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MyTakeOnEntrepreneurshipIsAFadThis week on What I’m Learning Wednesday I’d like to address a question that I was asked in a recent interview.

The question was about whether I thought entrepreneurship was a fad or the way of the future.

To be honest, I had a difficult time answering the question. Based on the site that the article was for and my own background helping business owners, it was implied that I would vehemently promote entrepreneurship as the way of the future.

After all, I’ve been self-employed myself for 14 years (50% of my life) and I have never had a full-time job. If anyone is going to proclaim small business as the way of the future, wouldn’t it be me?

The reality is no, I don’t believe that the current popular vision and beliefs about entrepreneurship are the way of the future.

I say this because I have seen the tides ebb and flow over the last fourteen years. Seven years ago, I was named Entrepreneur of the Year at my prestigious business school – not because I was the best entrepreneur, but because I was the only entrepreneur in my class.

In fact, when I had a crisis moment during the first four months of starting Jess LC full-time, I had only one friend to turn to. Vicki, my dear friend, was the only person I count on to give me an informed opinion about whether I should throw in the towel because she was one of two people I knew who were self-employed and had personally faced the same risks.

So, as you can see, I have seen a time when people laughed at me for starting my own business instead of getting a lucrative corporate job like the rest of my peers. I was the one that my parents were worried about as they dropped me off with all of my boxes in a tiny studio apartment in Chicago and said, “well, at least she can get a job if it doesn’t work out.”

Since then, a lot has changed. The recession proved that going into the corporate world was not a fail-safe plan. The student loan situation showed that going to grad school to delay career decisions was not always a smart financial decision.

The truth is, entrepreneurship has become more easily accessible thanks to technology and the traditional career routes have become more inaccessible (or at best unreliable).

It seems that many awesome and lucrative careers – outside of technology and computer programming – are more difficult to find. And starting a small business from scratch has low barriers to entry and little down-side. The worst that can happen is you go find a job to help you get by. Which is the same option for those who can’t find an amazing corporate job. Either way, you get to control your destiny in a greater way as an entrepreneur and you can always continue to look out for awesome corporate openings.

So with this in mind, it is no wonder that people have flocked to small business as a way to provide for themselves and do what they feel called to do in a deeply and meaningful way.

However, I still don’t think that traditional entrepreneurship is “the way of the future.”

Rather, I believe that widespread entrepreneurship is going to become a phase within a varied career, not a permanent destination.

I believe that working for ourselves can lead to many great new things.

 

– It can lead to extra income in addition to a full-time job.

– It can allow parents to work from home while raising their children.

– It can provide a stellar portfolio of work that may lead to a dream job opportunity at another company.

– It can be a way to bridge cashflow in between full-time jobs.

 

But it does not have to be a full-time, life-long career for the majority of people who choose to build their own business in the future.

There is a lot to be said for the benefits of having a small business. But there are many drawbacks as well. And over time, I think the division between having a full-time job and being self-employed will mean less and less.

If Gen Y has taught us anything, it is that they want meaning and work/life balance in their work. And as this generation rises to leadership within large corporations, I have a feeling the cultures will be shifting to maintain and attract top talent. Or, the tech-age companies founded by Gen Y leaders like Facebook, will also continue to innovate and provide the benefits Gen Y employees desire.

I am optimistic that the disconnect between meaning and purpose within a corporation and within a small business will shrink over the next twenty years, and the pros and cons of self-employment will be better understood.

So though permanent entrepreneurship will continue to rise in the years to come, I believe that the true breakthrough lies in understanding that entrepreneurship can also be a wise career option for anyone who wants to have a varied and interesting career that includes a blend of self-employment and corporate or non-profit opportunities.

I have faith that entrepreneurship will not have the black and white stigma (Side hustle or full-time? Always an entrepreneur or never an entrepreneur?) that it has today and that meaningful work within large organizations will become more plentiful.

In the end, I see the future as a place where it won’t matter whether we are working for ourselves or for a large organization, as long as we feel challenged, purposeful, and valued.

 

May something wonderful happen to you today,
Jess!

 

 

Thinking about doing the Workshop At Home

(Below is an email from a Workshop At Home participant I received on Monday.)

Hi Jess,
I am just finishing up with the Business With Intention workshop and I don’t even know where to begin to tell you how much I loved it!

I don’t have my own business at the moment but it’s something that I’m interested in pursuing in the future. I graduated from college two years and I have been re-assessing what I’m doing with my life career-wise and just watching this videos and looking through the workbook have helped me progress in my journey of figuring out where I want to take my life and career. In particular, I was a huge fan of the purpose equation. It’s so applicable to everything, from designing a business to life.  

Thank you for an awesome experience. 
– Deshika Wickramasinghe

 
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  • Ashlee Thurlow

    I love this Jess! A friend and I were just talking about Gen Y and our career/life decisions the other day. We really feel that Gen Y is really just asking for options. The option to travel the world and work from our laptops, the option to go to med school or law school, the option to be a stay at home mom, the option to be a hipster farmer…whatever it may be! We just want the freedom to make those choices based on what matters to us, and have little to no societal pressures (ha!). I also think a lot of Gen Y’ers love to work in terms of ‘projects’ or ‘pockets’ so I think a trend may be seeing people have periods of taking a job in a field, or a few, then going into business (or in the opposite order) and then switching to a new field and doing that cycle over again. OR possibly using their job as one ‘passion project’ and their business as another. (Just had that conversation with a client the other day.)

  • Exactly. It’s now a phase of a career, but it does not have to be an end all be all destination forever. Like you said, it’s an option we want on the table, but is not necessarily a lifelong choice for everyone in the future (or now).

  • Ashlee Thurlow

    Exactly! My friend is in that role, hoping to have a WAHM situation in 10ish years but then a successful law career bookending that time. And hey, with technology it’s definitely possible! (I have to admit though, I’m a pretty bad employee so I think it’s the be-all for me! ha!)

  • Well said. I love how accessible self-employment is these days. Working in corporate wasn’t bad for me, but I did feel like that was my only option 10 years ago. Entrepreneurship has made me feel really good about myself.

  • Courtney Elizabeth

    Very thought-provoking and useful info for someone like me who is considering a foray into entrepreneurship. Thank you!

  • That’s great to hear, Sage! The great thing is that we have the option now, it’s no longer exclusive or as limited as it was years ago.

  • For sure, Courtney! I hope this helps you look at the decision empowered and able to make the right choice for you now and in the years to come.

  • Brit

    I agree wholeheartedly with this. This generation has felt the need to take power into their own hands because jobs are just not available to them. So, working for themselves is the next thing they can muster to do. I think it will be a bigger occurrence in the future, in that more people will own their own businesses, but it’s not necessarily a way of the future.

  • One Woman Shop

    Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to think through this question and give a real, thought-out answer, as opposed to just a quick, generic response. I love your perspective on it. Can’t wait to chat about it with you more!

  • Thanks! I’m glad you liked the ‘full’ answer. : )

  • Exactly. : )

  • Deb @ home life simplified

    A big sector of entrepreneurs has been mothers starting businesses as well. As someone who has stayed home with my kids until both were in school full time I was faced with “what next” (currently been out of office for 10 1/2 years and am 41) and I know my choice to build my own business is a big trend among mothers. Since so few companies 1) value returning mothers after a big break and 2) rarely offer flexibility we crave so we can still be there for our children, more and more mothers over the last 5+ years have taken control of the situation and launched consultancies, handmade shops/ market stalls, service roles they can do in school hours (like cleaning or childcare in home) and so on. Technology has also meant more entrepreneurial freedom for parents in general. Thanks for a great post as always jess.

  • Sarah Beaumont Hines

    I have been following you for awhile as a corporate worker who has taken a recent break in pursuit of an entrepreneurial career. But for various reasons I struggle in both areas. After a 3 year break from the office environment (in which I opened an Etsy shop, got my Masters in Social Enterprise, nannyied, got married, advised small businesses & non-profits etc etc), I have recently accepted a FT “corporate” job and have been struggling/wrestling with the idea of being a cube dweller again. This post really resonated w/ me and helped put to words what I have been feeling. I enjoy having a unique perspective to bring to the corporate world and enjoy the rare opportunity I have in my current role to make a big impact in a medium sized company that is also making a big impact in clean energy tech, LEED certifications, and sustainable construction. Basically, doing good big things that I could never do myself alone. I feel empowered that this company puts its employees first, values their opinions and is just a fun place to be everyday. Granted its only been a few weeks, but everyone I work with has echoed this to me whether they are new or been here 5+ years. Your post gave me hope that I’m not delusional into thinking that the corporate culture will shift over the next 10 years to more closely reflect small business, and in the meantime I can make a larger impact in the world than I would on my own. Plus, the pay & benefits are better than I’ve had in awhile, that doesn’t suck 😉

    I probably will be back in the entrepreneurial world when I have kids in the next few years, but who knows, maybe I’ll enjoy this role enough and they will be flexible enough so that I can balance both. Only time will tell!

  • This is why I love your writing Jess.

    I’ve noticed a huge increase in people wanting to abandon their day jobs and jump headfirst into entrepreneurship. This can be a fantastic move however, like you say, isn’t the endgame option a lot of people see it for. I’ve personally found balancing a day job with a small business is rewarding in it’s own right and firmly believe there will be times in the future where I focus on each of them as stand alone careers. “Rather, I believe that widespread entrepreneurship is going to become a phase within a varied career, not a permanent destination.” is the perfect way to look at it – that way we can grab opportunities that come our way with both hands.

  • Thanks for this post! My husband is the director of our county’s Small Business and Industry Center, and I’m an accountant by day and shop owner by night, so we had fun battling back and forth over this one. Sounds dorky, I know, but it was super fun!

