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Are entrepreneurs unemployable?

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Recently a friend of mine – an entrepreneur with numerous successes and over 20 years’ experience – went job hunting…

Having just sold a business and yet to find her next passion, she thought she might give the corporate world a go. After two months of day-after-day job hunting, my friend called me with this insight: “I think I’m unemployable”.

That one statement led to hours and hours of conversation among my friends and business colleagues who also own their own businesses. Are we all unemployable?

The answer to that question, it seems, is a resounding yes. I’ve also personally been down the track of trying to find a corporate position between businesses, as have a number of my entrepreneurial friends – all to no avail.

Interestingly, as an entrepreneur we probably have more cross-department skills than most people who work in a corporate environment. There’s nothing like owning a business to hone your skills – or skill you up, and quickly. Many of us have worked across all areas of our businesses and know how marketing affects sales, operations, finance, web strategy and vice versa.

We’ve had to manage people at the same time as managing cashflow, stock, deliveries, ad campaigns, online strategy and sales, yet apparently we’re not good enough for most corporates.

It frustrates me to see my friend (who, I might add, could run several rings around most of the friends and acquaintances I know who work in the corporate arena) getting rejection after rejection from companies who can’t recognise the enormous value of bringing in an “outsider” and the new perspective and skill set they might add to their business.

And entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones prejudiced by this point of view. Gen Y is up against the same problem – the argument used for them, however, is “lack of experience”. Believe it or not, that can be a benefit to most businesses. Imagine bringing in someone who doesn’t have a “that’s not how we do it here” attitude; someone who may offer perspective on how things could be done differently (and better?)

In the corporate world it seems all that counts is experience – working at a competitor so that you can keep doing what you’ve always done, just for a different company.

With change happening at a rate of knots, the time has come for some new age thinking about how, why and where to do things. The best place to get that is from people who can bring a fresh perspective to your business.

Entrepreneurs have a skill set that’s enviable for any business, plus enthusiasm in bucket loads (a must to run your own business). Yet it seems once you go down the road of becoming an entrepreneur you render yourself (apparently) useless to other companies.

Like the gentleman I met a couple of weeks ago. This late-20-something has had two tech startups, both of which have been sold successfully for very big dollars. He’s now starting his third because, in his words, “the corporates just won’t hire me”.

There’s something very wrong with this picture. Perhaps it might explain the increasing number of big-name corporate collapses we’re seeing – businesses that are struggling to keep up with the changing times.

Entrepreneurs have the benefit of being quick on their feet – you have to be to build a successful business – and this is something the big guys need to realise if they want to keep up with the rapidly-evolving corporate landscape.

I’m not sure how many of us have tried or would want to work in a corporate environment – perhaps the stagnancy and/or politics would drive us crazy – but it seems the choice is out of our hands.

Fiona Anson is Co-Founder of HireMeUp, Australia’s fastest growing job website for the part time workforce. A serial entrepreneur, Fiona has owned her own businesses for over 20 years. To contact Fiona or book her to speak, email [email protected]

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