workers are positive. A 2015 report from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) found that 82% of people aged 47 and older who tried to transition to new careers in the last two years were successful; 70% saw their pay either increase (50%) or stay the same (18%); and 87% said they were happy with that change.

If these topics catch your imagination, think about consulting. Your audience is waiting!


Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Photo:  i-stock

The Consultant’s Marketing Plan: Using a Complexity Lens

The trouble with consultants’ marketing plans is that they don’t work. They are rational and linear but our environments are dynamic and unpredictable. This frustrating disconnect makes us want to stop planning altogether.

Read more: The Consultant’s Marketing Plan: Using a Complexity Lens

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