Should your child get a job or become an entrepreneur?

Now before we get into today’s topic, here’s a fun question. What does the word ‘job’ actually mean and where does it even come from? Read on til the very end of the article to find out what the answer is!

I’ve been touting this idea of teaching entrepreneurial thinking and skills to children for some time now, over 5 years to be exact and there’s an elephant in the room I would like to address. Being entrepreneurial doesn’t ONLY mean that you run your own company, it means that you have the skills of an entrepreneur, the mindset of an entrepreneur which in today’s job market is essential.

Let’s face it, not everyone will want to run their business, at least not all the time and there are loads of people who run their business, maybe have a job too, take a break and go back into business and vice versa. However, it’s safe to say that the development of entrepreneurial skills will serve your children well in a variety of contexts.

I believe entrepreneurial skills can be a great differentiator in a job climate that is becoming more competitive by the day. The development of an entrepreneurial mindset makes you more adept at problem solving and seeking solutions, young people will likely be more resilient, forward-thinking, comfortable with presenting and public speaking and negotiating to name a few.

A friend of mine recently went for a job with a fast growing tech company in London. He went to a total of 3 interviews, which included having to do a tonne of research, presentations, strategy and real ‘work’ in preparation for each stage. Coming down to the last two candidates, he didn’t get the job and commented to me that after all of that effort he may as well have used the same skills he directed towards getting a job to starting his own business.

And that’s the point I’d like to focus on.

If he got the job, he would have been a happy bunny, it was a great position and I’m sure he would have been both busy and fulfilled. But he didn’t get it and felt like he took his best shot and failed. But hold on? Isn’t this the same problem entrepreneurs face? Putting time, effort, research into a business, taking that shot that you may or may not get?

I strongly believe that the only reason why most young people default to getting a job as opposed to starting a business is because the idea of entrepreneurship isn’t presented to them with the same level of consistency and drive as getting a job is at school.

Imagine a school where 90% of the time the students are shown entrepreneurs as role models and businesses as the way to make money? And only 10% of the time they’re shown getting a 9–5 job as ‘another’ possible option.

Naturally, more young people would gravitate towards starting their own business and more entrepreneurs would be both active and successful. Often, the idea of starting a business is presented as being an impossible mission, a minefield that you should probably stay clear of. Statistics are thrown around about the failure rate of new businesses and sometimes the uncertainty of success and income are portrayed negatively.

But what are the reasons behind that? Is running a ‘successful’ business really that hard to achieve or is there something else behind this alarming ‘failure’ rate and I say failure in air quotes, because again as an entrepreneur ‘failures’ are a necessary part of your development when lessons are processed and built upon.

But why do so many businesses fail? I believe it’s because entrepreneurship is not taught early enough, the skills needed to increase your chance of being successful have to be developed by doing and once an individual starts a business, without having developed the necessary skills, try though they might they’re at an immediate disadvantage.

Now imagine that same quote unquote failed entrepreneur has started their first baking business at age 9 and begun learning entrepreneurial skills at that same age. Growing and developing they fall out of love with baking and as a young teen they’re interested in writing.

They start an online magazine with their friends which they run for a few years — learning a number of skills and gaining a load of experience in the process. They’re also still learning about business and entrepreneurial principles even if they’re bouncing from one idea to the next. They may stop running their business to concentrate on GCSE exams, go onto university or lose interest.

However, now as a young adult they’ve had 7–8 years experience of creating products, handling money, calculating profit and loss, dealing with customers and suppliers, networking, success, failure and lots more. What kind of position do you think that puts the young person in?

At least 7–8 years experience in an environment conducive to creating and finding solutions, being self-sufficient, progressing ideas, being creative and project managing. Whatever that young person chooses to do at 18, 21 or 25 years old they’re already seasoned and experienced in the world of entrepreneurship in the sector or sectors they started business ideas in.

But there is a difference of course; job or entrepreneur and that is, even though you need similar skills arguably to get a desirable job and start out as an entrepreneur, the chances are, your job is less likely to connect to your purpose. The honest truth is that industries like education, social work, healthcare and other professions are usually driven by purpose but end up becoming administrative, managerial and detached from the people they wanted to help in the first place.

As an example, in one of the first schools I taught entrepreneurship to kids I worked with a teacher who was part of the senior management team. He no longer taught, he managed. One day he came into the classroom and said, Julian, today, I’m not going to be stuck in the office pushing paper left and right, I’m going to teach a class and speak to kids. That’s what I came into education for and the minute I became good at it I was promoted to manage those doing the thing that I’m actually passionate about.

He’s no longer a teacher.

The difference between this senior manager and someone who decides to run their own business as an educator is that you’re in control of your career journey.

That for me is the biggest benefit of entrepreneurship and why I am so passionate about teaching entrepreneurship to young people. As an adult the majority of our time is spent working; more often than not trading time and skills to make money. That being said, wouldn’t you want to spend your time, wouldn’t you want your children to spend their time doing something that they love? I mean REALLY love. Something that doesn’t fill you with dread at the thought of you Monday morning.

I truly believe that the next generation should be taught how to do what they love full stop. Imagine a world where everybody did what they love? What a world it would be! We would have a lot more happy grown ups — and for me that’s the ultimate measure of success; to find happiness by whatever means!

Not only that, when you do what you love you are more inclined to do your best and want to be the best. This means working long hours will often feel like nothing — that old cliche, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

I remember when I was working on my first tech business — I’ve always loved tech; I saw a gap in the market for a digital marketing agency during the dot com boom and was determined to make my idea and business a success. I dedicated hours and hours to learning as much as I could, practicing my skills, troubleshooting problems I came across because of my love not only for the industry but the effect that I knew I could have once I gained the skills. I would work till I fell asleep at my laptop, wake up and carry on with where I left off.

Dedication and commitment towards development of one’s skills and goals comes with the sense of ownership that comes with entrepreneurship. A close comparison can be seen in the approach and attitude of elite athletes. The deep-rooted desire to achieve, to be the best, to progress and perhaps beat competitors is entrepreneurship all over.

If nothing else, encourage your child to explore their passion, play around with what they could create or achieve from an entrepreneurial perspective. You’ll be surprised to see how young people come up with amazing, imaginative and very often, unique ideas. The skills they will develop will benefit them in bucket loads — mark my words!

At Ultra we often get feedback from parents that after taking part in our workshops or programmes children develop their confidence, resilience and creativity to name a few — all attributes I am sure you’ll agree are great positives. Give it a go and let me know how you get on! You can also visit the what’s on page on our website and find out more about our upcoming workshops, events and programmes to start your child’s entrepreneurial journey.

Now, as promised the answer to the fun question which was, what does the word ‘job’ actually mean and where does it even come from? Well, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a job simply means a ‘piece of work’. It comes from the late Middle English: apparently symbolic of a brief forceful action and can be strangely compared with the word jab. People use the term ‘a job of work’ because a job is at its origin something which is meant to be short.

Now I know what you’re saying, what about the word career? The best definition I could find was actually from Wikipedia; “The career is an individual’s metaphorical “journey” through learning, work and other aspects of life.”

Now, thank you for staying with me until the end of this article and if you’ve enjoyed this podcast please share it with a parent or teacher who wants to support the next generation of entrepreneurs. See you next time — ultra and out

This article was brought to you by Ask Ultra, the Entrepreneurship tuition app for kids. Available on both app stores, try it here!

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