Think Before You Drop Your Job Search to Start a Business

Posted by Nancy Gober

ThinkTired of job searching? Let me put it another way. Sick and tired of job searching? Or sick of rolling from contract to contract? With all the changes occurring in the cleared community over the past couple years we’re hearing more and more individuals talking about exploring “outside” opportunities.

And if you are tired, you probably have lots of company by this point in the year.

If you are one who set a New Year’s Resolution to find a new job or make a career transition, and you haven’t achieved your goal yet, it can feel defeating. Sort of like a climbing a hill that you never seem to get to the top of. And, even if it’s only been a couple months, but you’re not getting any traction in your search, it can feel frustrating. And, therein lies the danger: Looking for a way out vs. continuing to look for a job.

A Way Out

About this time of the year – mid-year – many frustrated job seekers look for a way out! And, that way, for some frustrated or defeated job seekers “appears” to be working for yourself, in other words, going into business.

Going into business for yourself is a wonderful way to achieve many things:

  • It can provide a source of income.
  • It can provide independence.
  • It can provide employment security – little chance of you laying yourself off!
  • It can allow you to use your skills and work in your profession, instead of working at finding a job so that you can work in your profession.

But, here’s the problem: It’s not a way out if your goal is not a burning desire and intense commitment to being self-employed. And that’s the truth! Read on to see an example of what I mean.

Going into Business – Not A Way Out

Not that long ago, I talked with a person who was considering opening a retail business. In talking with him, he talked about his interests and what led him to believe he had what it takes to open, own, and operate a business.

In providing some background of how he came to this decision, he emphasized that he would not be alone. He had three friends who would join him in opening, owning, and running the business. He said they had done some homework: (1) They had received a copy of a business plan, generously given to them by the owner of a similar business. (2) They also had a couple of logo designs to choose from; these were generously drawn up gratis by a designer-friend of theirs.

He continued that all 4 of the would-be partners had a love for the product they would be selling; since they enjoyed buying it. And, a big argument for their “plan” was (3) that they had worked well together in another industry and they all “get along great! Their conclusion:  They were ready to roll, right?


And, not just wrong, dead wrong!

Why? There is so much wrong with this picture I hardly know where to begin. But, I’ll begin with the following reasons why you shouldn’t go into business if what you really want is a job!

Don’t Go Into Business If

Reason 1: It’s not a long-standing goal

First and foremost, the ability to succeed in business starts with a goal to be in business – probably a long-standing goal at that! This is critical and should deter anyone reading this right now from entrepreneuring if it has not been a long-time goal. In this case, it was not a long-time goal for any of these folks.

Reason 2: You lack an intense desire to be in business

Closely related to Reason 1 is an intense desire to be in business. I’m not talking about a “wouldn’t it be nice” type of interest. I’m referring to an intense desire to be in business and an “I’ll do anything with in my power (as long as it’s legal) to stay in business!”  Why? Those who succeed keep going when the going goes beyond tough to almost impossible, if not impossible. They keep going anyway and . . . that’s what it takes!

Reason 3: You have no experience with small, independent business

While it is not necessary to have some association with independent business, whether a family business or close association with someone who is running / has run one, it helps. Here’s why:

Those who come from independent businesses, or some close association with one, know how tough it can get because they’ve seen it or experienced it first-hand. Frankly, they are more realistic about what lies ahead. For example, there is no paycheck waiting for you at the end of the week just because you showed up for work that week. Your paycheck from now on depends on (1) what you sell and (2) and then what’s left over AFTER you pay costs. There is no automatic deposit into your bank account unless you put it there by working your business and making money. Some weeks, there is no pay check at all.

It’s a shock to those who have never experienced it and defeats many early in the game – hence the high failure rate as described in this quote from Allison Schrager, of Bloomberg (July 28, 2014, Bloomberg). “Given the slight chances of success, it’s a marvel anyone ever starts a business at all. One-third of new ventures close within two years, half within five years. “

Reason 4: You have no experience working in this type of business

In the case of these 4 folks, none had worked in the type of business they were thinking about starting. So, these would-be partners had no experience, and no one had given any thought to getting some experience. Gaining some hands-on experience, through venues such as a part-time job, attending industry-specific conferences, interviewing owners who do work in the industry, or  doing some market research will provide an opportunity to explore your new venture. It will answer this question: Is this a genuine career goal, or simply an interest or hobby? In other words, is this a vocation or an avocation?

