Just ten to fifteen years ago, in Africa becoming financially successful and making your parents proud generally meant that you had to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant and maybe even an investment banker. Pursuing a university degree, then deciding to become an entrepreneur would have caused mayhem in most Nigerian homes. You were expected to choose a profession, work hard at it and then climb the ladder as far as you could.
However with the scarcity of ‘good’ jobs and unemployment on the rise, starting a business has become the new normal for many graduates. In fact, entrepreneurship has become one of the most sustainable ways to solve Africa’s unemployment problem. However are we glamourising it to the detriment of our long- term success?
Three things we should probably reconsider
Selling the idea that entrepreneurship is the ONLY guaranteed way to success.
I cant count the number of times I’ve heard, ‘If you don’t follow your dreams, you’ll end up working for someone who did’, ‘no one ever got rich working a 9-5’,these are over-generalizations that have consequences because the fact is not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Plus if we all become our own bosses who is going to work for who? Who are the employees going to be?
It is wonderful that non- traditional avenues to earn money have opened up in the form of entrepreneurship but why do we always have to have two extremes.
Mark Zuckerberg may be the founder of Facebook and Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook’s COO and author of ‘Lean in’ which has helped millions of women around the world in the workplace. Just because she isn’t the founder of Facebook it doesn’t make her less important because she focuses on being a value driven individual.
Shouldn’t the focus be on encouraging people to be entrepreneurial in their thinking whether they work in a corporation or run their own business? People who are entrepreneurial in their thinking are value driven. They adopt critical thinking and embrace innovation and continuous improvement. They are the ones you see solving problems everyday and are getting paid to do so regardless of whether they are the founders of the company or not.
Are we choosing entrepreneurship for the right reasons?
With entrepreneurship growing in global popularity, everyone wants to be a boss, many graduates don’t even bother joining the rat race anymore, they come out of university saying ‘I don’t want to work for anyone; ‘I want to be my own boss’ and a great proportion of the ones who are already on the corporate ladder can’t wait to jump off and start a business so that they too can escape the rat race.
The thing is becoming an entrepreneur isn’t about avoiding the discipline of a 9-5 job or jumping into the next ‘it’ industry because other people seem to be making money there. Becoming an entrepreneur is about finding a problem that you are uniquely placed to solve, that people will pay you for. You shouldn’t be thinking about a me too or copy and paste approach because the idea of working for yourself sounds appealing, the thought process should be, what skills or resources do I have to execute that idea? Am I passionate enough about it to pursue it and follow through?
The Myth that good ideas are the key to business success
We live in a world where the future of success is touted as becoming an entrepreneur so the focus of most graduates is to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Sara Blakely and create the next Facebook or Spanx which is great. But contrary to the message that is popularly conveyed that becoming an entrepreneur is about the next big idea, ideas are a dime a dozen and execution and the ability to solve a series of problems is the actual key to success.
Becoming an entrepreneur means you are responsible for an enterprise and beyond the idea, a successful enterprise has to have structure, a business model and a value proposition.
Instead of glamourising either end of the spectrum a 9-5 or entrepreneurship lets focus on encouraging people to be value driven and solve problems where they are and focus on finding career paths that suit their skill set and temperament, where they can thrive.