Professional Branding – Gen Y edition

For those who haven’t yet read my previous post Entrepreneurship: a universal mindset, the inspiration behind this blog series is a New York Magazine article What we give up when we become entrepreneurs.

In this edition I’d like to discuss this quote from the article: “…today’s 20-somethings think of entrepreneurship as a mind-set, rather than as the explicit act of starting a company.”

For the record, I’m a 20-something, though older than younger, and my entrepreneurship endeavours have me collaborating with ranges of 20-somethings, so I see many forms of truth in the above quote.

Nowadays, majority of high school students are graduating at the very young and vulnerable age of 17 or 18 (depending which month you were born – I was 17 having been born in September). There are many studies that have analyzed the impact and result of leaving high school at a younger age (compared to when schools had grade 13 and OAC), and having to jump right into college or university, because that’s what we’re supposed to do…right?

Putting aside these professional studies and theories, I have experienced first-hand the post-high school effects as a Gen Y, and still see the effects through the eyes of my Gen Y colleagues.

The “ideal” 20-something scenario is this: graduate high school at age 17 or 18. Enroll in college or university thinking you have chosen the perfect course/career path. Spend 2 to 4 years (or more) becoming an expert, then successfully graduate with high-hopes of finding an awesome job and making lots of money.

The “realistic” 20-something scenario: graduate high school at age 17 or 18 without ever paying rent, or a cell phone, hydro or gas bill.  Enrolling in college or university thinking you have chosen the perfect course/career path, having only bagged groceries or served coffee, or not having the opportunity to intern or co-op at your “dream job” to get a taste of what it’s really like. Spending 2 to 4 years (or more) becoming an expert and either using thousands of dollars your parents  have graciously saved for you or having to borrow from the government. Then successfully graduating with either thousands of dollars of debt (or no debt), and hopeful of getting hired for an awesome job and making lots of money, but competing for only a handful of available jobs against hundreds of graduates just like you and realising you need to make money and fast.

Related article: The expectation gap: Students’ and universities’ roles in preparing for life after grad (Globe and Mail)

And so the mindset of an entrepreneur naturally blossoms into reality. But, there are underlying mindsets of 20-somethings I witness on a regular basis which have not settled well with me.

I have met Gen Y who are pursuing entrepreneurship and I’m confident they will succeed. There are some pursuing a professional career and I’m also confident they will succeed at whichever path they choose. Then there are Gen Y whom I’m unable to believe in their success. Here’s why.

  • Lack of respect for other people’s time
  • “Me” thinking instead of “how do my actions affect others?”
  • Individual mindset versus thinking like a team
  • Following the pack instead of leading their own goals
  • Thinking skills are more powerful than personality
  • Being comfortable is better than trying something new
Source unknown

Source unknown

Going back to the above quote about entrepreneurship being a mindset, so is your professional brand. The list above will hinder your career and success no matter which path you choose. How about changing the above mindset for the sake of your future:

  • Time is money; don’t waste it, especially when it’s not yours to waste. Those will only invest their time in you if they know their time is being valued.
  • “Your actions, and your action alone, determines your worth.” – Evelyn Waugh
  • Success does not come from working or acting alone.
  • Be a leader; only follow YOUR dreams.
  • “85% of your success is due to personality and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.” –Carnegie Institute of Technology
  • “Those who are willing to take risks and step out of their comfort zone will reap the biggest rewards.” – Stop Playing Safe

Are you a 20-something pursuing entrepreneurship or a professional career? What has your experience been like? What advice would you give to your Gen Y cohort?

Read more about Personal Branding

Entrepreneurship: a universal mindset

motivational quotes, business quotes, life quotes, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurFor the past year, I have struggled with the idea of entrepreneurship. The roller coaster I have been riding for the past two years, personally and professionally, is a key factor of why I started toying with the idea of being my own boss.

This article published in New York Magazine could not have been shared by a friend on Facebook at any better time than now. I highly recommend reading this article whether you’re an entrepreneur or not.

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, but only if you let it. Whether they know it or not, my friends and family have been extra important this past year while I went through the emotions of security and stability. I may not have explicitly expressed these feelings, let it be out of vain or exposure of vulnerability, but there is no gain of success by acting alone, especially behind closed doors.

This article gave me words and meanings for the questions and doubts I’ve been thinking for quite some time. How can I be successful without the safety net of a bi-weekly paycheck or learning and collaborating with co-workers? How will I manage to pay my bills and enjoy a “paid” vacation? How can I invest or save without knowing how much money I will make on a monthly basis?

The answers for me are beyond the monetary value. Instead it’s the value of life I wish to earn instead.

At the age of 28, I have been laid off (or let go) three times. Partially my fault for choosing ill-suited jobs (for the sake of a challenge) and partially due to the ever-changing corporate world, and unstable job market.

Entrepreneurship developed quickly for me as a necessity, rather than an opportunity like majority of entrepreneurs I know. I basically had a blank canvas (more so blank pay cheque), so I had to find ways to fill it. This article explained my approach to action right-on: “…today’s 20-somethings think of entrepreneurship as a mind-set, rather than as the explicit act of starting a company.”

As much as I want to be the founder or CEO of a company (anything is possible), I truly believe that as long as my mind-set is based on being relentlessly resourceful, solving problems, being proactive, and believing boundaries are just walls I have created in my own mind, I could live (and possibly thrive) as an entrepreneur.

This endeavour is brand new. Too early to measure success, but not too soon for me to already see the value of work-life balance I’ve longed for.

The article explains how it takes a certain type of personality and form of security to be an entrepreneur or to provide similar services such as freelance and consulting. Yes, not everyone can just drop their full-time stable paycheck and jump into something new, but I truly believe anyone can start slowly integrating their new business idea or lifestyle endeavour if they’re willing to give short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.

Have you taken a similar business or lifestyle path? What lessons did you learn? What advice would you give? Or, are you someone contemplating a grander plan and unsure how or where to start? And to all my entrepreneurial friends, would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Check out my Pinterest collection of motivational quotes (updated every Monday).

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