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Self-Employment And Work Experience

Anja Merret

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For many years I managed a computer training centre. During those years I handled the financials, sales and marketing, human resources and anything else that required input. During this time I also on rare occasions and as an emergency, took over in reception answering the phones. This was not difficult and I did a fair job of it. Certainly never had any complaints! I abided by the easy principle of being friendly to people. I would hazard a guess that I would not be able to find employment as a receptionist as I would not have sufficient work experience.

What experience would be considered essential to being a good receptionist? I would guess, being able to deal with people would be the most important. Learning how to use the telephone system would require a maximum of half a day's learning, and any clerical systems the company used, would be different from company to company. This means previous experience would not count.

Take this reasoning one step further and apply this to self-employment. If you work for yourself, you will be required to deal with people. Would answering the telephone at a large company provide you with the experience you need? Or would you be able to learn how to do this by following a few basic steps such as being friendly and helpful. In fact one would almost be inclined to say, that working for a company could mean that you pick up bad habits. Recently I had occasion to phone companies to find out who the relevant people would be to send information to on training. The general rudeness that I came across during this exercise has been quite staggering. If anybody handling their own business, were to behave like this to callers, you would be out of business.

I can hear the objections already. Low skilled jobs are different to high skilled jobs. Working as an investment broker for instance requires work experience. What is experience? It generally involves learning from doing something right or from making mistakes. Some people also learn from following people blindly, but those generally tend not to be in senior positions, or if they are, not for very long. Does it matter where this experienced is gained? Working for yourself you will do things right and you will make mistakes, the same as working for a company. The mistakes you make while working for yourself could be expensive. The mistakes you make for a company could mean you loose your job. There doesn't really seem to me much difference. If you do things right working for yourself you win financially, if you do things right for a company, there is generally no change in circumstance. You might get promotion and earn another £500 per month, or your boss might just take credit for your good work!

In order to minimise making mistakes, we tend to seek advice from other people in the company we work for, whether it is your immediate boss or the division head, or co-worker. When self-employed, finding advice and help is not as easy as walking into the office next door, or asking a co-worker in the cubicle next to you. But help and assistance is available as well, and often quicker and cheaper for instance on the internet provided one learns where to find it. Is it quicker in a company? Not necessarily. It requires some time as well to work out who the right people are to ask, and where the company might keep the resources for additional information.

I don't really see any huge advantages to working for a company when it comes to gaining experience. In fact it can be said that some companies might even teach their staff bad habit such as rudeness to customers or even unethical practices.

Anja Merret lives in Brighton, UK. She has recently started a blog and writes on issues that interest her from self-improvement to tech stuff for amateurs. Anja has had a varied and interesting career journey. She started as a high school teacher, changed professions to become an admin manager at her late husbands law firm because this allowed her the flexibility to look after her small children at the time. After many years she left this position to try her hand at an art gallery, moved across to public relations and finally found her niche in education again managing a computer training centre for many years. During this time she also involved herself in writing standards and qualifications in the new media field. 10 months ago she moved from South Africa to join her younger daughter. She now writes a blog and also looks after the business interests of her daughter who is a Flash and Accessibility expert. She has BA (Hons) MBA degrees and on rare occasions she feels like a frustrated wannabe academic. That passes quickly though.


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