If you're dreaming of starting your own business, working for a successful entrepreneur may help you learn the ropes faster.
If you secretly yearn to start a business of your own--whether to pursue a passion or to free yourself from a desk--it may make sense to dip your toes before diving in. You'll learn valuable lessons and give yourself a head start toward long-term success if you keep in mind these few tips:
Find a Mentor: It's one thing to take a job in an industry that interests you, and another to work for a business owner who will take an interest in you and your development. Be upfront about your plans, and work for someone who won't wind up as your competitor. Choose an employer who is seasoned and knowledgeable about her business and industry, willing to coach you and open to introducing you to important contacts. You'll also want an employer willing to share confidential information, such as financial statements, that may not normally be available to employees.
Go Part-Time: Chances are you're not going to earn a lot while learning a new trade, so keep your day job and fit your new employment into your (and your employer's) schedule as best you can. You might even consider an unpaid "apprenticeship," but bear in mind that if you undervalue your services, your employer may do so as well.
Be Ready for Anything: You're at this job to learn, so make sure your boss knows that you're ready to take on any challenge, large or small. If you can bring your skills or experience to bear on a project, do so. Leveraging abilities you already have can come in very handy in a new enterprise. At the same time, you shouldn't shun the less interesting or unpleasant tasks--these are the backbone of a business and often fall to the owner, who undoubtedly wears many hats. Remember that you're not a typical employee. You're asking a lot of your employer, and you should be willing to provide a valuable service in return.
Take Notes: Using a journal to capture what you learned every day creates an invaluable resource for your future startup. Outline procedures, evaluate their effectiveness, and write down questions to ask co-workers and supervisors. Be sure to find out the "why" of doing things as well as the "how." If your employer is open to it, share your notes and thoughts with her. Your exchanges could be valuable to both of you.
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