Let me introduce you to a friend and client of mine, Angela. She was born in Germany in the 1970’s. She is married with two children and lives a middle-class life.
Angela went straight into employment after University with a large pharmaceutical company where she worked her way up to a management position. Bringing up her children slowed down her progress in the organization as her priorities were focused on her family.
However, she did quite well, keeping in mind that today – in some areas of business – women still have to work much harder for their careers.
Angela is a normal person and perhaps you can identify yourself with her. But let’s continue with her story.
During Angela’s career, her direction was set on the opportunities within the company structure. She never really thought about moving on and saw herself spending the rest of her career doing the best she could for her employer in order to advance on her set path.
Facing up to change
One day, all employees where Angela worked were informed that the company would have to cut costs and that this might mean that some of them will have to leave the organization.
For Angela this was not the right time. Both her children just started University and they just signed to have major parts of their house rebuilt and renovated. I guess you can imagine what went through Angela’s mind.
Many sleepless nights followed and two months later she was informed that she would have to go. They offered her a severance package which would give her a little bit of breathing space, but with all the ongoing costs and commitments, her package would only cover a few months.
Her husband’s income just covered the running costs like mortgage and expenses, but it wasn’t enough to pay for their children’s education as it was planned.
Time for action
Angela didn’t wait long before starting to send out her CV to any company she could think of. She did get invited to some interviews, but never got the job. She realized that she had no idea what was needed in the market.
All she ever knew was what her last employer needed – and that was not in-line with other organizations. The whole thing turned into a real wake-up call.
Once she started to apply for lower-level jobs she was told that she was over-qualified, but for the jobs she wanted she didn’t have the right qualifications. This endless circle of frustration continued for another few months until she’d had enough.
She realized that she was not going to get the old job with another employer. It had to be a new job, a new career and a new direction. But where to start?
That’s when she came to me and asked: “How do I become an entrepreneur?”
Creating value for the future
Nobody had ever asked me this question before. The question I get is usually: “How do I start a business?”. This is not the same thing!
Angela didn’t necessarily want to start a business. She wanted to know how to deal with her situations and get the best out of it. She wanted to know how an entrepreneur would deal with this and how to make sure not to fall into the same trap again.
To understand the rest of the story, you need to know what an entrepreneur actually is and what an entrepreneur does.
- An entrepreneur understands the value he or she can offer.
- An entrepreneur constantly works on increasing his or her value.
- An entrepreneur applies his or her value and uses the feedback to improve on it.
- An entrepreneur looks at the bigger picture and his or her position in it.
- An entrepreneur watches out for shifts in markets and adjusts his or her value accordingly.
- In essence, an entrepreneur focuses on the creation, application and development of his or her value.
This gives a complete different perspective to Angela’s experience.
The first step for Angela was to identify her value. This comes with questions like…
- What do I think I am good at?
- What do others think I am good at?
- In which market will this be of value?
- Who in this market has a high demand of my value?
Putting personal skills to work
For Angela it became clear that she is very much a ‘people person’. She has the skills and experience to deal with difficult personal situations. She has a high level of empathy for herself and others which gives her a very strong connection to people in difficult situations.
That alone could open up the doors to a completely new career, either in an existing company, as a freelancer or with her own business.
Today, Angela is working as a freelance HR executive, specializing in training and education within organizations as well as consulting individuals in the art of value identification and creation.
Funnily enough, one of her first clients was her former employer. They hired her to support the people they had to let go, to help them find their feet and prepare for new careers!
I truly believe that today it is not enough to get a good job and work nine-to-five. The business world is changing and it impacts all businesses around the world. The larger ones might take longer to react, but react they will.
Don’t wait until you get into Angela’s position. Figure out where your value lies. Make a list of what you could do to improve the world. That’s what makes an entrepreneur.
Angela has found her space. It’s one where she can excel and be of highest value for others. And that is what she always strived for. The biggest difference for her is her entrepreneurial mindset. It is her life and she is in charge of how it will go!
Enjoy the ride.
About the Author: John DiSTEFANO is one of Your Monthly Mentors.He started his first company in 1993 in Germany and has been an entrepreneur ever since. His businesses ranged from Advertising over Marketing and Sales to IT to mention the main areas. In 2014 John formed the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium with the aim to provide a platform for entrepreneurs to grow, learn and practise. He is actively involved in many student organisations throughout Europe and regularly invited to talk about entrepreneurship. Read More…
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