  • So true! There are a lot of great bonuses to being a self-employed mother, in fact, I’m looking forward to a lot of what you’ve mentioned when I have kids as well. : )

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah! I love how much you are open to either avenue bringing you what you want – not looking too deeply at any labels on either side of the employment line. I think your company and story is also proof that things are changing already. : )

    Cheers to your varied career, wherever it may take you!

  • So true! There are so many perks to balancing both avenues, not just picking one or the other, as well.

    You are a fantastic example of what is truly possible. : )

  • That’s awesome to hear! This is just my take on the situation, but it is always impossible to predict the future in any real way (and often, it just depends on how you look at it and who you surround yourself with anyways).

    I’m happy to hear it sparked some ‘lively’ conversation. ; )

  • brittany

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  • You are most welcome, I’m glad you liked it! : )

  • Ren

    Sometimes I think about going the entrepreneur route. I definitely have more of a taste for it than working a full-time job. I think it would be more my speed and aligned with my interests to go into magazine writing (I’ve always wanted to be the person who interviews people) or copy writing. A few months ago, I had the idea to open a bookstore in my city, but I haven’t really jumped on that idea because I know nothing about business. I also considered starting up a social media business and focusing on promoting business through social media in my city, because as far as I know there really aren’t a lot of companies, if any, that offer social media services exclusively. I know of one company that offers social media marketing, but most of their clients are out of town, and the CVB of my city–no offense to them–doesn’t do the best job in promoting the area. The only problem is that I’m no social media guru. I just think it would fun to learn and help businesses in the area once I became more knowledgeable. Right now, I’m working on learning HTML and CSS, hope to get a DSLR camera soon so I can sharpen my photography skills, and would love to finally figure out Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign one day. All I know is that my job working at a bank is growing old fast, and the behind-the-scenes issues are becoming unbearable. I’ve never been a very assertive person, so becoming an entrepreneur makes me nervous. I always like to make sure I’m 100% in on an idea, and if I’m not I will keep going back and forth on it, never making a solid decision. But, the reality is that I am desperate for a change in my work, and since I haven’t had any luck in the past year finding a new job, I sometimes think it would be easier to just work for myself.

  • Thanks for sharing, Ren! It sounds like you have a lot of ideas and energy. : ) I would suggest trying to explore different opportunities that sound appealing while you still have some sort of employment/income as you discover what you’d like to go for next. That way you keep the pressure off yourself for figuring out what you want to do immediately, but you also have other ways to fulfill yourself outside of a day job at the same time.

    Best wishes!

  • Also, you might want to check out this post for some extra insights (warning: it’s a bit (okay, very) blunt). : )

    http://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/entrepreneurial-dna-do-you-have-it/

  • Keisha A

    I’ve been in the corporate world since I was 18 (now 34). Spent 2 yrs in art school but had to drop out because it became too expensive. After being tired of just working corporate, I started a small jewelry business on etsy this summer and I hope to take it even further next year. I definitely want to become a complete entrepreneur but I don’t want to fully turn my back on my corporate skills. I read your posts and emails faithfully so I can try to figure it out. You articles are always perfectly timed. Thank you!

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  • That is so great, Keisha! I am happy to hear you are working both areas of your career and finding a fit that works for you that isn’t exclusive of either option. : )

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  • LOOOOOOVE this article! I have held onto a fear (going from working full-time to owning my own firm) that people would see me as a failure if I choose to return to working full-time in the future. But essentially it’s another change in a long career. I’ve been in both worlds and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

    If anything what I’m learning in this period of entrepreneurship/self-employment will only make me a stronger advocate for what I need as an employee should I choose to return to the the “9-5” in the future, something I was not equipped or prepared to do right out of grad school as a green employee. I was so grateful to have a job right out of grad school that I ran myself into the ground trying to be the perfect employee!

    Thank you for another wonderful, though-provoking piece!

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  • That is so wonderful to hear, Erin! You are a proactive, empowered person who can shift your career as you see fit. There is ‘grass is greener’ traits about both employment situations. So it’s about figuring out what is right for you NOW and what is right for you in the future as you shift and evolve as a person. : )

    Go with your gut and live fearlessly wherever it happens to take you!

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  • I’ve had this post bookmarked for a while now, and am just now getting a chance to read… Really appreciate your honesty here, and am feeling very encouraged by knowing that my success in the future has much less to do with entrepreneurship than the “industry” might (unofficially) dictate. Also looking forward to having that meaning and purpose divide decrease!

  • I’m glad you liked the take on it, Jessie! Yes, I think the pressure to be a small biz is going to subside over time as more jobs are created from these small businesses that are awesome for many of the same reasons that it is cool to be an entrepreneur.

  • Your best quote: I believe that working for ourselves can lead to many great new things.

    This article reveals a very deep and caring part of you. Thanks for sharing these business and life lessons to us.

  • My pleasure, Sophia Anne. I’m glad you liked the post. : )

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