Last week I spent a Saturday with a bunch of existing and aspiring entrepreneurs. Their passion, optimism, and thirst for success was inspiring. Right now, I'm working in a company and not really looking to embark on an entrepreneurial journey just yet (though I think I will at some point in the next few years). So I was curious - what does it take to go alone, and make your way in the world? And can you be entrepreneurial within a company?
The path of an entrepreneur is fulfilling and rewarding, but never easy. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 14 million Americans were self-employed in 2015, while another 29 million were hired by the self-employed. Every man or woman with the American Dream in sight seeks that self-owned, independent career, but it's not a reality for everyone. Taxes, costs, health insurance, competition and plain bad luck are just a few of the barriers keeping millions in their 9-to-5 jobs. But there is a better way.
Just because you can't (or choose not to) own your business doesn't mean there isn't a place in the workforce that is ready and willing to embrace your entrepreneurial spirit. More companies are ditching the three-piece suits and cubicles for a more modern and contemporary working lifestyle. Google is probably the most famous example of this new ethos, where employees are encouraged to dress comfortably, work their own hours and take advantage of a multitude of amenities to make office life fun.
If you want a career that's less like a cage and more like a playground, hone these entrepreneurial skills to score a job and lifestyle that you love.
Find the Right Company
(or the right place in your company)
When starting a job search, you'll be amazed by how transparent companies can be when asking for entrepreneurs — the key is finding the businesses that really mean what they say. Auto retailer DriveTime has it front and center on its career page. It states, "If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, welcome a challenge, have high personal standards of achievement and are extremely motivated, we have endless opportunities for you to succeed."
If your skepticism doesn't stop at the front page, find a few of the company's employees on LinkedIn and ask them what life is like in the office. Some may give you the company speak, but others will be surprisingly candid.
Create an Unsolicited Project
Some companies will ask you to complete a sample project during the interview process, but this is something you can provide without being asked. Study the company's website, business, clients (if they're listed), and create your own version of a project that could fit a real business need. This could be a marketing campaign, editorial calendar, social media strategy or financial plan. The point is, your future employer will probably be wowed by an initiative not taken by other applicants.
If you're in a company already, think about a way you can innovate beyond the world of "what's expected" in a way that will build your experience, as well as add value to your company. Figure out a way to get this done, and you'll have a blast.
While reckless carries negative connotation, calculated recklessness is a quality more businesses crave. What is calculated recklessness? It's simply the willingness to take risks in the better interest of the company. The why doesn't matter — calculated recklessness could be in pursuit of a bonus or promotion — but if the boss benefits, you'll be given more freedom to try new things in the future, and that's what every entrepreneur wants.
Say Goodbye to the 9-to-5
The traditional workday is dying, and with good reason. A set 9-to-5 schedule can hinder productivity, erode trust in management and cause distractions while employees watch a clock for eight hours, just waiting for 5 p.m. to roll around. Your company should work like you do, and more startups are adopting this culture. Don't be afraid to tell hiring managers you prefer to set your own hours, and you'll be pleasantly surprised with how many are receptive to the notion.
Find Some Mentors or Guides to Help
One of the things that stood out from last week's collaboration was that a lot of the entrepreneurs I met were involved in "Mastermind Groups" which are information sharing and support groups where entrepreneurs can share their business challenges and get advice from others who've walked the path before them. It is a great concept and everyone I met recommended it. You can find out about Masterminds by word of mouth, or check out resources like "The Success Alliance" for a list of groups you can approach.
Are you an entrepreneur? Are you on the journey to become one? I'd love to hear what you're learning - leave a comment below if you have anything to add to the conversation.