I’ve had the idea to write about young people starting their careers in my head for some time now. The fact is that the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced I’ll share this piece of advice with my two and a half year old son, when his decision moment comes. If he chooses to go into the fast paced business world, I would recommend him to start up in a startup. Although I agree with the general statement that you should try to make mistakes early in your career in other people’s business, I think that there is a lot of value in starting at a business that is starting. Here’s why:
Being an entrepreneur, I’m passionate about creating new stuff and services to help people. I believe that this is a great experience which I’m keen on sharing with the people I’m working with. This involves participating them in different aspects of a company’s decision-making process as I’m convinced everyone has something to add: a comment, an idea, a solution, an insight… an opinion. So I believe that this process is enriching for young people, with clear minds, who are part of a generation which older guys like me don’t always fully understand. They can see how decisions are made and what it takes to build a company, apart from working with participative leaders who make them feel part of the team.
- Forest vision vs tree vision:
This really is the big offering a startup has for youngsters. They will start thinking in three very different aspects of business: Operational, Tactical and Strategic. I am a believer that people accomplish what they are requiredand work better when they understand where the work comes from and why. I encourage my team to look at the forest, not just the tree in front of them. I see this as a way to develop people and, in particular, their criteria to make decisions. I see this as character building… character that will accompany youngsters as they progress through adult and professional life.
- Fun & vertigo:
Startups are places where people pursue their ideas, trying really hard to make them grow into businesses. Things usually turn out different to what entrepreneurs originally planned, and this generates unique company cultures (extremely dynamic, pivoting till they get it right, creative and enthusiast). Although there’s plenty of risk involved, I think young people can absorb this way of doing things, and develop a thick skin for life (even if they choose corporate life afterwards).
- Making mistakes is a necessary part of developing:
All startups grow by making mistakes. In today’s ever judging world, people read and talk about a few guys who hit big time success. Many don’t feel very good about themselves if they don’t achieve it. But at the same time, many feel afraid of making mistakes and taking risks. I’m convinced that the best way to deal with these feelings is to actually put things in motion and try your best to make them work. Entrepreneurs think like this and are the ultimate optimists. I believe a young guy or girl working closely with entrepreneurs and sharing their passion can develop optimism, courage and their own criteria to measure success.
- Recognition (or lack of it):
This is an intricate issue. I’ve been an entrepreneur till I was 29 years old, when I decided to join a large multinational consulting firm and see what corporate life looked like. It took quite a few interviews to actually get the job, but I was able to get it. The issue was that HR people in corporations didn’t think that my experience was enough to fill a Strategy Consultant role. I felt frustrated because I knew I had dealt with really difficult businesses and personal issues, apart from leading big teams in several companies. I felt I had a feeling for the job developed directly in the trenches as a business owner, and I surely proved it was handy when I finally got it. On the other hand I felt recognized by fellow entrepreneurs, my family, my friends and most important, by myself. That’s a feeling I definitely would like my son to have!
- Leadership skills:
For an entrepreneur, starting up is about drive, courage, hard work, optimism and a good deal of stubbornness. I recognize these as key characteristics of a leader. If this entrepreneur can learn to be a team player, someone who leads by example and lives life through good values, he can be a big influence on the people in his team. I see this as a very positive influence for youngsters.
- Grow in a company that grows:
A growing company has already shown its initial value. In fact, it is required to constantly build value for customers, shareholders, investors and employees. These last ones see value when they can have more (and faster) opportunities than they would have in corporate life, particularly if the company’s policy is based on meritocracy. I think that for a young person starting his or her career, working to generate value through achievements and getting rewards and opportunities is much more purposeful than learning politics. So, I’ll tell my boy: “You’ll see what you are made of in the first couple of months of working in a startup. You’ll find out if you are really cut for entrepreneurship and proceed with your own projects in the future or if you’ll feel better having a constant but slow moving corporate career.” As startups usually are high-energy environments, where each individual really makes a difference, people who step up for the challenges develop low resistance to changes as well as adaptability. I find these critical for working on today’s world, so I am just trying to imagine what it will be like in 15 to 20 years time. So what about you? What would you advise your kids for their first job?