I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man. - Jay Z
The great American lyricist, Jay-Z, said it best. As you embark on your job search, keep his words in mind, as they hold true for career exploration. In order to find a career, you must think like an entrepreneur that is preparing to launch the world’s greatest startup: you.
Let’s get started.
Identify your competitive advantage
Take stock of your personal inventory. This includes your passions, interests, skills and aptitude. (Pro tip: pymetrics is an excellent tool for identifying cognitive and emotional strengths, and where those strengths would serve you well.) Thinking about yourself as a startup will help you objectively identify of what you can offer to the market - or employers. Hone your self-awareness and take note of areas in which you excel. Distill the activities that you enjoy into skills and marketable traits. Do you play soccer? Make note of your experience with teamwork, strategy development and execution. Embrace the aspects that make you unique, and solicit those close to you for feedback. Be data-driven where you can - no successful company makes its decisions solely on gut feel and intuition.
Decide what market to enter
This requires market research, interviews with knowledgeable sources, and your own shrewd judgement. Look at the competitive landscape with an objective eye. Armed with your skills and interests, start asking questions. Can you identify weaknesses in the market that you can exploit? Is there a hole in the market that you can address with your specific skill set? Career counselors, professors, family members are all fair game in your mission to find a career for yourself.
Be open-minded. If your background doesn’t fit the typical mold of a certain industry, do not take that at face value. If you’ve done a thorough job taking inventory on yourself, start building a strong case as to why you’d be successful in that particular industry, regardless of background, experience or even expectation. You’ve run the numbers on your value proposition, so be bold and stand up for yourself. The market rewards the audacious, but sustaining success requires thoughtful strategy.
Build your user base
You’ve got your value proposition and target market - now it’s time to polish up your pitch and build up your audience. Maybe people are not in need of your services now, but increasing awareness is key. Building a strong support network is critical to the success of any startup, and the same applies to your job search. Go on informational interviews to get industry perspective on your story - and keep in mind that jobs are not necessarily the objective for these encounters. Develop a board of advisors to help guide you, and perfect that marketing messaging!
Keep your chin up
If you are going to score a round of crazy funding / land yourself a killer job offer, you need to be persistent. There will be times of frustration, but don’t despair! Companies like LinkedIn and the Lending Club faced years of struggle before the market rewarded their vision and mission. Have faith in yourself, and others will follow.
Lastly, leveraging the entrepreneur mindset doesn’t need to stop when you find a career. As former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg observes:
“Being an entrepreneur isn’t really about starting a business. It’s a way of looking at the world: seeing opportunity where others see obstacles, taking risks when others take refuge.”