McKinsey’s recent findings paint an intriguing picture, indicating that a significant shift is happening in the professional world. A striking 72% of individuals who departed from their roles in public or non-profit sectors didn’t return to their previous fields or even the workforce. Similarly, the finance sector witnessed a 65% rate of non-return. What’s particularly fascinating is that many from this exodus are diving headfirst into setting up their own businesses.
I can count myself among this number. As an author, coach, mentor, consultant, and founder of multiple training and professional development companies, I fall squarely into the entrepreneur category. However, this was not always the case. My own personal experiences as both a participant in and observer of corporate culture, in all of its forms, has played a significant role in shaping how I view the modern workplace with its needs, benefits and deficits.
Entrepreneurial journeys like mine are expected to continue their ascent, firmly establishing it as a dominant business trend. The truth is that becoming an entrepreneur is no longer merely the domain of the brave few: it has become a mainstream aspiration. Such observations are further corroborated by The New York Times (article from 09/29/23, A Silver Lining From the Pandemic: A Surge in Start-ups), which highlighted a surge in entrepreneurship specifically in the retail and warehouse sectors. But it isn’t only about those wanting to be at the helm of their ventures. A distinct segment of professionals, keen on departing from traditional roles but not necessarily keen on starting businesses, are finding their niche in the gig economy.
In juxtaposing entrepreneurship with the conventional corporate job, differences are clear. Entrepreneurship offers autonomy, flexibility, and the thrill of creating something from scratch. It often involves greater risk but comes with the possibility of high rewards. In contrast, a traditional corporate role provides structure, a predictable path, and the safety net of a steady paycheck and benefits. Each has its pros and cons, and preference boils down to individual temperament and life goals.
However, businesses stand at a unique crossroads today. As companies reel back on hiring and even resort to significant layoffs, they inadvertently produce a reservoir of highly skilled professionals. These professionals, now venturing into freelancing or contractual roles, offer a vast pool of talent that companies can tap into. Contractual hiring becomes an attractive proposition, allowing businesses to cater to specific, short-term needs without long-term commitments.
But herein lies an innovative solution for companies to stem the entrepreneurial exodus: why not harness the entrepreneurial spirit internally? Companies can encourage employees to think like entrepreneurs, fostering a culture of innovation and creativity. By doing so, they can not only retain talent but also drive intrapreneurship. This approach offers professionals the best of both worlds: the opportunity to act on entrepreneurial impulses while still enjoying the security of a regular paycheck and benefits.
Are YOU an intrapreneur?
Do you frequently seek to expand your skill set in your professional life? Do you find yourself requesting guidance and mentorship from superiors? Perhaps you voluntarily shoulder additional responsibilities, not explicitly tied to your formal role. If these resonate, you might be unknowingly engaging in “job crafting.” This refers to the act of tailoring one’s job to better align with personal interests and values.
A wealth of scientific data suggests that when individuals find roles that harmonize with their innate capabilities, personalities, and beliefs, they flourish. In essence, what we often label as "talent" predominantly emerges when personality finds its rightful place.
An old adage, often attributed to Confucius and oft-quoted, suggests, “Choose a job you love, and you won’t have to work another day.” And the data supports this: a plethora of psychological studies imply that individuals tend to relish their professions more—often reaching a state of immersion or ‘flow’—when their tasks resonate with their passions.
Beyond individual inclinations, a universal principle underpinning most successful job crafting strategies is infusing one’s role with an entrepreneurial spirit. This notion transcends merely establishing a business. It’s about fostering innovation and pioneering better ways of operating, driving positive change in one’s workplace. Indeed, many large corporations brim with innovative ideas that, unfortunately, stagnate. The entrepreneurial process, however, can transform these latent ideas into tangible innovations. When this entrepreneurial spirit is channeled within a conventional corporate structure, it evolves into “intrapreneurship” or corporate innovation.
Studies consistently reveal that intrapreneurial employees tend to exhibit heightened levels of engagement and productivity. Even minor role modifications or a subtle reframing of responsibilities can infuse one’s position with intrapreneurial vigor. This said, individuals with a higher risk appetite, those drawn more towards rewards than deterred by potential pitfalls, tend to thrive more in intrapreneurial environments. Conversely, those with a more cautious demeanor might find such roles challenging.
So, how can one cultivate this intrapreneurial spirit?
First and foremost, mastering the art of persuasion is vital. Intrapreneurs are adept at recognizing latent projects or dormant ideas and breathing life into them through their influential prowess. Many innovative concepts in large enterprises falter due to poor execution, untimely introduction, or inadequate advocacy. Identifying these opportunities and having the tenacity and vision to present them persuasively can establish one as a potent change catalyst. Even renowned innovators, like Steve Jobs, rarely invented new ideas. Instead, they possessed the acumen to repurpose existing concepts attractively, making them irresistible to the masses.
Another critical trait is proactivity. It’s about taking the initiative, moving with purpose, and often outpacing peers. Such individuals prefer action over inertia, even if it occasionally leads to errors. They are less concerned about potential repercussions, as their primary drive is to make a tangible impact. This proactive nature embodies the core traits of transformational leaders—curiosity, passion, humility, and an unyielding dedication to change. True leadership is synonymous with driving change, fueled by this inherent proactivity.
Lastly, fostering a sense of altruism and community in one’s professional life can be incredibly rewarding. Interestingly, acts of generosity and kindness are often self-rewarding. Studies highlight a consistent correlation between happiness and altruistic acts, both in early childhood and adulthood. By nurturing emotional intelligence and forming genuine connections at the workplace, employees can achieve a deeper sense of purpose and camaraderie.
You can derive profound meaning and satisfaction from your job by nurturing a spirit of innovation and connection. Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs alike are driven by a shared vision: to better the world and foster progress. By embedding this spirit into everyday work, you too can make your profession not just a job, but a passionate pursuit.