Off the curb

Feeding the Meter



Imagine that your work is always interesting, constantly evolving and never boring.  You have taken charge of your work and the future of your career. You are the “ CEO” of your life and doing what you love.

Sounds too good to be true? “Not so,” says Cliff Hakim (a former Boston based career consultant) in his book We are All Self Employed. Originally written more than 25 years ago.  Hakim’s premise is that you can, and should, steer your own career direction rather than rely on your boss or organization to do it for you. Hakim challenges his readers to imagine being the CEO of his or her own life and work and to develop what he calls a “self-employed mindset” to be successful. Adopting this mindset means moving away from dependence, believing in your value in the marketplace, and establishing the belief that you work with rather than for your organization.

As with most forward thinkers, Hakim was way ahead of his time! When he wrote the book, “climbing the corporate ladder” to get ahead was the model most careers were built on. That was long before career lattices, shared economies, and personal branding were part of our work vocabularies. He rightfully predicted the economy would move from manufacturing to service to technology and that creating meaningful work-using our imaginations, taking risks, finding our way to make a contribution-would continue to be at the cornerstone of our culture’s legacy.

Work, now, is no longer constrained by organizational structures and physical locations in the same way it once was. Want to cut a record? You no longer need a music company. Want to host a TV show? You no longer need a network. Want to write a book? You no longer need a publisher. Want to hold a meeting or seminar? You no longer even need a room. What you do need to mobilize your career is to continually tap into your own creative resources, look for opportunities for continual growth, and invest time in updating your skills and knowledge.

Hakim later re-published We are All Self-Employed and also wrote Rethinking Work when he saw the job market reflecting a world where corporate needs shift in a heartbeat and people can sometimes become dispensable as a result. His original work, however, still provides solid and timeless advice. Here are a few of his suggestions:

  • Take risks based on what you know and believe

  • Assess your skills, identify your strengths and figure out what new skills are needed

  • Learn from feedback, mistakes and failure

  • Understand the needs of others in the marketplace

  • Differentiate yourself-develop a niche and a valued service

  • Defer gratification and maintain the discipline necessary to work incrementally toward your goals

  • Change your plan-but not your vision-in order to reach your goals

  • Articulate what you to have to offer and share your plan with others to get feedback

  • Be loyal to yourself, meet your own needs first and then you can give to others

  • Believe you can make a contribution

A word I don’t recall seeing in Hakim’s book is artisan but apparently, paying homage to his own advice, and being ever-on-trend, he has become one!  After more than 30 years as a career consultant and author helping others in work-life transition Cliff shifted his focus to a new endeavor building functional landscape art from stone. Find him at

Lynne Cage