Last week, one of my best friends (I have more than one, they’re all the best in their own ways 😄 ) sent me a forward on Whatsapp and asked for my opinion. The forward was basically talking about why it’s important for the youth to take up jobs, even if they aspire to be entrepreneurs in future, and the benefits one gets by first being employed, which include; Skill development, professional accreditation, etc. Just to give a bit of background to first time readers, I went to University having decided that I wanted to be a full time entrepreneur after school. I started a business while I was still in school just to be sure I understood what I was signing up for and even with the lows of entrepreneurship, which can be reeeaallly low, I stuck to my decision. I continued with my business and started a second one after finishing my degree. So for my friend to send me that forward, it gave me an opportunity to think again why I chose this path but also to be open minded and admit that yes, that article wasn’t entirely wrong.
Entrepreneurs think outside the box. And if you’re an entrepreneur who lacks this quality, please be very intentional to learn how to think outside the box. I knew what I wanted and still do, but formal employment was just not fitting in my equation. Whenever a 23yr old says such a thing, be prepared to hear 2 kinds of responses; one saying employment is necessary if you want to venture into entrepreneurship and the other, applauding you for using your prime age to build on your dream as an entrepreneur. This is where you need to use your thinking tools. THINK. You know yourself better than anyone does and you know the kind of field you want to pursue. What do you think is the best place for YOU to start?
We need to acknowledge that times have changed. Opportunities in formal employment are not growing at the same rate as the number of graduates each year, thus causing the lack of jobs. On the flip side, technology continues to grow and create numerous opportunities for us. Our parents can’t say the same about their time. We have easier access to loans today, think of Tala, KCB-MPESA and many others. We also have much more access to information as compared to our parents, information that when utilized, could help us start our businesses. Processes have been made easier today. Open your eyes! Think outside the box! Observe how today, we have more infrastructure supporting entrepreneurship than we did before, and consequently, we’ll have more young people wanting to start sustainable businesses than in previous years.
I do acknowledge that employment does give some important skills and exposure that entrepreneurs need to have, but at the same time, also recognize that not many have been able to successfully switch from formal employment to business. So we can’t have a ‘one shoe fits all’ kind of conversation. You need to think outside the box. Note skills you need to develop and how you’ll develop them without necessarily being employed if that’s the route you want to take.
I do believe that is it very possible to be an entrepreneur and succeed without getting formal employment. Next week, I’ll get to share about one of my mentors who’s a successful businessman with no formal employment background. I believe that if you’re very intentional, formal employment can be a great way to groom you with some necessary skills and networks needed in a business. Why do I insist that you need to be intentional? Because it is not a guarantee and so you need to be aware of what you want to learn while still in employment and maximize on that opportunity.
But what if you don’t desire to be employed? What if for you, entrepreneurship came about as a result of not getting a job? Join me for Part 2 next week. I’ll discuss some very practical things I’ve been doing that have helped me gain certain skills without necessarily being employed. It’s all about THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX!