The Real Career Risks of Entrepreneurship


The majority of people are perfectly comfortable working for somebody else. They have no desire to launch their own business, mostly because they perceive entrepreneurship as a highly risky option. Most of these concerns come down to four types of risk – financial, career, lifestyle, and ego. They imagine that the potential for success is very small and the likelihood of ruin high. They assume that the type of person who is willing to put all that at risk must be fearless and crazy and have completely different priorities than everyone else.

In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs are relatively risk-averse. There is a lot at stake when you put everything you have into the next great business idea, and true entrepreneurs work hard to mitigate every potential threat before it becomes an issue. The more front-end work you do, the lesser the risk involved in the business itself. Of course, there is some inherent risk in going out on your own, but there are legitimate ways to manage and mitigate those threats. This article discusses the realities of career risk and what you can do to manage that risk as you dive in to the world of entrepreneurship.

The concern about career risk is that leaving your industry for the months or years it takes to work on a startup can derail your ladder-climbing path. Of course, if your startup is a resounding success, there is nothing to worry about. The problem only arises if your startup goes south and you have to put yourself back on the employment market again. The best way to mitigate career risk is to build a solid foundation while you are still working and to maintain those connections when you step aside.

Whatever line of work you are currently in likely provides infinite opportunities to make a name for yourself. Build your reputation as an expert in your field and nurture relationships within the industry. Keep records of your most important resume builders – projects you worked on, achievements you earned, acknowledgments you received.

Once you do give your notice of resignation, give 100% right up until your last day on the job. Don’t give your last employer, colleagues, or clients any reason to doubt your dedication to them or the industry. Make it clear that your decision to go out on your own is in no way a reflection on your current job or company – even if that’s not particularly true. The goal here is to leave the job with a positive reputation and a list of references who will be happy to recommend you down the road.

Once you are out on your own, make a habit of keeping in touch with your best allies still in the industry. Connect with them on LinkedIn and keep them informed on what you are doing. If your startup is in the same basic industry, these connections will be important for marketing purposes too. If not, maintaining these relationships will give you the connections you need if you have to return to work. Stay informed on the changes in your industry as well. Keep your trade association memberships and check out their websites every so often.

Reducing career risk is not particularly difficult – it simply requires you to be a desirable employee while you are working and to utilize basic networking skills once you are on your own. In reality, the whole point of entrepreneurship for most people is to get out from under the control of an employer…you may well find that keeping in touch with colleagues still on the daily treadmill will be the motivation you need to make your venture succeed.

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