SANTA ANA, Calif. - ‘You may have an undiscovered business within you,’’ said Bill Ellermeyer, a longtime outplacement expert in Orange County, Calif.
Ellermeyer knows of what he speaks.
Ellermeyer was laid off in the 1970s from Air Cal, a defunct Orange County-based airline.
Out of that experience he started the first local firm that helped displaced executives find new jobs. He sold the company to Lee Hecht Harrison in 1989 and continues there as a senior vice president.
But that’s not his only work. Ellermeyer, 66, is a company unto himself, and he thinks a growing number of baby boomers should be, too. In fact, it may be a necessity.
The notion of job security with a corporation that will provide your health insurance and pension is increasingly a dinosaur. The truth is, even longtime employees don’t really have secure jobs. If they’re laid off and older than 50, their chances of finding an equal or better replacement job aren’t great.
But people with a couple of decades of work experience should be able to fashion those skills into a portfolio of selfemployment, said Ellermeyer, who teaches a workshop called ‘‘You are the Enterprise’’ for Lee Hecht Harrison clients.
‘‘In the 21st century, skills and knowledge replace dependency and loyalty in the workplace,’’ he said. ‘‘You may choose to use your skills in a traditional job or deploy them over multiple streams of income.’’
Here’s how Ellermeyer’s strategy would work for a marketing manager. He starts his own consulting practice. He also works one day a week as marketing director for a small firm that can’t afford a full-time position. Ellermeyer teaches a marketing class at a college. And he sits on the board of a small company in need of marketing know-how.
Ellermeyer follows his own advice. In addition to his Lee Hecht Harrison work, he’s an executive coach, professional speaker and marketing consultant.
‘‘Sit down and think of yourself as a business and brainstorm all the ways you can create income,’’ he said.
He offers a seven-step process in assessing whether you can be a portfolio entrepreneur:
1. Know yourself. ‘‘People who succeed have answered the questions ‘‘who am I?’’ and ‘‘what am I motivated to do?’’ Ellermeyer said.
One way to sort that out, he suggests, is to recall a time when you woke up every day excited about what you were going to do. Another is to list nine major achievements in your life, and then consider the skills and abilities involved.
2. Think like a business. ‘‘Be a risk-taker. Invest in yourself. Write a personal mission statement,’’ he said.
3. Develop the art of selfpromotion. ‘‘I had a hard time with this because of a desire not to appear egotistic,’’ Ellermeyer said. ‘‘But selfpromotion is not an ego trip. It is truth about yourself well-told.’’
People are selfpromotional, even if the message is negative, he said. It’s how you dress, how you carry yourself, what traits you’re known for.
4. Continually reinvent yourself. Guard against staying in one place. When IBM was tops in mainframe computers, it ignored Apple, which was introducing personal computers. Failing to move into that new market until much later was a costly mistake.
‘‘If who you are is where you work, you’re in a rut,’’ he said.
5. Network to build and cultivate active, powerful relationships with other business people. Don’t think in terms of what they will give you, but what you can give to them.
6. Consider the portfolio approach to your career. Especially in weak job markets, don’t sit around waiting for someone to offer a $175,000 job.
‘‘A lot of senior executives come to see me who have been out of work for a year. They’re desperate,’’ he said. ‘‘I tell them, ‘Tomorrow, go to work. Go to Kinko’s and get some business cards printed, then start presenting yourself as a resource to many different companies, not as someone looking for a job.’
‘‘Besides, this portfolio approach is a dynamite way to find a job,’’ Ellermeyer said. ‘‘Some who have taken my advice realize they like the freedom and the control over their lives and decide they don’t want a traditional job.’’
7. Continue a lifelong education. Take classes, read books, accept assignments in unfamiliar fields.
‘‘If it’s deemed that you’re not trainable, no company will hire you,’’ Ellermeyer said. ‘‘I find people over 50 who think they’ve been discriminated against, but I look at their careers and find they haven’t changed since the ’70s.’’