The Corporate Entrepreneur

Posted on February 6, 2009. Filed under: Job Market Trends, Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , , , , |

Your Career Is Your Business

A corporate entrepreneur? Although it may sound like an oxymoron, it is a good way of describing the type of mindset that today’s corporate professionals need to have when navigating through their careers.

Essentially, the corporate entrepreneur is someone who applies entrepreneurial-like principles to his or her corporate job, recognizing that in today’s job market, there really is no such thing anymore as being “the company guy” (or girl).

With professionals on average making four job changes over the course of their careers, the days of spending your entire career with one company are long gone (and, really, they have been for a while).

Many people are lamenting this “change,” but I believe they are missing the big picture. It’s true that it is not great news for those of us who like to get comfortable and snuggle into a seemingly safe routine. But as we have seen for probably the last decade, that seemingly safe routine is really just a fantasy anyway. Companies are bought and sold, markets fluctuate, and technology changes. Add to that our new global economy, and burying your head in your cubicle until retirement is no longer an option.

What about loyalty? What about climbing the corporate ladder? Entrepreneurs can be loyal, and they can be ambitious (at least they better be!). For some reason, when I speak with my corporate friends, they all seem to think that entrepreneurs lack these skills.

One of the first things every entrepreneur learns (and every corporate entrepreneur should learn) is that forming and maintaining strategic partnerships are vital. And those that survive in the marketplace are the ones who do that well. Corporate professionals should view companies like partners. To whom do you want to partner up with for a while? What opportunities are available to you through this partnership?

Nevertheless, the second important principle is understanding that even in the best partnerships, business is business. Partnerships can end, for many solid reasons (markets change, interests diverge, etc.) and that doesn’t make someone unloyal. In fact, it would be unwise to continue. Yet I meet many corporate professionals who refuse to read the writing on the wall, mostly because they are a little too cozy in their current situations, and use loyalty as their excuse. What they fail to understand, however, is that when businesses go under or focuses change, it isn’t a question of loyalty, it is a question of making the best business decisions (without that, you no longer have a business, just ask GM). Your partner must make them to suit its best interest, and so should you.

All too often, professionals are bitter that their company hasn’t taken good enough care of them or hasn’t given them the security they think they deserve. What they can’t see is that this reaction is purely emotional and not based on any sense of business reality. Become a true entrepreneur for a bit, and you will see pretty quickly that you can put blood, sweat, and tears into building a business only to have it flounder (we don’t always get what we deserve or want). There just aren’t any guarantees, and you really need to stop looking for them.

The corporate entrepreneur understands that companies are involved in the marketplace, that this marketplace goes through fluctuations, and that he or she must stay vigilant of these fluctuations and adjust with them. He or she knows that eventually changes must be made, and that is OK because that is often where fresh opportunities come in.

Listen…your career is nothing more than a series of partnerships. It’s not a marriage (or several marriages) with a messy divorce. Right there is the biggest difference I see between entrepreneurs and corporate professionals. Corporate professionals often want the fairy tale love story: Boy (or girl) meets company. Company and boy fall madly in love with one another. Company vows to take care of boy till death do you part. Everything is good for awhile until company has to make some tough decisions and quickly realizes that it can no longer support boy in the manner it promised. In the meantime, boy becomes depressed and no longer feels appreciated. Does that sound somewhat familiar? If so, stop looking for another marriage.

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