Last spring I was lucky enough to hear Sheryl Sandberg speak at my sister’s graduation from Harvard Business School. I was also fortunate enough to meet Sheryl afterwards. In personal conversation she was as gracious as she was inspiring.
The graduation was a time of celebration and reflection. Those receiving diplomas were optimistic. With most of their lives still ahead of them and an impressive experience under their belt, they had every reason to be. Still, even there, amongst all of the optimism and opportunity, was a strong sense of uncertainty. Everyone seemed to be aware of the changing economic climate these graduates were entering into. In many ways the rules had been re-written – even for them. A year later, we face similar realities.
Today’s market requires an adaptive outlook and a wider perspective than ever. As I write this post, the most shared story online bares the headline “Why Everyone Will Have to Become an Entrepreneur”.
The article claims that while entrepreneurship used to be reserved for the renegade cowboys of Silicon Valley, nowadays, you have to be an entrepreneur just to get and hold a job.
I would argue that there is a lot of truth to that claim. In order to enjoy our life journey and thrive we need a shift in mindset. Why not start by shifting into an entrepreneurial mindset?
Rather than waiting for graduation, the start of a new school year is the perfect opportunity to make this shift. We all know how easy it is to get swept up in all your daily responsibilities or to start putting things off. ‘‘when I finish this assignment”, “when exams are over”, ‘’when I graduate’’, ‘’when I get that job’’. Future ambitions and goals are admirable but the moment is a powerful thing.
Here are 4 entrepreneurial tips to get you started:
#1: Focus on ‘’who instead of ‘’what’’:
You are not your work or even your job title for that matter. So many of us often believe that we will be happy and confident only after becoming successful in our professional life. The reality is that confidence and a positive attitude are not derived from success, but are qualities that when developed will in turn enable us to succeed.
Entrepreneur, Jake Nickell, founder of Threadless, not only knows this reality but also lives it. Though Jake came from humble beginnings, he had a distinct sense of self worth, unconnected to his level of outward success. He was able to create this sense of self-worth by developing a clear picture of both the kind of person he wanted to be and of his desire to exert a positive influence on the world around him.
The same approach should be used in your own career. By focusing on who you want to be in your career, rather than what, you will be more value driven and better able to prioritize your own strength of character which will in turn give you the confidence to go for the career you want. Confidence doesn’t come from landing that job. It comes from within and enables you to seek opportunities, judge yourself as worthy to pursue them, take the risks and execute.
It’s only when you are clear on WHO you want to be that you can really start to lean into becoming that person.
#2: Think of yourselves as job creators instead of job seekers:
You’ve all heard this one before. “There are opportunities out there but you may need to make them yourselves.” While the message itself is nothing new, many of us are still too afraid to take that step.
Career progression often depends on taking risks and advocating for oneself; two traits that successful entrepreneurs must have in abundance.
Successful entrepreneurs are known for creating opportunities, for following their passions and for taking risks. They allow their passions to guide their actions and don’t allow fear to dictate who and what they are.
CTO of Xerox and self-proclaimed ‘intrepreneur’, Sophie Vandebroek, recognizes that we each have our own set of priorities, but too often we don’t live according to them.
Instead, we let fear hold us back from truly pursuing our passions, or from creating our own versions of success. Whether it’s fear of being judged, fear of failure or even fear of success…it’s time we get out of our own way and start creating the opportunities we know we deserve.
It’s time to be an entrepreneur in your own career and find something you love doing. Find it and go all in! Use your passion and priorities to guide you to the right career. Don’t worry about what your parents, your partner, your peers or even society will think. If you really want to create a job worth leaning into, take an entrepreneurial step by following your passion and taking the risk to follow it.
#3 Make many attempts
Entrepreneurs are known for making many attempts to get the right product to the market. So many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs including Richard Branson, Derek Sivers, Caterina Fake and Kathryn Minshawhave had a string of businesses that just didn’t take off, but they kept trying until they found the one that did!
So how does this apply to you in your career? Start now! Throughout the school year, take on different roles. Volunteer. Take an internship in a different industry. Try many times, many roles, many companies and many ideas but most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail. As many entrepreneurs will tell you, some of the best lessons you will ever learn come from failure.
Recognize that failure can be a very important part of the process. There is a lot of wisdom in the saying “there is no such thing as failure, only feedback”. Even when things don’t work out the way you envision, you will still walk away having learnt something; Worst case scenario, you will have learnt what not to do…and at best, you walk away with a whole new set of skills you didn’t have before.
By using these experiences as opportunities to find your personal motivation or to acquire new skills that interest you, it will be impossible to fail. So, ask yourself now what you would do if you weren’t afraid, and then go out and do it. If you succeed, great! If you fail, learn from that failure and get back out there!
For entrepreneurs, It’s about making many attempts and persevering on the right ones. But the reality is that it’s all about making many attempts to find a career worth leaning into.
#4. Collaborate instead of compete.
A lot of the advice out there has advocated the importance of seeking out a mentor to help push you up that proverbial ladder. While mentorship can be crucial to career progression, there are still a few challenges to overcome in finding the right person to advise and advocate for you.
Here’s an entrepreneurial tip that might help push you along: Rather than competing with your peers to capture the attention of the higher-ups (senior management), why not collaborate?
Peers can just as effectively mentor and sponsor each other. In today’s startups, success depends on co-founders working together towards the same mission.
So, reach out and interact with the energy of others at the same stage of their careers. You will be surprised to find you have more allies than you think. Today, partnerships are the new takeovers. Some of the brightest careers and strongest companies are born and thrive out of the most meaningful collaborations.
Opportunities are out there for those who are willing to make it happen. You truly can have an incredible life, the catch is, no one will hand it to you and finding that perfect job is only part of the puzzle. In the new economy, perhaps more than even, it’s not yours to take, but yours to make.