I once heard someone say to a budding entrepreneur, “You are unemployable!”. At first look this may seem an insult, and on that particular occasion it was likely meant in that fashion, however upon further reflection this is possibly the greatest compliment an entrepreneur can be given. And here’s why –
The world we live in is often polarised; black and white in many people’s eyes, with little grey area. You educate yourself (via schooling) and then go on to qualify in a trade, or go to University to study a profession to become a lawyer, an accountant, a doctor etc. You then diligently go on to work in your chosen profession, working your way from the bottom to eventually progress to higher levels over time. But I wonder, how many hats are you wearing?
How many doctors are out pounding the pavement doing business development trying to attract more sick or injured people to their practice? How many accountants are writing marketing strategy documents and spending their Sundays developing new tech in their garage? (this is certainly not to say that doctors and accountants can’t be entrepreneurs).
On the flip side, entrepreneurs wear many hats. They spend their time developing new products from the ideas in their brains that don’t think the same as everyone else’s. They can study the market looking for a gap and design a product to suit or dream up a product and find a use for it. They control the finances of the business, develop marketing strategies, business strategies and intellectual property strategies to fit their business dreams, all the while thinking of the next big idea. They prepare board reports for their (hopefully) many investors while they are also networking and building supply chains for their business. Entrepreneurs operate at the production level, the management level, and the governance level of their businesses, and spend much of their time in the “grey area”, not knowing when that line that we call success will be reached.
One of the most desirable personal traits of an entrepreneur is the ability to live and thrive in ambiguity; to think outside the box and not be constrained by the often crippling “need” for financial security. This trait is imperative for people who will succeed in their entrepreneurial ventures. Another great quote comes to mind here -” If you want to take the island, burn the ships”. This forces the hustle. It means that when you take away the security, that the only direction you can go is forward; you must succeed and that’s why people do.
This also means that the journey will not be easy. As much as you might be ok with not having the security of a salaried income, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to earn money to live, and to have a life. You will go without and have to make many sacrifices, like driving the same car for 10 years, or not being able to have “all the things”. Many times, I have found myself trawling job websites (when progress stalls in the business and the success line seems so much further away), struggling to find a “fit” for my skills. On more than one occasion I found myself back earning money to live doing a job I was qualified for in my early 20’s (before doing an undergrad and masters) all with the purpose of getting funding to chase the dream. This is just part of the grind and the sacrifice that is the journey.
Once you have lived and thrived in a state of ambiguity, you really do see the world in a different light. You can become unemployable as you’re not comfortable with the 9 - 5 and are not prepared to settle for the monotony of the same thing day in and day out. The hiring people often also put your skills and experience in the “too hard” basket, as it’s much easier to place someone who fits in the box.
Everyone has great ideas and much potential, but I think it’s the personality of a person that makes the difference; their resilience to be defeated and get back up, the humility to do whatever they need to do, the ability to live and thrive in the grey area, and the vision to follow their dreams.
So, if you have the vision, go ahead and make yourself unemployable. Know that it will not be an easy road, but it might just be the best thing you ever did!