Reason 5: You’re friends and you get along great

The fact that you get along great makes you good friends, not good business partners.

That you get along is neither here nor there when it comes to operating a business. In fact, friends could make the worst partners, and there’s plenty of evidence to document this sad truth, especially so if the friends have the same strengths and weaknesses. Said another way, that is a prescription for failure.

None of these 4 folks had given any thought as to what strengths each possessed and therefore how these could be used to benefit the business. They had done no assessment of what each’s weaknesses were, and if these presented a gap to the smooth operation of their potential business. They had given no thought as to what management roles and disciplines each would fill, based on their strengths, nor how they could fill any gaps arising from their weaknesses.

Reason 6: You have no knowledge of the two disciplines required for success

Many new entrepreneurs fail to recognize that they need 2 sets of expertise to succeed.

Expertise Set 1:  Technical knowledge

Certainly, you need technical knowledge about the business you intend to run. In other words, you should be really good at what you do.

Expertise Set 2:  Business knowledge

Less obvious to many would-be entrepreneurs, this factor sinks a lot of small businesses. They think that excellent performance of their technical competency is enough to succeed. But, new entrepreneurs will find themselves spending equal, if not more, time on the business of business, dealing with business accounting, marketing, public relations, infrastructure (including IT), and operations, not to mention dealing with irate customers, angry vendors, and the rules and regs of government departments.

Reason 7: If you haven’t done your homework!

Your homework for going into business requires some sleuthing. In this case, none of the 4 had done any sleuthing into the technical operation of their intended business. They had neither identified nor talked with an attorney and accountant specializing in this type of business to learn the requirements, ramifications, perils, and what works best for their business. They had not a clue as to the vendors or suppliers of their product, and how they operated in terms of supplying products. They had not identified nor talked with support service contractors such as construction contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc. since they were planning to open a brick-and-mortar space. They had not visited City Hall to learn about licensing requirements, restrictions, and fees for their type of business.

But, as you know, they had a logo and someone else’s business plan! So, they were going into business! Alas . . .what we have, in the case of these 4 gentlemen is a recipe for failure, based on the reasons just cited, not to mention classically cited reasons such as undercapitalization, lack of market analysis, etc.

Fortunately for these 4 job seekers, although they’d wasted some time on a pipe dream, none had done too much in the way of investment of money or energy into opening a business. But others I’ve seen over the years were not so lucky. They had committed substantial sums of money on this “way out” only to come to realize entrepreneurship was not for them!

So, I offer this example, via Reasons 1-7, as way to help you think this through. If you use Reasons 1 -7 as a checklist and conclude you have a serious interest in opening a business, then GO FOR IT! But, if like the folks in this example you have just gotten off track, get back on your job search track and achieve your goal of finding a new position that you really want to do. Here’s how:

Get Down to Work

Resume your search for a new job or enhanced position with renewed commitment and energy.

If what you really want is a job, first and foremost stop toying with the idea of opening a business. It will not only lengthen your search but divide your purpose and sap your energy as you try to work toward two entirely different goals. It will dilute, even harm your networking:  As you expand your network, what story do you tell:

  • Are you a job seeker looking for a job, or an entrepreneur looking for a contract?
  • Those you network with won’t have a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve nor how to help you.

So if a new job, or an expansion of your role, is your goal, focus your time and energy on these goals. Or, if a career transition to a new type of job, locale, or industry is what you want, utilize your energies and resources to pursue it! It may take a while to find the job you really want to do, but diverting and diluting your search by getting off track and engaging in pursuits that are really not what you want to do will simply lengthen your job search.

Here’s how to get back on track!

Get Back on Track

Step 1: Take a little time to reflect and regroup.

While this will sound almost ironic coming me – a job search coach whose message to job seekers is normally to keep searching consistently and persistently until they land their new role or job – I suggest a brief pause if you are one whose job search has gotten seriously off track.

If you have deviated far enough off course and are spending or wasting your valuable resources of time, energy, and dollars on going into business when you really want a job, stop it!

