Are Employers Really Going to Say Yes to Someone Who is a Self-identified Entrepreneur?

by Nov 2, 2018

The data shows that 40% of students at UTS want to be their own boss at some point.

In the UTS landscape, we are hearing about startups, opportunities to learn entrepreneurship, places where your startup can be fostered and grow – what benefit is there to industry if we are constantly ‘teaching’ these startup principles to students? Surely it’s a risky thing to be doing? The vast majority of graduates are going to be looking at large firms, SME’s, government or NGO’s to find their first internships or graduate roles. How many of these sorts of workplaces really want or value students who are equipped to think like entrepreneurs?

In speaking with Professor David Brown, from UTS Business School, it would seem that employers may not be looking for the next Canva founder to join their ranks and ‘disrupt’ the office. But the answer isn’t necessarily what you would think either. Professor David co-hosts the podcast “Think Business Futures” produced by 2SER, which is a longer form conversation released intermittmently, with a focus on demystifying the buzzwords around business innovation and emerging trends. He is constantly speaking with industry stakeholders and working alongside academics to create relevant and effective learning content for students.

I asked Professor Brown whether employers really are going to say yes to someone who is a self-identified entrepreneur – the answer? Maybe they will:

“Many employers we speak to are looking for ‘intrapreneurship’. Conversely, many students involved in some of our more entrepreneurial degrees are coming from the perspective that they want to bring values and principles of entrepreneurship into corporate environments. We are talking about skills and knowledge that apply to projects and activities regardless of whether they are inside a larger organisation, or in a garage somewhere.” He says.

Even the meaning of the word ‘entrepreneurial’ conjures up many different and sometimes confusing meanings. I can imagine that, depending on which culture you are from or have worked in, there might not always be a clear definition of the word. So what does it really mean and what value are students adding to employers if they come from a background in entrepreneurship?

“Students who have been involved in entrepreneurship have capabilities that make them valuable. They are far more likely to initiate in situations and are likely to apply innovative techniques to problem solving. All of these traits give them an advantage, over students who have not had an opportunity to be entrepreneurial. They have a different view on the nature of responsibility within organisations, what you would call more of an ‘enterprise mindset’.”

It would seem that a key value add brought into organisations by students, is around the way they see themselves belonging and carrying responsibility within a business. Another key skill is that students are not only equipped with the knowledge they need, but that they are able to ‘hit the ground running’ with organisations that are moving rapidly. Being exposed to concepts like rapid prototyping, agile methodologies and collaborative project work can mean developing the confidence to solve problems, articulate and share ideas and bring answers across different roles which might not fit exactly into an interns’ job description. I asked Professor Brown about this.

“For an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, it’s not just about a job to them. They are thinking about the way that they fit into a business from a bird’s-eye view. The sense of responsibility around their role is greater, because they are thinking ‘how can I make this place better’. Once you think like that, it’s extremely difficult to switch it off. And that affects different parts of the organisation in which they work.”

If you do find yourself interested in the different ways you can grow your horizons through being involved in entrepreneurship, interning with a startup, being part of a project, or even a more formalised program or subject, my advice is to go for it. As someone who was a student here and continues to be involved across many facets of the University, I can say that the benefits of staying open minded to these opportunities will serve you well. Part of embarking on this kind of discovery-mission is that new career trajectories will open up to you, as your heuristics change and you become more comfortable with ambiguity. Plus, you never know when the networks you build might be the connections you need later on in the future.

Originally posted in full to the UTS Careers LinkedIn page

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

By David Lillo-Trynes

By David Lillo-Trynes

Internships Officer