How an Entrepreneurial Mindset Gives You a Competitive Edge

Although our parents or grandparents may had jobs for life, we certainly won’t.

CBC News recently reported that “the millennial side hustle” – the need to perform precarious, temporary work due to a lack of permanent, full-time employment – is the new reality for young adults, including those with university degrees.[1]

Even seasoned workers aren’t immune to similar work trends.

This topic of precarious work is timely: Last week I had the honour of speaking about it at a Women in Leadership conference for business students and industry hosted by York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

Work is changing; we need to adapt. Entrepreneurial thinking means embracing strategic thinking – regardless of our (desired) job title.

This article shares tips on how job seekers (plus promotion seekers, career changers, freelancers and independent contractors) can think like an entrepreneur to stand out and gain an edge in business, including today’s fierce job market.

Precarious Work: The New Normal

Precarious employment is on the rise, as the supply of short-term, temporary work exceeds the supply of full-time, permanent roles.

The following chart provides a breakdown of non-traditional workers, including freelancers:

In Canada, a McMaster University study found a rise in precarious employment in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), as 52% of GTHA workers are in temporary, contract or part-time positions.[2]

These findings mean we need to be prepared to sell ourselves more often (at least every year or two). Thinking like an entrepreneur can help you adapt to the “new normal” of today’s job market and remain relevant.

To plan your career path and attract work in this turbulent market, use a mini business plan as a framework.

Strategic Management: Smash Functional Silos

An essential part of the entrepreneurial mindset involves smashing functional silos and looking beyond your area of expertise. For instance, if you’re a marketing specialist, consider finance, and HR issues and perspectives, too, to stand out.

Strategic management is all about the big picture. Have a goal for your career – whether you want to find work, earn a promotion or attract clients – and really own it.

A sense of ownership matters because you’re the boss of your career. Ownership looks like engagement, leadership and accountability; it shows you care. These qualities are irresistible to a recruiter, your boss and potential clients.


Project Management: Baby Turtle Steps

Once you have a clear career goal, create a detailed plan to achieve it. Break your goal into smaller action items and keep going until the tasks are manageable.

Make the tasks so small and so easy that these “baby turtle steps” start to look appealing.

For instance, you could simply:

  • Follow a specific company on LinkedIn
  • Read 1 article on an emerging trend your sector
  • Make a list of people you could eventually meet for coffee

As you start to perform these tasks, you will make progress. Soon enough, this small wins strategy creates momentum and the pride of achievement, and you will feel motivated to persevere.

Marketing: Build a Brag Binder

A brag binder is a powerful collection of true stories that prove you’re awesome. To create a story, think about times when you excelled at a project and make a quick note of the:

  • Business issue
  • How you solved it
  • Results

Your brag binder anecdotes prove how you effectively apply your skills and experience. These stories will help you stand out in interviews, performance evaluations and on LinkedIn to attract work that aligns with your strengths.

Since companies want to know “What’s in it for me?,” your brag binder can help you spot patterns that reflect why a company should hire or promote you. For instance, you may be incredibly efficient, so you save companies time (or you’re a sales rock star who can make companies money). What makes you different? Lead with your strengths.

Make these patterns of business benefits the core message you express in your marketing materials, including your resume, LinkedIn profile, portfolio and website.

Freelance writer and editor Alison Garwood-Jones recommends sharing your story using multimedia. Use the portfolio feature on LinkedIn to share your ideas with images, slideshows, and audio, In particular, get comfortable with video, as 80% of the world’s internet traffic will be video by 2019. [1]

Also, consider this marketing truth: Not everyone is your target market. Having a niche helps you focus your time and energy on roles and organizations that fit you best.

Sales: Be an octopus

Without sales, there’s no business. And without selling yourself, there’s no dream job.

So, be an octopus.

You never know where a job or client could come from, so stretch your tentacles all over the place. Get out and network, especially face-to-face, as this is the most powerful form of sales. Go for coffee with people in your desired sector. Attend industry association events. Volunteer in your community.

Business is all about connecting with others and showing them your value, which you can do at networking events, interviews and performance evaluations. You never know who other people know.

The catch?

Don’t make your message about you; make it about your target audience and their needs.

Since helping is the new selling, stand out by sharing solutions that help others. Write articles, blog posts and insightful industry insights on LinkedIn Pulse. Speak at industry events and make videos. You’re smart and talented, so prove it. Be visible and help your dream boss or client find you.

Stumped on where to start? Consider this: If someone googles your name, what content would you love for them to see?

One of the best ways to sell yourself: Do. Excellent. Work. Put quality, care and attention into every resume and every project you undertake. High-quality work will enhance your reputation, and build loyalty and word of mouth.

Finance & Accounting: Know Your Numbers

Finding work – especially work you love – is a numbers game, so know your numbers.

Consider such figures as your desired salary or revenue, the number of hours you’re willing to work each week and how many weeks of vacation you desire per year.

Also, set goals for yourself, such as talking to 10 people at each event, applying to 8 companies per day and having coffee with 5 people per week.


The Power of the Business Plan

Thinking like an entrepreneur by using a business plan as a framework helped me earn corporate promotion opportunities and create a growing business in 2013. I feel like I’ve learned more in the past 4 years than in the past 4 decades.

It’s empowering to create something out of nothing, and expand the possibilities for my career and my life — all while doing work I love

Over the past year, I also mentored men and women (including MBAs and engineers) who want to reinvent themselves to adapt to the disruptive job market. We discuss solutions to help them find or even create work they love, including their own consulting business in marketing, finance and accounting, and a digital nomad lifestyle.

The tips I’ve shared in this post are some tips I share with them. I also offer interactive workshops on this topic …

… So, to stand out in today’s disruptive job market, remember the octopus, turtle and peacock, and think like an entrepreneur.

Whatever your career goal, consider the big picture, smash functional silos, and think far beyond your rectangle on the org chart.

Later this month I’ll balance out the rational business plan side of the entrepreneurial mindset with tips on intuition, creativity and innovation, so stayed tuned.

What tips have helped you stand out and attract work?

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Lisa Goller
Lisa Goller is a marketing and communications professional with over 15 years of experience serving B2B, technology and retail companies. She helps businesses tell their story through irresistible content marketing and strategic communications.



[1] Purdon, Nick and and Leonardo Palleja. ‘The millennial side hustle,’ not stable job, is the new reality for university grads. CBC News. March 23, 2017.

[2] Horner, Sue. March 2 recap: Digital marketing strategies for independent communicators. Professional Independent Communicators newsletter. March 25, 2017.


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