Reflecting on my First Seven Jobs

During college and in high school, I was almost always employed part-time. I rarely worked during the summer, and I liked the challenge of juggling coursework with employment. So it’s no surprise that I was only 19 years old by the time I had worked my #FirstSevenJobs.

Here they are:

  1. English as a second language tutor. 📝 Sometimes, I forget that I started my first venture in middle school. On an external hard drive of archived data, I still have the worksheets I made for my students.
  2. Babysitter. 😊 What teenage girl didn’t babysit? I never babysat actual babies, just children younger than me. I’ve always loved children and I also volunteered in childcare centers and preschools.
  3. Punahou School math tutor. 🔢 Yup, I’m a true nerd. For as long as I can remember, math has been easy for me. My parents signed me up for Kumon in elementary school and I started learning calculus in middle school. I was that annoying kid turning in math tests 15 minutes into the 50-minute period. Being in the honors math track in high school, I had the privilege of spending my free periods sitting in the math tutoring center waiting to help the students enrolled in less advanced math classes.
  4. Punahou School Physics Honors teaching assistant. ⚛ I graded assignments and tutored students. I’m sure I had other responsibilities, but I don’t remember what they were anymore.
  5. SAT-prep tutor. 📓 Yes, I’m proud to admit that I’m a nerd. Back when the SAT had only two sections and a combined score of 1600, I got a near perfect score of 790 on the verbal section and 800 on the math section (see #3 on being a math nerd). Anyway, doing well on standardized tests is a sure-fire way to get tutoring clients. This was my second freelancing gig, not including babysitting.
  6. Retail sales associate at Quiksilver, Newbury Street, Boston. ☀️🏄🏽  I’m from Honolulu. Before attending college in Cambridge, I had never before been to the East Coast. And I had not seen snow fall. So on a cold winter day, when I walked down to Newbury Street from the Boston brownstone I lived in, I was over the moon to find a newly opened surf shop that reminded me of warm days on the beach. In a way, even in this job I was freelancing. I saw the store struggling to penetrate the market, so I took it upon myself to start marketing the store to other homesick students from Hawaii. It would have been a lot easier if Facebook had existed then.
  7. MIT Introductory Biology tutor. I don’t recall how I got this job. 🔬 It must have had something to do with having declared a double-major in Biology and Chemical Engineering. The work was easy, helping students with homework assignments and grading homework assignments (or, problem sets, as we they were called at MIT).

And there it is.

Number 8 was being the MIT Undergraduate Association Office Manager, and number 9 was supporting women’s recruitment at MIT Admissions. And my first “real” job at the MIT Technology Licensing Office, was number 10.

This trip down memory lane has reminded me that I once wanted to be a teacher. I loved children and thought I wanted to be a preschool teacher. Given my math and science aptitude, I later thought it was my duty to become a high school teacher focusing on Advanced Placement courses. And I’ve long wanted to participate in yoga teacher training to get certified to teach yoga, which I’ve been practicing since 1996. But the memory of a Punahou teacher telling my parents that I was too smart to be a teacher is what has always held me back from pursuing that career path.

I’m reminded now that I’ve always been passionate about education, lifelong learning, and helping others. It’s why I volunteered in a childcare center for toddlers from low-income families, and volunteered in a homeless shelter for women and children, and was once a volunteer tutor for immigrants studying to pass the US Citizenship Exam. And it’s the reason I have been an Alumni Mentor for MIT’s 12.000 Solving Complex Problems for the last decade.

And I see that I’ve always been a freelancer and entrepreneur, creating my own career, searching for work-life fit, seeking new challenges and skills, and looking towards the future of work. So it’s no wonder that my path has led me to entrepreneurship and small business consulting. My specialty is creating and improving processes to maximize efficiency, reduce costs, and increase customers and revenue. But my job is really teaching and helping small business owners so they can grow their business. ​

What were your first seven jobs, and how have they shaped your career? Let me know in the comments or contact me personally!

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

‘Good Jobs’ to Create Prosperity Together

I’m fascinated by the Future of Work. So when I read Adam Davidson’s piece for the NYTimes Magazine Future of Work Issue titled “Managed by Q’s ‘Good Jobs’ Gamble”, I had to get a copy of the Zeynop Ton’s The Good Jobs Strategy.

Having worked for a big corporate retailer that recently came out of bankruptcy and having operational experience in small businesses, the ideas in Ton’s book weren’t new to me. But Ton, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, does a phenomenal job of conveying the importance of creating human-centered operations to create fulfilling jobs that pay well, while also improving returns for companies’ investors. Moreover, she illustrates clear examples for putting the Good Jobs Strategy into practice.

Ton boils down the ‘Good Jobs’ operational strategies to four choices:

  • Offer Less: offer fewer products to increase customer satisfaction while streamlining operations
  • Standardize and Empower: use scientific management to examine the work environment to determine which tasks should be standardizes (those which must be done efficiently and consistently) and which tasks to trust to empowered well-trained employees
  • Cross-Train: empower your employees to do many tasks, leading to greater job satisfaction while increasing productivity
  • Operate with Slack: overstaffing costs less than you think, and understaffing comes with many hidden costs

Using these strategies, companies can create ‘Good Jobs.’ Jobs that pay a middle-class salary and create a sense of purpose and empowerment at work, while allowing employees to have a meaningful personal life.

