Over on GL Hoffman’s blog, Seth Godin is telling people not to look for a job. And I agree. Godin thinks it’s smarter to start a business. And I agree.

What’s a headhunter doing telling people to start their own business rather than to go find a job? Well, I’d rather have one company client hiring lots of people than one job candidate filling one job. So I’d love it if you’d just go start a business and then give me your business.

I might as well ask you to wrench your neck 270 degrees and then fold your head under your armpit so you can walk backwards while looking ahead. Most people just aren’t cut out for it, though everyone would learn how to be better at any job they do — if they tried to start a business. And some would keep at it and a few would succeed.

I love Seth’s idea, but if you’re gonna tell people to do something I think you need to tell them how. So let’s look at two ways to do this.

First, if you’re never gonna try to start your own business, you should nonetheless approach your next job like it’s a business. Hell, the employer does. (If the employer could avoid hiring you or anyone else, he would. He doesn’t want to create a job. He wants to produce more profit.) So if you want to get a leg up, get your hands around that job like it is a business. Show the employer what you’re made of, or you don’t deserve the job. Here’s the basic blueprint to Create your next job without having to actually start a business.

Or, wanna have some real fun because you’re smarter than the next guy? Good for you. Don’t even pick out a new job. Go ahead and design your new company. Design your product. Then go find the vendors you will need in order to produce it. Find the customers who will buy it. Meet the competitors that you will put out of business. Go talk to all of them — they’ll be glad to meet you. (Aw, man, these meetings are looking a little like veiled job interviews, aren’t they? Well, consider that a bonus.) Know what? Every one of them is a potential funding source for your new biz, and they are also all potential employers. Your competitor may hire you to avoid beating its head against your wall. A vendor may want to use your idea to sprout a new product line. Your customer — well, customers are hard to figure out. Sometimes they want to bring an idea in-house… or they just wanna buy you out.

This latter approach to job hunting came up when a pair of software developers — a husband/wife team in Croatia — asked me whether they should Get a job, or start a business? It was fun to develop the path between both options to make them both viable. It’s not rocket science. Take a look and see if it’s the how-to solution you need.

So should you try to get a job? I dunno. I say, start by creating a job by designing the work you want to do as a business, then decide whether to do it for someone else or whether to work for yourself. Find a way to produce profit and go show it to people you respect. Either they’ll help you start a new biz or they’ll hire you.

  1. As usual, Nick, great advice here. That is a winning combination…approach each job AS IF you were self-employed already. If more people could justify or quantify their job like that, the world would be a much rosier place these days.

  2. NIck, you’ve simplified a complex issue. Great advice for job hunters AND fledgling entrepreneurs.

    I love how you’ve made it crystal clear that the skills needed to research, plan, pitch, and build a business are exactly translatable to landing (or creating) a great job. This is required reading for any serous job seeker who is willing and eager to do what the competition isn’t.

    Your advice puts the job seeker in his/her “place of power” because they’ll be approaching job search like they do their job (if they were good) – a mission critical, leave no stone unturned, failure is not an option endeavor. Translation — they’ll do what it takes to create opportunities and prove value — and in doing so they’ll be empowered and rewarded.

    It’s not easy, especially these days, but what job worth doing is easy? Too many job seekers think online ads and recruiters will get them a job – working a job search like work/business is not a concept that occurs to them or that they embrace. And that’s OK — leaves more opportunities for those that do.

    Maybe that sounds harsh, but I REALLY get frustrated and am saddened/baffled by job seekers who just won’t accept that there isn’t an easy/quick way to do this.

    Thanks, as always, for your reality check AND your executable plan for success. It will enlighten and truly help those who are open to your message.

  3. Sometimes job hunters hear that to get hired, they have to market themselves.

    Your proactive business approach sounds so right. It’s what successful marketers do. They research potential markets, then target the promising ones accordingly. They take the product they believe in and repackage it in terms that appeal to each audience. (The same car gets pitched one way to singles vs. another way to families.) Doing this successfully, however, does take time and effort.

    That’s why mass media advertising (like sending 1,000 resumes) yields such poor results. You’ll notice the more effective forms of direct marketing seem to talk to you and your individual needs (even if we otherwise call it “junk mail.”)

    If you ever did want to be in business for yourself, that’s exactly what you’re doing as a job hunter. It’s all about where can I promote and place this product at what price to customers willing to buy. And YOU are the product!

  4. Great article. It has never been easier to start a business and everybody should do this. Go to ning and create a social network, go to blogger and start a blog, print a local newsletter, create a youtube show, write a book, etc. These are all free and people should just do it. They will learn a ton and become more valuable in the process.

  5. When you engage in such efforts, please make sure it’s of high quality.

    I read the new 2nd edition of Andrew Keen’s book entitled _The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture_. Keen is by no means a Luddite, he founded several high tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been online since the early 90’s.

    Nevertheless, he is very concerned that because it is so easy to create and post works now electronically, we’re seeing a lot more trash online lately. In a previous time, it really meant something to have your work picked up by a major magazine or publishing house. It also meant something if you put forth your own money for printing materials. Now the estimate is we’ve got at least 77,000,000 blogs online — are they all good?

    I’ve worked in high tech for many years, and absolutely love how it opens new doors for people. Yes, to film yourself, to record yourself, that’s fabulous. At the same time, it’s easy for us in high tech to overhype. Keen’s book covers several of these technologies, e.g., blogs, YouTube, MySpace, etc. along with their shortcomings. By knowing both the possibilities and risks involved in using these, you can determine the kind of messages right for the firm you’re creating. Stand out by being the kind that lures in new business and repeat customers.

  6. The only big caveat is: know your current environment – so keep your eyes wide open and your short-term expectations realistic. If you’re unemployed right now, business vs. job is probably a coin flip. However, when there are banks that have to put signs out that say “we make business loans” (see Barry Moltz’ blog), you know that funding is hard to come by. And we know that consumers are not spending. (and neither are most employers hiring).

    While I would not pledge inaction, I think this year is an excellent time to plan and perform other constructive brand-building activities. For me, I’m getting articles published in trade rags and chasing speaking engagements, as well as trying to make my presence felt in my professional organization. But, unless someone offers too-hard-to-pass-up numbers, I’m not sure I would jump right now.

    You know the old saying, “buy low, sell high”? Selling yourself now will not get you maximum dollars, but buying into something you can sell later right now is a primo idea.

  7. Eric’s point is a good one — capitalize on the state of the economy to develop “your product.” No one thing works in every case. Judgment is such an important part of success.