Want To Become CEO? Consider Getting A Job First

by / ⠀Personal Branding Startup Advice / October 26, 2012

There is no better career than the one you create. You’ve obviously imagined it a thousand times before; you, CEO, man-in-charge, boss, managerial cowboy! Well, maybe you haven’t thought of yourself as the last one.

I’m writing to bust a myth, a lore, the infamous proclamation to begin a startup right after you graduate. In particular, this myth encourages you to take your studies and apply them to a business of which you would be CEO of. After all, your certainty of a business success is now equal to that of you getting a job ripe out of college. Why not skip flipping the coin and take the one with high risk and high profit?

While starting a business after graduation can be done – and it has been done a thousand times over – is it as effective and successful as most would proclaim? Could the quality of your start-up somehow be stronger and filled with greater value? Of course, because as you know, there is always room for improvement and in the case of beginning a startup early on, there is much more improvement that can be made than the myth leads you to believe.

Let me ask you this simple question. Will running and failing a startup first get you a job quicker second, or will getting a job first help make sure your startup is a highly valued success? Many feel that it is only the upper management positions which will gain them the experience they need to make their startup a success. Without real experience, not just a degree, it’s near impossible to land those jobs without taking years to work up to them. However, the idea you need upper management experience to run your own business is a serious mistake and a failure of perception. General entry level jobs construct the foundation for what makes creating a successful business. The idea is to work a job while you are in school and even for some time after you graduate, before you start your own business.

It does well to note here that this still means you can be under 30 when you become CEO.

Take for instance all the lessons of running a business you can learn by taking up a job at a local coffee shop.

  • Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft said the number one lesson someone wishing to start a business needs to learn is that “great ideas matter.” However, most ideas that general entry workers, Baristas, come up with, think they are big, but are actually small. Working as a Barista gives you the chance to discover what a great idea really is. Once an idea of yours goes all the way up the hierarchy, then you know what a great idea is.
  • Just like every child, I thought of becoming an astronaut. How could I become one though if I knew nothing about them? The same goes for being boss. When you work for someone else, you learn how to be the boss.
  • There are some business men and women who need to get their ego in check. They may be able to start a business with an egotistic mindset, but they are holding on to it with everything they can. I recall one particular Barista at Starbucks who thought he knew everything but would end up forgetting something or not doing it correctly. Don’t worry though, his ego has been well checked after a handful of errors. You have to have your ego in check before you become CEO and working a general entry job will do just that.
  • What better way to know your customer than to work directly with them? If you want to start your own Coffee House business, then learn what it takes to connect with customers. When you are working at a job, you get to keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to all the people who walk into the shop. You learn what they want, what they would prefer, what they don’t like, and even some great ideas that you can use.
  • Equally as important as learning about your customers is learning more about employees. By being part of the employee group, you get to understand what they expect from those above them, you learn how much they are affected by decisions from upper management, and most importantly, you learn what kind of dynamics you want in hiring your own employees.
  • The obvious but rarely used opportunity is that you can ask questions to the store and district managers as well as others toward the top of the totem pole. You get to ask what mistakes they have made, what they would do differently, how they achieved their most successful moments, and if you really admire them, you can ask if they would be a mentor to you while you work on your startup.
  • Saving the best for last, the most important lesson is having fun. You can learn how to have fun with customers, have fun with coworkers, have fun with upper management, and have fun with everything you do. Becoming CEO won’t be as exciting as you imagine if you don’t know how to make it so everyone – yourself included – can have fun.

When you are creating your business plan, you are taught to think long term. Well, you need to apply that reasoning to your life in addition to your business plan. To think long term is to revoke your want of instant gratification. So ask yourself, is creating your business now the instant gratification you want? Think long term, it’s about gaining all the necessary knowledge about running your own business before you do it. By working a general entry job for a year or two gets you acquainted with the fundamentals of humility, customer service, hard work, developing work ethic, and team building as well as the more in depth lessons presented above. Trust me, no one will think any less of you for working two years and starting a business at age 27 instead of 25.

Garth is a Journalist, Freelancer and PR Specialist in training who lives in Madison, WI. When he’s not in front of a computer screen reading, researching, or writing at www.GarthBox, he is being spontaneously artsy wherever his feet take him in hopes to connect with other like-minded people. @TheGarthBox

About The Author

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.

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