Corporate Career or Entrepreneurial Path?

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This is a guest post from Marguerite Arnold.

I am a bit of a late bloomer in some ways – certainly academically. At the age of 48, I decided, after a life spent in business of all kinds, to go back to school, obtain my EMBA, and focus on an entrepreneurial career.

It’s not really that delaying my master’s was a choice. When I was younger, I couldn’t get a school loan. I had no cosignors. And the jobs I got never paid enough to get the loan either.

But here I am.

If I were to compare myself to any generation right now, it would not be my own but to the generation of young people currently leaving university for the first time. I have no home loan and, despite a good stint on Wall Street earning a six figure salary, all of my net worth was wiped out in the “Great Recession” along with anything like steady employment.

As a person of a certain age, not to mention a foreigner in a country where I still struggle with the native language, I have embraced the digital “gig economy” – I had to. That said, I have always been exposed to it. My parents were self-employed. My uncle was Peter Drucker – a man who wrote about corporate management – yes – but who also foresaw the situation we face now. Going to business school these days, more than ever, is about learning to manage the dichotomy between the way things were and the way things are changing.

Don’t kid yourself. The entrepreneur’s path takes a lot of practice and perseverance. It is never easy. But thinking out of the box right now is the only sure path to longer term survival. The attraction of a steady full-time job, certainly in the U.S. and the U.K., is the comfort provided by getting a pay check each week, or at the end of the month. The concept of job security though has gone out the window. The concept of a “corporate manager” is also changing fast.

As business school students contemplate the future, one thing is very clear. The old ways of doing things, along with old business paradigms, are shifting faster than the textbooks can adapt. Faster, in fact, than society can. That is always the way it has been, but this time, the shift is more profound. Companies cannot survive without acting like lean and agile start-ups, and figuring out a way to make that happen is a core priority for managers.

In some ways, deciding whether to pursue a corporate track job or jump into a start up is not a choice – just a delayed reality. Newly minted business graduates, in particular, could do far worse than reset their expectations and set their vision on leading an entrepreneurial life, right from the start.

Marguerite Arnold is an entrepreneur, author and third semester EMBA candidate at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

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