Why Employees Need to Think Like An Entrepreneur

If you?ve spent much time on this website in the past, then you?ll know that I believe that the job market as we?ve known it in the past is changing fundamentally For that reason, even if you have a job right now ? and even if it looks reasonably secure ? you need to think like an entrepreneur.

That means not only changing the way you handle your job, but the way that you earn a living in general. This could even include taking a stab at starting your own business. The lay of the land in the job market today requires that you are flexible, creative, and most of all, resilient. The days of jobs offering cradle-to-grave security are gone, and it now requires an entirely new way of thinking about how you make a living.

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The changing nature of employment

Most people prefer a full-time, permanent job that provides full benefits. It?s easy enough to understand why this is, after all, that kind of job lends itself well to the ?automatic pilot? quality that we seek in earning a living. Even entrepreneurs do this by looking to build passive income sources.

Why Employees Need to Think Like An Entrepreneur
Why Employees Need to Think Like An Entrepreneur

The luxury of that type of job situation is disappearing quickly. Foreign labor markets are competing with domestic labor, and technology is gradually eroding the value of human labor. In the middle of it all, employers are increasingly coming to view employees as commodities ? dispensable and replaceable.

Bloomberg Businessweek recently ran an article on temporary employment, Temporary jobs becoming a permanent fixture in US, citing that there are now nearly 17 million contingent workers in the country, representing about 12% of the workforce. Only 2.7 million workers are officially categorized as ?temporary? workers, as the total also includes freelancers, contract workers and consultants. More importantly, the numbers are expected to grow steadily in the future.

It?s not a happy state of affairs, but it is the reality of our time, and the only way to survive and prosper in it is to embrace it by changing both tactics and strategies.

Think like an entrepreneur about your job and career

Accepting reality is the first step in dealing with it. Repeat to yourself: I am dispensable and replaceable. Read it, re-read it, say it to yourself – then say it again. Breathe in the aroma of it – then park it in a prominent place in your conscious mind. That is the reality of today?s job market, no matter how much we may wish it to be otherwise.

To think like an entrepreneur means, first and foremost, that you must stop viewing your job as THE income source, but rather as AN income source.

Your current job should be seen as your income source du jour, but subject change. That means that you should be fully prepared to quickly move on to the next income situation when your job finally comes to an end. Now notice that I used the term income situation instead of the word job? The income situation could be a job ? but then it could also be a contract situation, a temporary job or even some form of self-employment.

From this day forward, you should no longer be thinking in terms of a job, but rather of an opportunity. As in an opportunity to earn a living. This isn?t just semantics, there is a significant difference. A job is a one-dimensional concept, typically involving a permanent, full-time position with a single employer. Opportunity however opens the door to pursuing any situation as a potential to make money.

When you start pursuing opportunity rather than the job, your horizons are much bigger. Just be prepared to step outside your comfort zone – that?s the key that usually opens the door.

?Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work? – Thomas Edison

Emphasize flexibility and resilience in your career planning

On the job, it?s critical that you emphasize developing necessary job skills, especially those that are transferable. Employers today are most concerned with what you bring to the job. At a minimum, you should make sure that your skill set is at least well above average in your department, company or industry. That will make you less likely to lose your job in a layoff, but more likely to be able to replace it if you do.

At the same time, you need to avoid wasting time and energy on what I refer to as ?last man standing? schemes. This involves circling the wagons to ensure that you are the last man standing in a layoff or purge. That kind of approach may actually help you to keep your job longer than others, but in addition to being neurotic behavior, it?s also a bad long-term strategy.

That plan of attack essentially focuses all of your energy on your current employer, in a perverted game of stay-or-die. If we need to be thinking about earning a living in the broadest terms possible, the last thing that you want to do is to engage in alienating your coworkers in a purge. Sure, you might survive the moment, but those same coworkers will be important references in a future job search. From now on, think of your coworkers not as competitors, but as strategic business networking partners.

Start a side business

To think like an entrepreneur, you ultimately may need to become one. Fortunately, there are different ways to do this. You could take the plunge into a full-time business, but that carries risks. The better way is by starting a side business. Not only will this allow you to work into self-employment gradually and with less risk, but it can also create an all-important second source of revenue.

True entrepreneurs never rely on a single source of income, and that?s what you?ll be helping to make happen by starting a side business. You?ll have your job and your side business, and you never know what additional opportunities could arise out of that combination.

If you need some ideas on what kind of side business you might start, check out some of these posts:

For more inspiration, check out the Self-employment and Income/Business Ideas Categories in the side bar of this page. There are dozens of articles written by me and others on entrepreneurialism, and many apply to side businesses. And just as important, if you?ve never had your own business in the past, you?ll need to gradually adopt the self-employed mindset. It?s very different from the employee mindset, and one you need to adopt.

The job market is changing and it doesn?t favor those with entrenched mindsets. But if you begin to think like an entrepreneur – rather than as an employee – you?ll be taking a major step in the right direction.

How are you dealing with the greater uncertainty of today’s job market?

( Photo by Jonny Goldstein )

4 Responses to Why Employees Need to Think Like An Entrepreneur

  1. Amen to that, brother!

    Over the past year, feeling my job in jeopardy for reasons beyond my control, I have taken a proactive approach to my “income situation”. I don’t want to write a post all about how awesome I am, but suffice it to say that I have made a lot of the changes you talk about here, and I feel I am in a much better situation than I was before.
    I decided to take “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone” approach, and I have been very proactive in terms of getting involved with extra projects. Not only have a I learned a lot (skills I will be taking with me when I leave) but I’m finding that I’m enjoying work (and therefore life) a lot more, now that I’m not completely reliant on a single source of income.
    To those of you sitting on the fence about the above advice, my thought is that Kevin’s advice is spot-on. Take charge!

  2. Hi Jeff – Thanks! I can see the connection between embracing/liking work and enjoying work more. As you become more self-reliant as an employee, and therefore less dependent on your employer, you feel more control and that makes everything else in life better. I’d recommend that everyone follow your example of being proactive at work. The more you can master on the job, the more self-reliant and employable you’ll be.

  3. Kevin your post is inspiring. Very well said that job should not be the source of income but one of the income source. Diversified income source needs to be built up. When opportunity knocks your door, you need to open it.

  4. Thanks Sam – I think too many people are pigeonholed by a single source of income. But when you open up to other sources, you’re whole perspective begins to change. And it needs to the way the job market is now and likely will continue to be in the future.

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