In this economy, we're all entrepreneurs

Year after year, the US spits out a few million college kids looking for jobs.  The whole recruiting process is built around the idea of matching--that there are enough openings to digest everyone into the workforce and its just a matter of matching the right people to the right positions.

Well, what if there are no openings come this May--literally none.  No job postings.  No on campus interviews.  No job fairs.  This isn't a fantasy.  It's happening right now.  Even the companies that are showing up to job fairs aren't hiring--they're just there for branding. Let's not even talk about the number of people getting laid off everyday.

You know what that makes all these students, and everyone else out there in the job market...

...besides screwed?


That's when you are when you have a product--yourself--that you are solely responsible for.  You have to discover, target, and pitch your prospects to survive.  It's like a new market where there aren't any established sales channels and you've got to convince your first customer that spending money with you will bear both immediate and future benefit.

This is something few have ever been taught how to do--how to get someone to fight for you in the budget because they really need you.  Anyone can get a job when there's an opening, but can you get a company to create a position for you after they just cut 15% of their staff?

Enter the era of sink or swim--with a newfound focus on taking personal responsibility for outcomes.  I'm seeing two types of people out on the job market right now.  Some people are sitting by the phone waiting for offers or even interviews and other people are getting out there doing the interviewing themselves--informational interviews--and trying to drum up a sale.  I suggested to a young professional last week that they get a blog with their own domain. Then I saw "learning about nameservers" (part of the technical process of getting a custom URL for your blog) in their Twitter account. That person doesn't have to do a lot to convince me that they will make an immediate and positive ROI impact at their next job--and that's the only thing that's going to matter in his economy.

"How are you going to help us make more money than we're spending on you?" is an interview question too few of us are prepping for.  It's not just a matter of having the right answer, but also having the skills to back it up.  Do you know exactly what skills you'd need to have to get fought for in a budget meeting while layoffs are going on? 

Its the same as a piece of advice that David Kidder gave a group of entrepreneurs from nextNY:

"Get in the jetstream of revenue in your space--find out where people are making real money and find a way to get a piece of that."

Thinking about yourself on those terms--how you're going to have a direct impact on your next company's bottom line as a revenue stream, not just a cost center is thinking like an entrepreneur. 

The other think I think jobseekers can borrow from entrepreneurial thinking is that entrepreneurs often form communities to help each other out.  Helping other people with their job searches can build up your social capital and karma (which can come back to help you later), get you thinking about your career in different ways, and also help get your name out there.   Plus, after a while, it can get really tiring doing your own job search and sometimes you need to pull away from the screen for a moment.  Grabbing coffee with a friend who is thinking about their own career is akin to something entrepreneurs do all the time to brainstorm--and can often give both people a host of new and useful ideas.

That's why one of the things we're working on at Path 101 is a career advice network--where people who have jobs and also those looking can reach out to targeted people and ask career questions.  There's really no substitute for the accrued wisdom of someone who has been there.  It's something I encourage my entrepreneurship students to do all the time--to reach out to other people to learn. 

Not to make this too much of a pitch, but creating a people resource that can provide career guidance is an important part of Path 101 and an exciting part of our original vision.  It's something I've strived to create over and over again, through various mentoring programs I started or ran, nextNY, etc.  If you have a moment, I'd love your participation.  You can register here and choose how often you're willing to receive targeted career questions.  The questions will be directed to a number of professionals in a particular industry--so no worries if you can't answer all of them.  You can even ask and answer anonymously if you'd like.  We're trying to build up the advisor base as large and diverse as possible, if you could pass it on to a few people, especially across other industries, that would be amazing. 

At the end of the day, 2009 is going to be a very difficult year for jobseekers and entrepreneurs alike, but it really comes down to two things--helping yourself first and then also making time to help those around you.  Sitting back and waiting for opportunities will leave you far behind.