|If you are still contemplating your career goals or intentions for 2013, let me suggest a theme: entrepreneurial attitude. A new view is that entrepreneurship can be taught, and entrepreneurial literacy can foster success, regardless of your field.
Ohio University, where I’m connected to the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, is one of the many institutions forging the new interdisciplinary academic field of entrepreneurship. Students no longer expect to spend their careers in one place. Whether they are engineers or journalists, they know they will need the knowledge, skills and flexibility to shift or redefine jobs with ease or even create their own enterprises.
The fascination with entrepreneurship isn’t limited to college students. According to author and career guru Kerry Hannon, entrepreneurial activity could be the next act for millions of baby boomers. A rising tide of people aged 55 or above want to keep working. But many will choose or be forced to retire from their primary careers.
Boomer entrepreneurship has the potential to become a huge economic opportunity, creating jobs and the flow of cash to public treasuries. And policymakers at the White House and across the country are becoming interested. Elizabeth Isele, a leader in the senior entrepreneurship movement, says the trend is picking up speed. While she warns that starting a business and thinking entrepreneurially aren’t the same thing, her site SavvySeniorsWork.com offers tools for exploring whether creating a business could be a good path for you.
But even if you don’t expect to ever start a business, developing a more entrepreneurial attitude could bring new energy to the job you have now. I’ve noticed that once my clients simply begin thinking about a possible business or other future career shift, it changes the way they look at the current environment and potential opportunities. As they develop a more entrepreneurial spirit, they experience fresh insights, connect with others in different ways and find new paths to productivity.
To think more like an entrepreneur in 2013, consider these tips:
- Know the mission. Entrepreneurs tend to be passionate about their work and they understand how their activities support key goals. It’s not enough that you do your own work well. You should also understand your organization’s mission, the challenges it faces, and the way your contribution fits into the big picture. To demonstrate your understanding of the mission, find new ways to support it.
- Focus on the customer. If you start a business, your customers will ultimately determine whether you succeed. Everything you do in a business must be focused on your customers. It’s your job to know what they need, what they want and what they think. And it’s the same if you work in a large organization. Your success depends on the products and services you deliver to your bosses, your colleagues and perhaps other “customers” as well. So think about how to better serve your current customers, and look around for new ways to add value and broaden your customer base.
- Build your brand. Your “brand” is what you stand for, including your values, your personal characteristics and the quality of your work. To get started, articulate your brand by writing a list or statement of your standards, and then ask yourself daily whether you’re upholding your vision. To get more from your brand, expand your network, join additional groups or activities, and take steps to raise your or burnish your profile.
- Understand business basics. As a professional you need to be familiar with the basic functions of a simple business. You should be comfortable with the lingo and clear about how business operations are embodied in your current organization, even if it’s a not-for-profit. Can you envision the activities that bring your organization to life – everything from product development to budgeting, marketing and sales? If business activity strikes you as mysterious, and you want a primer on how it all works, a good starting point is the Small Business Administration.
- Practice failure. Successful entrepreneurs know that everyone has false starts, and they are able to build on their mistakes. When they do experience a failure, they analyze what went wrong and apply the learning to the next opportunity. But if you are perfectionist, you may become so afraid of the risk of failure that you won’t take chances. This can stifle your creativity and limit your ability to collaborate and innovate. To get over an unreasonable fear of failure, take up some activities where your success is not assured. For example, if you have no talent for language, but want to learn Spanish, sign up for a class. So what if you don’t excel? You might find that it feels OK to be less than successful if it keeps you on a learning path.
- Choose to be positive. The research makes it clear: you can learn to be more optimistic. Begin by noticing your own language, including the way you talk inside your head. If you are given to complaints, regrets and naysaying, learn to let that negativity go.