How to Switch from an Employee to an Entrepreneur Mindset
Have you been dreaming of building your own business? Are you hustling in your side business before and after work, creating your empire on the low? Are you ready to transition from employee to entrepreneur?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you’re already going through what I call the shift. It’s that mind shift, that transition, during which you move from having an employee mindset to an entrepreneur mindset. And truth be told, it’s a scary, intimidating and quite a challenging kind of shift.
Ask any entrepreneur out there, and they’ll probably tell you that one of the biggest obstacles to shifting from being an employee to an entrepreneur is not necessarily the money, or the commitment, or even the support. It’s the mindset.
After all, it’s more than about just creating a business. It’s an actual spiritual and emotional transformation that takes you from an established way of thinking, to a new, ground-breaking mentality. It’s leaving behind the belief that you should be dependent on a paycheck, the approval of bosses and co-workers, and a somewhat stable, albeit political environment. It’s plunging into a world of calculated uncertainty, a world where you must trust yourself to thrust yourself forward.
When I started my side hustle, I had no idea what this entailed. I thought it was cute to write blog posts and dip my hustler toes into the entrepreneurial pond. But even as a side hustler, you start realizing that in order to put yourself out there, in order to market and promote whatever it is that you have to offer to the world, you must first change your mind. You must first get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and kicking the fear out the door. For one of the first times in my life, I came face to face with the fear to even put my name on my work, the fear of others’ perceptions, and ultimately the fear of failure and being laughed at.
Entrepreneurship, in whatever capacity or form it shows itself in, is risky and fear-inducing. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling lemonade in your backyard as a kid, writing your first book, or hustling to market your brand after-hours.
It took a lot of looking at other successful entrepreneurs, a lot of reading books written by other entrepreneurs, and a lot of uncomfortable soul-searching, nervous twitching and chocolate eating to start even scratching the surface of understanding this shift. And the reality is, there are even few entrepreneurs out there who acknowledge and talk about this switch between the employee and entrepreneur mindset.
One of the few entrepreneurs whom I’ve heard discuss it and acknowledge is Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad book series and franchise. In his books, he often refers to the emotional and spiritual work needed to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur. It’s easy to think that it’s all about getting the money, the right investors, the perfect business opportunity. But there’s more to it.
The more you’re able to change your mindset from employee to entrepreneur, the more you’re able to ensure your success. The more you can enjoy the transition and thrive in it. Here are 7 switches you can start making today to go from employee to entrepreneur in your mind first:
Employee: “I’m afraid, so I must conform.” vs. Entrepreneur: “My fear fuels me.”
Being an employee also means being a part of a system. And let’s be real, very often, if not most often, being part of a system also means being part of a certain way of doing things. It may be how it’s done in your company, or in your department, or even in your group — which also implies a certain underlying sense of fear if we do not conform. But we don’t admit the fear often enough to start realizing what it makes us do.
However, being an entrepreneur means, first and foremost, admitting that fear is definitely involved. But it’s also learning to use that fear as fuel instead of as an obstacle. To use the fear as energy to create more, work harder and innovate more.
Employee: “Mistakes are bad.” vs. Entrepreneur: “My mistakes make me succeed.”
The more mistakes you make as an employee, the closer you may get to getting fired. Right? Mistakes are not very popular in the conventional world of business. They’re perceived as costing money, time and energy. So we see them as bad and try as much as possible to stay away from them. Even if that involves pointing fingers and shifting the blame.
But an entrepreneur knows to value mistakes as the pathway to success. It’s only when you make mistakes and learn from them that you can improve and get better. Didn’t Michael Jordan famously say, “I’ve failed over and over in my life, and that’s why I succeed.”? Oprah was fired at 23, depressed in her early 30’s, and faced seemingly insurmountable life challenges. Edison invented the lightbulb only after about 1,000 attempts. What does that tell you about the power of mistakes and failing?
Employee: “Security is taking no risks.” vs. Entrepreneur: “Security is taking calculated risks.”
Security is a steady paycheck and a reliable 401k. However, employment at will says you can get let go without cause. And it has been proven that 401ks are questionable ways to save for retirement.
Where security in the conventional business world may mean getting a paycheck and saving, for an entrepreneur it’s a matter of taking calculated risks.
Employee: “I must know it all.” vs. “Entrepreneur: “I’m constantly learning.”
Entrepreneurs are constant learners. Whereas there’s often an implicit requirement as employees to “know it all”, or at least pretend that we do, it’s important to start shifting your mindset to one where you’re not afraid to admit you don’t know everything. One where you’re open to learning constantly.
Employee: “ I must be the smartest person in the room.” vs. Entrepreneur: “I surround myself with people who are smarter than me."
Do you notice that successful entrepreneurs are not afraid to surround themselves with people much smarter than them? It’s about reaching a common goal rather than looking a certain way.
However, in many a corporate environment, in order to thrive, you may have to be perceived as the smartest person in the room.
[Related: My Keys to Successful Career Transitions]
Employee: “It’s important that I look good on the outside.” vs. Entrepreneur: “Who I am inside is more important.”
Going out on your own entrepreneurial venture doesn’t just require an enormous amount of guts. It also requires a deep internal shift based on strong faith and a commitment to better yourself.
Unlike in situations when employees may have to look, dress or speak the part to be deemed worthy…
Employee: “The goal is my next promotion.” vs. Entrepreneur: “The goal is the journey."
Look at most performance reviews and you’ll notice that the goals are clearly structured in terms of the next thing to do, have or achieve — the next promotion, the next advancement opportunity, the next raise, etc.
Yet the entrepreneurial journey is a process in and of itself. One that is built upon each achievement, each failure, each lesson learnt.
Have you made some of these switches in your own journey?
Solange Lopes is an author, CPA and writer/blogger. She blogs about career and lifestyle for professional women in her blog The Corporate Sister. She’s passionate about writing and women’s issues.
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Professor, Founder of the Corporate Sister platform
I'm a working mom, professor, writer, author and consultant, as well as founder of The Corporate Sister platform. I'm currently working on gender diversity in business, more specifically in accounting, research as well as on my second book. Outside of work, I love hanging out with my little ones, family and friends, and am an avid reader and writer. Continue Reading
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