Instead take a little time to reflect and regroup. By a little time, I mean a couple or few days – certainly not the rest of the summer! Use this time to:

  1. Identify the point(s) at which you veered off track from your goal of finding a job. Be specific. What event(s) triggered your decision to start toying with the idea of going into business and abandoning your job search?
  1. Identify the emotion(s) you felt when you made your decision to veer off track and start pursuing entrepreneurship.
  • Disappointment: Did you face a major disappointment, such as coming in #2 in a competition for a job?
  • Defeat: Did someone make a comment that made you feel defeated?
  • Frustration: Did you face not a major disappointment but an accumulation of smaller disappointing outcomes to your efforts that became frustrating?
  • Hopelessness: Did you just run out of steam?
  1. Now, consider the event(s) that occurred that got you off track, coupled with the emotion(s) you felt, to do a little analysis. Ask yourself why the event(s) triggered those particular emotions, and how you can use this knowledge to be more self-aware and safeguard yourself and your search as you move forward in your search.
  • For instance, if the event of getting a rejection(s) to your application(s) to a company(ies), or getting turned down by a contact for a networking meeting is what caused you to feel frustrated or defeated, ask yourself what you told yourself when you heard the news. Self-talk is powerful. If you told yourself, “I”ll never get anywhere,” recognize how defeating this message can be. Instead, take action by doing some “probing.”
  • Probe the rejection(s) you received. It’s not too late to reach back to the person who rejected you to determine if the rejection was personal or not. Often, it’s not personal at all. It’s just a temporary situation that will change over time. Find out if the rejection is short-lived (i.e., Your contact was going on vacation or was short-staffed at the time) or long-term (i.e., The firm was facing a hiring freeze due to loss of 2 contracts and will be downsizing their staff). On the other hand, if it is personal, i.e., due to a lack in your own capabilities or credentials, probe to discover what you lack and how to fix it.
  • Finally, what you say to yourself is important. As I often say to clients, “No one company is right for every job seeker and no job seeker is right for every company.” If you are just not a fit for a company, tell yourself “It’s not me. It just wasn’t the right fit for them or me. I’ve learned something that may help me be more proactive or accurate in identifying what are the characteristics of a company and a position that might be right for me.”
  1. Finally, do some self-examination and analysis. What has your analysis taught you?
  • Where were you barking up the wrong tree?
  • What do you really want to do?

Step 2: Review your marketing materials.

With your analysis in mind, of what you really want to do, don’t want to do, and situations that caused you to go off track, analyze your marketing materials. Think about your job search objective and a strategy for achieving it, as well as analyzing your existing personal – professional – marketing tools in order to ensure they support your objective. Collect a good sampling of resumes you’ve sent, marketing letters (cover and thank you letters) you’ve sent, and your Targeted Marketing Plan. Re-read them – not skim but really read them. Red-line them. What should you change about the format and the content based on what you’ve learned? Now, refocus your personal-professional-marketing materials as identified below:

  1. Resume. Make sure your resume is focused toward the type of work you want to do, current, shows results you achieved, and is easy to read.
  • Make sure your resume is focused and the information it contains is aligned with your goal. Too often, we see job seekers who want a certain type of position, but whose resume does not support their being considered as a serious contender for that type of position. The result for the job seeker is a lot of submissions, with little or no response from hiring firms.
  • Make sure your resume is current. Show your most recent position, with correct dates (years) of employment. Show recent professional activity. If you have done contract work, taken a course, published a report or article, achieved a new certification, etc., state this accomplishment(s). Use current wording and jargon.
  • Show results to make a stronger argument for hiring you for a position. Simply stating duties you’ve performed is not enough to win the competition for a plum job or role. Showing the results you accomplished by performing those duties makes a stronger case for calling you in for an interview and for hiring you as an employee.
  • Make your resume easy-to-read. Edit your resume from the stand point of looks as well as information. Position your information on the page with enough white space surrounding the text to make it easy for the reader to skim first and re-read second. Consider the recipient: Will they understand the words you’ve used? Do you have too much company-specific or industry-specific jargon? Does your resume read like alphabet soup, loaded with acronyms?

Remember, the job of your resume is to get you through the employer’s door. It does not get you hired; it just opens the door to further consideration. Your resume needs to sell the recruiter and hiring manager on the fact that you can do the job, and you would be a good candidate to interview.

  1. Elevator Speech. The Elevator Speech is going to be your most frequently delivered personal-professional marketing tool. By the time your job search is over, you will probably have used it 1000s of times during your job search to answer the questions: “So what do you do?” and “What do you want to do?”

