Think Like an Entrepreneur in Your Job Search

Find out what people looking for full-time work can learn from freelancers.

Published: Mar 26, 2021

Roxanne was one of the lucky ones; she still had her job after her company went through two rounds of layoffs. But she knew her job might not be secure and wanted to begin a proactive job search before she felt desperate.

Job tenures were getting shorter even before the pandemic. The median tenure for employees age 25 to 34 is 3.2 years, far below the 10.3-year average for baby boomers. And now, in a challenging job market, it’s more important than ever for employees to think a step ahead of the job they currently hold.

People working in traditional full-time jobs can learn how to stay on their toes from freelancers and entrepreneurs, who must keep their pipeline of potential customers full, even when they have plenty of work to do.

Here are our tips for adopting the freelancer mindset.

In a challenging job market, it’s more important than ever for employees to think a step ahead of the job they currently hold.

Align with yourself above all.

While companies work hard to develop an employment brand and an enticing list of benefits to improve employee engagement and lower turnover, don’t let that lull you into a sense of security. “Think of your relationship with your employer as a strategic partnership that works for both parties—until it doesn’t,” says Sean Carney, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

Career experts say that the purpose of your current job is to serve as a base in the pursuit of your next one, within or outside your current company. Whether you make the decision to leave or they make it for you, you should always be strategically looking ahead.

Think of yourself as a business.

Think of your current and future employers as customers of the service you offer. Successful entrepreneurs think in terms of offering solutions to problems that need solving, and they adapt their solutions as the problems in the market evolve. “Know what your customers want, know what your value proposition is, and have a strategic vision and plan for yourself,” Carney says.

And importantly, keep learning and growing to stay relevant and ahead of the curve.

Form your personal brand.

Your brand is what people say about you when you aren’t in the room. It’s important to get an accurate view of how you’re perceived as an employee and a contributor—and take steps to change that perception, if necessary.

Find the current state of your brand by asking your trusted circle of colleagues to honestly share a few adjectives that come to mind when they think of you. Then work on a personal statement: one sentence that sums up who you are at work and who you want to be. Next, decide your brand’s core associations: single words that align with your personal statement and that you want to be associated with you, such as “leader” or “collaborative.” Finally, decide how you want to communicate your brand. You may want to start creating some content for social media or doing some public speaking to convey your core associations. Repetition will help your brand stick, so consistency is key.

Keep a project portfolio.

It's common for people working in fields like coding, writing, and design to keep project portfolios that they send with job applications or show in interviews. But career experts say that everyone should keep a project portfolio, regardless of industry. “Don’t include every project you’ve worked on—just feature the highlights,” Carney says. Think creatively about your experience, too; if it’s relevant, you can also include examples from volunteer work or a project you did on your own.

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