Drawing on more than a decade of research, Ton shows how companies like Southwest Airlines, Trader Joes, Costco, UPS, In-N-Out Burger, use human-centered operational excellence to of­fer low prices to customers while ensuring good jobs for their employees and exceptional returns for their investors.

Ton’s book left me hopeful that we can increase the collective prosperity of all Americans by implementing her research.

Now go out and get yourself a copy, and use the Good Jobs Strategy to build and grow your business.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

10 Reasons to Hire an Independent Consultant

By Yolanda Lau

We’ve all heard that the “gig economy” is the future of work. Estimates put the number of Americans doing freelance work between 54 million and 90 million. In particular, there’s been an increase in the number of freelance strategy and management consultants, as well as marketplaces and platforms connecting businesses to independent consultants. Boutique sites like SpareHireHourlyNerdMBA and CompanyHillgateToptal Business (formerly Skillbridge) and 79 Studios’ own FlexTeam make top quality consultants more accessible to and affordable for smaller businesses.

As a CEO or founder of a small or medium business, you may benefit from hiring an external independent consultant. And once you do, you may find that you can’t work without them. Here’s why:

1. Independent Consultants are Affordable and Provide Cost Savings. Freelance independent consultants are cheaper than hiring a full-time employee. They require fewer overhead costs, in terms of office space, software licenses, benefits, paid time off, payroll tax, and other fixed payroll and office expenses. Moreover, while they often come at higher hourly rates than full-time or part-time staff, you’ll rarely pay them for 2,080 hours a year. And hiring a freelance independent consultant is much more affordable than engaging McKinsey & CompanyBoston Consulting GroupBain & Company, or any of the less well-known firms.

2. Independent Consultants are Experts. Freelance independent consultants tend to be highly skilled, extremely experienced, and educated at top universities. Many freelancers have worked at a big name consulting firm or are industry experts. At FlexTeam, we provide vetted MIT-educated women who are former CTOs, CMOs, COOs, CEOs, investment bankers, management consultants, industry experts, graphic designers, serial entrepreneurs turned consultants, and other top tier talent. Hiring freelance consultants gives you access to skills and experience levels that would come at a much higher price tag if you were to hire them as full-time workers, allowing you to scale your business efficiently and economically.

3. Independent Consultants are Ready to Go. Freelance independent consultants can work independently with little guidance. They have almost certainly worked on many similar projects in the past, and will efficiently work on yours. They hit the ground running and don’t require training, saving you time and money. And your patience.

4. Independent Consultants are Flexible. Freelance independent consultants are highly flexible and adaptable. They can augment your existing teams, or they can work on their own on special projects. FlexTeam, specifically, augments your management teams with on-demand executive level brainpower. Freelancers’ flexibility allows them to adapt to your company culture and the specific needs of your company, thus producing better quality results.

5. Independent Consultants are Easy to Hire. Freelance independent consultants can be hired within a few days. Compare that to engaging a consulting firm or hiring a full-time or part-time employee, which can be a lengthy (and sometimes unsuccessful) process. There are interviews, negotiations, compliance and legal issues, and other time-consuming aspects of the traditional hiring process.

6. Independent Consultants are Committed to Excellence. Freelance independent consultants are committed to customer success and happiness. They recognize that their ability to get future work is dependent on the quality of every work product they create. Since their livelihood is at stake, they are more committed than consultants employed by traditional firms.

7. Independent Consultants are Professional. Freelance independent consultants usually spend time upfront clearly scoping detailed projects. They like to work on deadlines with specific milestones and deliverables. They have their own consulting agreements, though many are happy to sign one provided by your company.

8. Independent Consultants Understand the Importance of Confidentiality. Freelance independent consultants work with dozens of clients across industries on varying projects. They are accustomed to working with confidential information and are comfortable signing Nondisclosure Agreements. Again, their livelihood depends on the quality of their work and keeping their word.

9. Independent Consultants Meet Short Term Needs. Freelance independent consultants allow businesses to meet their short term needs without the time-consuming, frustrating, and costly process of hiring full-time or part-time employees. With freelance consultants, companies can hire an on-demand Chief Marketing Officer to craft a marketing strategy, a Chief Operating Officer to create a strategic growth plan, an analyst to assess new markets or create a financial model, a data scientist to figure out your KPIs, an experienced entrepreneur to write your business plan, and more. All just for a short sprint at the right price.

10. Independent Consultants are Always Available. Freelance independent consultants work irregular hours, often more than 5 days a week. Since they work odd hours and don’t have to operate during business hours, they can work on your project when you need it done. Given clear milestones, deliverables, and deadlines, they create time to get the work done optimally.

Still not convinced? Try hiring a freelance independent consultant for one small project. Just a small investment of about a thousand dollars. You’ll see that once you outsource work to a freelancer or a team of independent consultants, you’ll gain breathing room to tackle the rest of your endless to-do list.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.