The job of the Elevator Speech is to get and keep the conversation going. It needs to adequately tell the listener what you want to do and why they should listen to you. In less than 30 seconds, your Elevator Speech should provide a clear self-introduction that tells your listener:

  • Who you are — Name
  • What you do — Profession
  • Your area of expertise — Skills and Strengths. In longer versions, such as in interviews or networking meetings, add strengths and skills.
  • What you want to do – Future Job

Don’t wing it! Your Elevator Speech should be planned and so well-practiced that it sounds like it just rolls off the tongue – not stilted or memorized

  1. Targeted Marketing Plan. Don’t just skip from job to job, applying to one that strikes your fancy and then another and another. Instead, based on your knowledge of the type of job(s) you want to do, target companies and organizations that hire the type of skills, experience, and knowledge you possess. While it may seem that applying for anything and everything is a shorter path to employment, it is not. Targeting firms that could be a good match for both you and a potential employer is the shorter path to employment.

A job search Marketing Plan creates order out of chaos! I have seen it happen for job seeker after job seeker. I have have watched them go from being overwhelmed to feeling in control. Their marketing plan replaced “I don’t know where to start” with “I know what to do next.” What a marketing plan does is really simple:

  • First, it identifies your competency areas, i.e., those areas of skill, knowledge, and experience you possess and that employers hire you for. On your plan, list up to 3 (more than 3 gets unwieldy) main areas of competency for which you have been hired in the past.
  • Second, it identifies types of industries, and companies within those industries, that employ your competencies. On your plan, list industries that use your skills and experience. These are more likely to hire you than long-shots that may only occasionally hire someone with your skill set.
  • Third, identify and list companies within these industries. Research the companies for jobs and/or needs within those companies. These become your target companies and a good use of your time to contact.

Step 3: Develop a networking plan.

It’s popularly said that well over 80% of opportunities come about via the “Hidden Market.” Networking is how you access it!

Too often, job seekers or career changers think that “just talking to people” comprises networking. It does not. Such an approach leaves networking to happenstance and it is not productive. Instead, increase your chance of talking with people who can help you by devisisng a plan and then working the plan.

Networking is the name of the “job seeking” game, so plan your networking to be most effective. Create a written, comprehensive networking plan. Yes, a written plan. Too many job seekers believe that they hold the knowledge of who is in their network in their heads, so they don’t need a written plan. Not true. A written plan lists your current network and grows with each new contact, tracks interactions, notes referrals, and provides a “tickler.” All of this information can’t be kept in your head.

  • Your plan should identify the people in your network currently, and grow as you recieve referrals and meet you new people. It should track interactions with each network contact. An Excel spreadsheet makes a good framework for your plan, but a Word document or even a paper-and-pencil list works. The important thing is to keep track of interactions, commitments, and “To Dos” and let nothing fall through the cracks.
  • Don’t make the mistake of limitingyour Networking Plan to professional contacts. Your plan should include people from all sectors of your life, listed by sector, including professional contacts, service providers, organizations/associations, clubs and hobbies, friends and family, etc. You simply never know where a lead will come from.
  • Create, work, and consistently update your Networking Plan to uncover career opportunities. Your Networking Plan provides a path initially to meeting and meetings with interesting people, and ultimately to a key contact who can connect you with opportunity.

Step 4: Manage your search project.

Pro-actively manage your job search or career enhancement project, as you would any important project. Having done Steps 1 – 3, you are ready to step back into the employment marketplace, and re-implement your search with renewed energy and clarity.

By taking the steps described in this article, you will do your utmost to ensure that you are working productively in a focused manner that keeps your eye on the prize!

  1. You lessen the chance you will waste time, energy, and resources on activities that take you nowhere.
  1. You increase the chance that you will spend your time, energy, and resources on activities that lead to opportunities.

And, the big win: You raise the odds that you will have a new job or opportunity to celebrate in the coming months. And wouldn’t that be great!

Wishing you great success in achieving your career goals.

Do you have a story to tell about how you got off-track and then back on? Please forward it to me and we may share it in a future follow-on article to help others achieve job search success.

Nancy GoberNancy Gober is a career strategist who has helped thousands of job seekers find employment. She’s also been a popular resume reviewer at our Cleared Job Fairs. You may reach Nancy via email at [email protected]. Follow Nancy on Twitter @AfterJobClub.


  • Nancy Gober

    Nancy Gober is a career strategist who has helped thousands of job seekers find employment, and the author of “Jobs Are Not Found Sitting at the Computer.” You may reach Nancy via email at [email protected].

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 10:00 am

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