Four years ago I graduated from university. I did a master’s in business, majoring in entrepreneurship.
Yes, LOL, studying entrepreneurship is like looking at paintings and thinking you’ll become an artist, I agree.
My classmates were applying for traineeships at corporates like Procter & Gamble and Nestle, getting consulting jobs at Deloitte and KPMG, or go into finance at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Pretty much, wearing a lot of suits:
My day-to-day would be:
The thing is I liked this vibe better:
Privilege warning here, of course, that’s great paying corporate jobs. But they’re also the most soul-sucking in the world with about as much creativity as the Sahara desert. To not even mention about the ethics and morals of those industries. And university is almost free in my country (the Netherlands), so I didn’t really have to pay for it and anybody who lives here can theoretically reach those jobs.
Confused on what to do next, I had one of those “dad talks”. My dad never beats around the bush, and just states the facts pretty clearly.
I asked him what I should do.
I said I wanted to pretty much just do whatever I wanted and not get a job and do my own thing and maybe start a company.
He told me that’s great and all, but choosing that direction in life would mean missing the boat on getting a job straight after graduating. Without doing that, I’d now have a big empty gaping hole in my resume and no big corporate would hire me in a few years because I wouldn’t be “fresh out of school” anymore. It’d meant if I didn’t go for the “career” route now, I’d not be able to do it later. Without it, it also meant that my entire educational upbringing would be potentially for nothing because there’d be no actual pay off after it.
If I chose to do my own thing, it’d mean potentially failing miserably and being unemployed for the rest of my life I thought.
It seems like an obvious choice for me now (freedom, of course!). But back then it wasn’t obvious at all. The great benefits that freedom gives me now, back then weren’t benefits, but more just like giant risks. You mean I have to be able to make my own money, THE, REST, OF, MY, LIFE? How is that freedom? That sounds like a day-to-day struggle.
My mom mentioned something like: that little business you have now? Yeah so that will work for a few years, but what after? You need to keep reinventing yourself. That’s easy when you’re 25, but harder when you’re 45. Your brain won’t be as fresh and up to date as you’re now. So you need to realize that.
I also talked with classmates about it. They all were in fact pretty creative (I mean they majored in entrepreneurship!) and mentioned they’d only be doing a corporate job for a few years, and then start their own thing. But they felt they needed real-world experience to know how to run their own business.
In the end I took the plunge and said fuck it I’ll do what I want.
I mean I can’t even wear a suit properly. I kinda look like Vincent Adultman from Bojack Horseman:
What I would’ve never expected is that time changed so much. From graduating in 2012 to now, corporate jobs turned out be less beneficial than they used to be. Job security doesn’t exist anymore. Career growth in those organizations is hard now. Entrepreneurship, startups and freelancers became a giant part of what we call “work” nowadays. That was a very lucky bet I made.
My classmates that were going to start businesses later on? Nothing turned out to be more far from the truth than that. Most of them are still working for corporate after 4 years. The problem is that in the years I was unemployed, I was not making any money but I was getting experience with starting businesses (and failing hard), while they were getting experience with office politics. This sounds snarky, but this is literally what they’re telling me.
Worse is that the golden handcuffs of high pay, great benefits (and a mortgage for some) keeps them from taking the risk of entrepreneurship now, and probably not in the future. Every time I speak to them they want to do their own “thing” though. Want. Not do. Want.
I’m not sure what you can conclude from this story.
Something like follow your intuition and do what feels good?
There’s a huge survivorship bias here that it worked out for me of course. You don’t read about all the people who failed. So I’m not sure it’s that.
If you’re smart, it’s good to be stubborn though and not trust what everybody else is doing around you because there’s a good chance they’re ALSO just following and basing their choices on history, and you might actually think and are ahead of times. So, by doing what they’re doing, you might make the mistake of simply copying history and you’ll actually be less relevant in the future. Doing your own thing is scary but more brave, and you might be more relevant in the future.
It’s just that time has to change the ways of people. And that takes a while. So you’ll need to feel this “unease” that you’re not sure if what you’re doing is right. Until what you do matches up with the time (or it never does, and you’re fucked, that’s the risk!).
Be aware of the zeitgeist (the spirit of this time). The zeitgeist can change rapidly in your favor.
I think focusing on your own value now in the world, as a person doing and making cool stuff gets you further now than trying to appeal and get hired by a big corporate archaic authority structure (like those big companies). Because that’s exactly what those companies are missing and looking for.
That whole fear that they wouldn’t hire me if I had a 4-year gap in my resume? Well, I was asked this year to consult for one of those big corporates about startups which would pay more in a day than being employed by them for a month. YES! But I said NO! BYE
DON’T BE SCARED
DO YOUR OWN THING!
IT’LL PROBABLY WORK OUT WELL
OR MAYBE IT WON’T
STILL DO YOUR OWN THING!
P.S. I'm writing a book on bootstrapping startups called MAKE, which you can pre-order now. And I'm now on Instagram and Twitter too if you'd like to follow more of my adventures. I don't use email so tweet me your questions.
Choosing entrepreneurship over a corporate career