We live in the age of the entrepreneur, where people like Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson are idolized, studied and endlessly copied. Many dream of becoming an entrepreneur, and it’s easy to see why: it allows you to chase your dreams, to build something from the ground up, and maybe – just maybe – change the world and make a lot of money doing it.
But what happens when you’ve taken the plunge and it’s just not working out?
Here’s the thing: not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and that’s just fine. The world needs great people within businesses as well – not just those at the top. Figuring out that ‘hey, that might be me’ – if you’ve been trying to make it in the entrepreneur game for a long time and meeting nothing but dead ends – can be truly liberating
But there’s a catch that keeps people hooked. Sometimes, entrepreneurs struggle for a long time before finding huge success. Like the Hollywood actor who goes for one last audition before leaving Hollywood for good, a struggling entrepreneur is often told that if they just persevere a little longer – send one more email, pivot one more time, pitch to one more investor – they might really make it big.
How you know entrepreneurship isn’t for you
The hard truth is that plenty of businesses never get off the ground. Quite often, people just struggle. Thinking that success could be waiting around the corner is what keeps many people going, but the signs that entrepreneurship might not be for you include:
Continued high stress
Stress is a natural part of building a business – you’re trying to create something that hasn’t existed before, and that’s hard. But it shouldn’t consume your every waking moment.
Anxiety and depression
A 2015 study found that 30% of entrepreneurs live with depression. Signs of anxiety or depression include feelings of worthlessness, emptiness and guilt, along with physical symptoms like appetite change and too much or too little sleep. If this sounds like you, it may be time to seek the advice and support of a mental health professional.
If your entrepreneurship is causing you to feel isolated and damaging your relationships with the important people in your life, it may be time to re-evaluate priorities.
What you should do if entrepreneurship isn’t working out
So, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone – and that’s OK. In our 20-year study of entrepreneurs, we studied a group of successful entrepreneurs and unsuccessful ones, and compared them with the average employee. We found that successful entrepreneurs had distinctive traits in common: they’re really interested in money and power, trust their gut and prefer to work without too much structure, among others.
While many entrepreneurs can work to align their preferences with these indicators of success, it doesn’t work out for everyone, and some people just don’t enjoy focusing on these areas. If that sounds like you, it may be time to transition back to being an employee. Many stick it out due to a fear of being perceived as a ‘failure’, however, it’s important to remember what matters: your wellbeing and your relationships – not others’ perceptions.
How to transition back into the workplace
If you decide to return to the workplace, you can focus on bringing your attitudinal strengths acquired as an entrepreneur into a high-performance team. Your ability to think big – which may have set you on the path to entrepreneurship in the first place – might make you a great leader. The ability to delegate is another entrepreneurial skill that can really pay dividends for employees looking to climb the management ladder.
Here are some ways you can leverage your experience as an entrepreneur in the workplace:
- Showcase your entrepreneurial experience as part of your CV
- Emphasize to prospective employers transferable skills and qualities, such as leadership, blue sky thinking, P&L,
- Look for workplaces where diverse ways of thinking are encouraged and position your entrepreneurial experience as offering a valuable perspective
- Be an entrepreneur within your workplace: build your personal brand, be flexible and adaptable, take opportunities to learn and lead.
Perhaps being an employee instead of an entrepreneur wasn’t the goal you had in mind, but playing to your strengths and finding a work situation that’s satisfying and enjoyable is a far healthier route to creating a successful career path.
Find out what your top work priorities are and whether they align with venture success by joining Fingerprint for Success.