In the run-up to being made redundant last September I started to consider self-employment. One recommended area to look at was Business Link, a government-run advisory service, sadly now due to be largely abolished under the cuts. I was intrigued enough by a banner ad on its site to investigate Silver Academy, a series of seven monthly seminars in Guildford for the over-50s considering self-employment or already taking the first steps. It is run by the University of Surrey but funded by the EU.
I was fortunate to be selected to be one of the 100 delegates from all over the South-East of England; less fortunate to have to miss the first meeting. I travelled up from Chichester to the second event in late November, the first day of the massive snow falls, and was immediately impressed by the buzz in the room. The format of this and subsequent days was a series of talks interspersed with exercises such as a sort of “speed networking” and a Virtual Boardroom where someone on each table poses a challenge they are facing and the others ask questions and suggest some solutions or alternative approaches. Many extra events were soon organised such as a workshop on the nuts and bolts of self-employment (not really covered in Silver Academy which has more of a focus on business ideas, motivation, networking, and mentoring), a Sales Club for the many of us not used to selling ourselves (thanks to Richard White, the Accidental Salesman®!), and a series of workshops on the use of the web and of social media. Most of use take the attitude that we should seize as many of these opportunities as we can, subject to our busy lives elsewhere! We also actively use our group on LinkedIn to share ideas and generally enhance our networking.
From the beginning I have been greatly inspired by the speakers and my fellow delegates. The January meeting encouraged me to make my first steps in finding new business, with positive results – I will post the news when this is converted to some definite work! So many fresh ideas have been raised, new connections forged, and confidence boosted as to what we can do. We have met people we would never otherwise have encountered, from many walks of life. I know most of us will carry forward these new connections and friendships into our future careers.