Please welcome our latest resident guest blogger here on Strat-Talking.com, Chelsea Jennings. She is a freelance strategy consultant in New York having graduated recently and will be bringing a unique take on strategic life in NYC.
Create your own opportunities
Strategy is a very niche, abstract profession. A friend of mine once asked me what it was exactly that I did for a living. I told her that in a nutshell, I solve business problems. But in reality strategy consultancy is much more complex than that, which is perhaps why breaking into the strategy world can difficult.
Working as a freelancer though can be a great way to not only get started in the industry, but it can also give you a lot of freedom to only choose projects that interest you. Freelancing can also give you a chance to decide what you want your focus to be as a strategist. Perhaps you want to focus just on branding work, or maybe you want to specialize solely on consumer research and profiling. There’s no shortage of possibilities.
But sometimes the work just isn’t rolling in, or perhaps you’re just starting out as a freelancer or in the business in general. So what can you do to not only keep your skills sharp but also build up your notoriety for reputable work?
Here’s a list of ideas for when the only opportunities available are the ones that you make for yourself:
1. Pick a business, pick a problem within that business, and solve it.
This is a pretty simplistic project you can undertake, but it will give people a chance to see how you think and how you approach problem solving. These types of projects are especially important for strategists just starting out who are perhaps looking to build up their portfolio of work in order to land that first, real gig.
Get your thoughts out there for all to see. Show people that you are constantly thinking and connecting the dots. Stay interested in the world around you and write about what you see. Strategists need to not only have great ideas, but they also need to be able to communicate these ideas effectively and clearly. Blogging is a great way to improve your communication skills.
3. Take workshops and attend conferences.
When you find yourself at a standstill with no projects coming your way, get out into the world. Meet other strategists like yourself at sponsored events or industry conferences not just to network, but also to learn from others. Strategy requires you to stay nimble and constantly be learning and perfecting your craft. Doing a simple search on Google for “strategy workshops” will yield you a diverse amount of results. And if you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of workshops or conferences nearby, there are several online workshops you can participate in that are related to strategy.
4. Make POV decks.
Creating digital presentations that showcase your point of view on the industry not only helps you improve your presentation making skills, but it also gives people a chance to see that you have an opinion on what’s going on. Strategists need to be able to formulate sound opinions that are backed by research and data. Practice formulating these opinions while you have no work coming your way so that when things start to pick up again, you’ll be able to clearly define what you think and why.
5. Become an expert in something you’re interested in.
Have an outside interest unrelated to strategy? Become and expert in it. You never know when you’ll pick up work on a project related to what you’re interested in, or perhaps a position on the client side opens up that is related to one of your hobbies. Knowing the ins and outs of something unrelated to your craft not only makes you a more interesting person, it also gives you an advantage in the industry.
The bottom line is, there’s no shortage of strategists, but there can often times be a shortage of work or positions available. You need to be tenacious, hungry, and when the going gets tough, create the opportunities that no one else is giving you.
Chelsea Jennings is a strategist currently freelancing and living in NYC. Chelsea graduated from the University of Oregon’s Advertising and Journalism program last year, and also originally hails from Oregon. When she’s not working or exploring the city, you can find her playing bingo at a local Brooklyn bar or staying in with a good friend and good movie. You can find more of her writing on her blog.