| When a client asks me if I think he or she is a good candidate for starting a new business, I ask several questions (see our free assessment, “Are You an Entrepreneur?”). But the truth of the matter is that these questions are similar to ones that I’d ask someone who wants to move up in an organization or find a new position elsewhere. When people call an executive coach after deciding to make a change or being laid off, those who have treated their career like their own business will have a much easier time. |
Having an entrepreneur mindset is a necessary asset for being recognized and rewarded in your organization. The employees who are primarily reactive will not reach the top. Sure, they’ll be rewarded to a point for their faithful and accurate adherence to the established goals of the organization—but these are not going to be the people calling the shots for the big games. An entrepreneur mindset means thinking of the gestalt, or whole, of the organization and recognizing where you fit into the scheme of things; recognizing the impact of your actions on the system and how you can craft and increase that impact. It means having great relationship abilities and an uncanny knowledge and intuition of your “clients”—your colleagues, senior management teams, and your staff, as well as external customers.
Entrepreneurs are always taking temperatures—of costs, profit margins, marketing effectiveness, visibility, shifting needs of the market, new trends, and so on. The difference between entrepreneurship and career management—intrapreneurship—is that your thinking about these topics is focused internally. Your visibility is not limited to your organization’s ultimate service or product: it’s about you as a product.
How visible are you? Does senior management understand your unique set of abilities and your capacity to achieve their goals? Are you aware of the changing needs and moods of your company—acutely sensitive to shifting winds of politics, budgets, philosophical positions of key individuals? What are you doing to anticipate and respond to these changes? Do people still think of you at the level at which you were hired, or are they aware of your increased capacity to contribute to the organization? Do you have active testimonials from “clients”—does the good word about you get broadcast to the organization by your boss, your peers, your subordinates? Of course, there is some discretion and good taste called for here. Nobody wants a gloating, self-promoting egomaniac on their team. Do you know how to effectively market yourself to those around you?
Are you the one who finds a problem and makes your boss aware of it? Or are you the one who finds the problem, comes up with a few great fixes, and then presents the issue? Do you give up easily on tough problems and complain about the impossibility of the situation? Or do you relentlessly persist until the situation is resolved?
Do you consistently expose yourself to new opportunities to learn transferable skills? Think of your skill set as a personal asset, like a home. Are you renovating the kitchen or are you going to try to sell the old house as is? If your skill set isn’t up to date in a highly competitive market, your outdated kitchen/obsolete skill set will be a much harder sell.
How portable is your career? Is what you’re doing worthwhile only to your organization? Or are you learning skills that can be packed up in your career suitcase and taken down the road to the next opportunity? Many of the most transferable skills are what HR people used to call “soft skills”: people/time management expertise; ability to get buy-in from peers, subordinates, and superiors; ability to develop strong relationships with customers; ability to think ahead of the competition.
Even if that project you’re managing is truly unique to this one company, what are you learning about the big picture of management or leadership that you can take with you?
Entrepreneurs are always planning for the next product, the next service. They know that the market isn’t stagnant, and neither are their customers. How stagnant is your career?
Entrepreneurs constantly compare their product with the market and adjust and improve it to keep highly competitive. If your career was a product—how would you rate it?
—Elizabeth McAloon, CPCC
About the Author
Elizabeth McAloon is founder and Principal of The McAloon Group--a national team of executive coaches who help people manage their careers, enhance leadership and start entrepreneurial pursuits.
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