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Think Like An Entrepreneur, Not An Employee #CareerChange

June 19th, 2020

I recently did a 6-week series for Pluralsight on jobs and careers. It was a lot of fun (and a bit of work :p).

In some of the emails I’m getting from people I can sense a great deal of frustration. This frustration is coming from being in the hamster wheel we call the job search. Again and again, doing the same things, not getting anywhere. I remember waking up during my Big Job Search and thinking “why get out of bed? Why do the same stuff I’ve been doing? I’m not getting any reactions.”

I made a career change. I went from employee, at a corporate job, to entrepreneur. Many of the people emailing me are talking about career changes. I’m reminded of the fabled 10,000 hours that it takes to become an expert. You’ve heard that, right? You need to spend 10,000 hours on something before you can claim to become an expert? That is 5 years of full time work. Nobody I know, in the job search right now, has 5 years to develop expertise and then start their job search.

The urgency is now.

I’m not going to dispute the 10,000 hours thing. People smarter than me claim that. It sounds catchy. And I’d rather a surgeon with 10,000 hours work on me rather than a self-described surgeon with 100 hours works on me.

What I want to dispute is the level of knowledge, skills, or expertise we need to START SOMETHING.

A couple of years ago, at my dream job in a dream company with my dream boss (all that lasted 10 months) I remember watching people slowly do stuff thinking “man, thanks to the amazing sales team there is time for superflous, slow, unproductive meetings.” People could literally sit around, not adding value or producing, and still collect a paycheck. The rhythm we sometimes see in the corporate world is slow. Measured. Good for our mental health. Intent on reducing stress. Focused on creating a great (read: fun) place to work.

Fun Work Culture

But I had been an entrepreneur for about 12 years. My mantra was “you eat what you kill.” You don’t produce, you don’t pay bills. You don’t pay bills, you got problems. There was no paycheck that came every other week. If I wanted to pay my mortgage, or go grocery shopping, or even think of something like a vacation, I had to have revenue lined up.

If corporate was peaceful, which I think too many of us slip into when we land our job, then entrepreneurship was anxiety. I’m not saying that is necessarily bad (or that peaceful is necessarily good), but it was definitely a major shift to go from entrepreneur to “I have a job, and no matter what I do today, I’m going to get paid.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for you to have more anxiety in your life. I do, however, want you to think differently about your career. You see, if you listen to experts telling you that you need to wait, that you aren’t ready, that you don’t know enough, that you haven’t put the hours in, or that you can’t do something, you have a problem. You have been fed a line of bull, and you accept it. And that is harming YOU.

Entrepreneur Waiting

When I put my entrepreneur hat on, back in 2006, I learned about “sense of urgency.” I didn’t think of myself as anxious, rather I had a sense of urgency. If I didn’t know something I had to learn it. Consider:

How do I create an online business from scratch? From product management to design to development to QA to marketing to sales to pricing to customer retention to customer acquisition to financing the venture to …

How do I become a blogger? Is it a consistency thing? Is it a messaging thing? Do I need to write to a human or am I playing a Google/SEO game?

How do I write a book? How do I get a publisher? How do I self publish? I had no idea. But I had to learn all of that, even though I wasn’t an expert.

How do I become a professional speaker? I was confident in my public speaking skills, although I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. How do I create a business line out of professional speaking? How do I get more gigs, how do I engage with my audience, how do I get repeat business, how do I do all of the logistical stuff a professional speaker deals with, should I have “back of the room sales, etc.?

How do I create a DVD, which I can sell at a much better margin, and have more control over than my books? NO IDEA. Never done it before.

How do I start doing online courses? Where do I host them? How much do I charge for them? What exactly constitutes a course, anyway? Do I need special equipment and software? How do I edit and produce my stuff? Is it a long webinar, or a chopped up series of small clips?

These are SOME of the things I’ve done since 2006. I didn’t have expertise in any of these areas.

But my sense of urgency, and my need to create income, led me on the path to learn. Did I make mistakes? YES. Did I work crazy hours? YES. Was there sacrifice? YES. Did it cost money? YES. Was I out of my comfort zone? USUALLY.

Instead of taking it slow, and spending tons of money to “do it right,” I had to just do something. I talked to people about each of those questions I listed (and more). I talked to people who had been down the path, and learned from them. I found people willing to share and help. I studied. I applied critical thinking. I weighed alternatives and juggled priorities.

Entrepreneur Love To Learn

And most of all, I just DID IT. I tried. I threw the proverbial spaghetti on the wall, and some of it stuck. I learned from everything I did.

Here I am, 14 years after The Big Job Search. 14 years * 2,000 hours is 28,000 hours. So maybe I’m 3 times an expert (if 10k hours makes you an expert).

My point, though, is that you don’t have to be an expert to do stuff. I wasn’t an expert in any of those things. I still don’t consider myself an “expert.” But I had a sense of urgency that drove me to think, and try, and be okay to fail, and try again.

My first book? Not proud of the quality. Super proud I wrote a book, but not proud of the book. Even the fourth edition of it… not super proud. I think “it needs to be better.”

But guess what? I did it. I wrote it. And I’ve written two others. Why? Because my sense of urgency drove me.

Get your own sense of urgency. Get on that path, and get off of the “when this happens, then I’ll be qualified” path. Want to change careers? Then DO IT. Figure it out. Try things. Learn as you go.

Want to start a blog, or a podcast, or a consulting business? DO IT.

Entrepreneur Podcast

If I spent 30 minutes with you on a call right now I could coach you on how to become a consultant. Save your money, put away your wallet. Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to LinkedIn, create a new job on your profile. Call it [Last name] Consulting. Or, call it [Your specialty] Consulting. There. You are now a consultant. This is, as they say, hanging a shingle out.
  2. Email everyone in your network telling them what you are doing, and then work the phones.

That’s it. You’ll get your first customer and you’ll do okay. Maybe a little worse than okay. But you get that customer, you bring value to them, you bill them, and you learn from the whole experience. Then you get another, and another, and another, and in a few years you think “man, I kind of feel bad for my first customer. I’ve learned so much.”

Don’t wait for five years from now. Start now, learn along the way.

The first freelance website I built was for a new realtor. She paid me $400. It was okay-ish for the time. But really, it was horrible. Especially compared to now. But doing that first one, working with a client, delivering a product, was a great learning experience. It was a stepping stone to get to where I’m at today.

DO SOMETHING. Don’t wait. Don’t listen to the experts telling you you aren’t ready.

Try. 

Fling the spaghetti. 

Flinging Spaghetti Entrepreneur

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