I’ve seen this with a couple companies lately. They are hiring and they have it on their website that they are seeking, “talent with an entrepreneurial spirt,” or their site says something like, “We hire people with an entrepreneurial spirit.” In fact, I’ve noticed that “entrepreunrial spirit” may just be THEE buzzword in recruiting now. I decided to write a blog about it so you don’t fall for it.
Companies DO NOT want this.
They say they do because it looks good to their target audience, which starts somewhere around millennial and arcs down to Generation Z. This younger set sees themselves as entrepreneurial and they are — they like to create passive income streams which give them an “entrepreneurial spirit” for sure!
If this is you and you are applying for work, use caution. Even if you’re outside the younger demographic.
A company could find your website or social media (wherever that passive income stream resides) and decide you are WAY TOO MUCH of an entrepreneur for them. There’s a fine line between showing off your success and skills and simply showing off how awesome you are. When you’re too awesome…these companies get insecure. They scare easily.
Companies want you young so they can hire you and coach you into what they want you to be while snagging you at a low price point. I don’t think this should be news to anyone. But once they hire you and train you, they consider you an investment property of theirs and expect you to stick around for YEARS. You can thank capitalism for this.
This is the disconnect.
Millennials and Generation Z workers do NOT want to stick around for years. I don’t blame them, either. Old school thinking is, “I get this job and stay there for years, get benefits, and move up.” But old school people who run a company like this don’t realize younger workers don’t care. If they get on at an old school company and realize there’s not good training, no room to move up, the benefits aren’t great, and the training isn’t going to help their career trajectory — they’re out.
We all know the training provided by old school companies isn’t really that good. Is the company giving a worker something they can’t get for $19.99 on Udemy? Do their benefits help millennials and Gen Z workers save money and stay eco-friendly? Because saving money is important to them as is climate change.
Remember they grew up in a post-9/11 world in which they watched their parents struggle a decade ago in an economic downturn. They didn’t grow up hanging out in malls and renting movies at Blockbuster — though renting clothing and many other things older generations used to BUY is appealing to them now. Did you know you can rent a room in a house in major cities through a company that knows this? Oh yeah — Common offers shared housing for this demo that saves them $500 or so a month. You get a room, don’t have to buy furniture, and have just enough space to hang your rented clothes from StichFix and Rent The Runway. Do younger workers need (or even want) to be tied down to an office cubicle when they pay for a WeWork membership?
So how do you, as a job searcher, fight this new “entrepreneurial spirit” farce these companies are purveying to these job seekers? Honestly, don’t even bother with the companies who use this verbiage if you’re a true entrepreneur. But if you still want to get on at a company for whatever reason, read on.
Go over your digital verticals with a fine-tooth comb.
If it’s worth it to you to get that job at that company, start deleting or editing. You won’t get a chance to explain to Company X that your target audience needs to perceive you as an expert entrepreneur — even if you barely make $100 a month passively with your ebook about how to beat the casino machines. If you can hide blogs and posts on social media during your job search — do it. Bring them back later once the company has you on board. Remember, they do NOT own you. But they can fire you based on your social media (I’ve seen it done).
You can position yourself as an entrepreneur, but be careful.
Choose your words carefully. No one wants to hire a “business owner.” They think you’re going to get successful overnight and quit. Remember, they are NOT entrepreneurs. They don’t know there’s no such thing as an overnight success because they haven’t done it. They don’t have the balls and they know it. But YOU DO. So they feel threatened. Make sure the language you use shows you are skilled and competent but non-threatening. Say, “I’m excellent at SEO keyword research, but my PPC skills could use work,” for example. Make them think you can’t stand on your own and that you can benefit from their training — but not so much that you’ll bounce quickly.
Do your research!
Often, the company’s website is all you need to research what you need to know about them. I spent some time on a Fortune 500 company’s website today to see how they’d stack up. I heard they were hiring in my market. Sure enough, the front page of their recruiting site was splashy and colorful — designed to look forward-thinking and appealing to attract younger workers. They’d also spent ad money in this market. There it was on their website — the phrase, “entrepreneurial spirit.”
I clicked through to their job openings. Not a single one asked for entrepreneurial skills. Instead, the jobs asked for specific degrees and skillsets one would get through prior work experience at other larger companies and through University degrees. Nowhere did it say anything about skills business owners have like leading, securing funding, training, writing business plans, speaking, doing taxes, etc.
When you run your own business, you have some of these skills but you come up with the rest. Other small business owners become friends and you teach each other. You pay for classes on Udemy or use YouTube. Or, you do what I do and find affordable software to do it for you to save time and/or fill the knowledge gap. This is why I use things like QuickBooks Self-Employed (which even automatically tracks my mileage) and Hike for SEO, which saves me time on my SEO. (And I’ve never bought any software full-price! I’ve used sales, codes, and AppSumo because I’m savvy like that). Just because I know how to do it, doesn’t mean I need to do it. I’ve said this many times on my Fearless 5 Podcast about why I use Anchor to make podcasts. Just because I’m an expert audio editor, doesn’t mean I have the time to sit and cut up audio for my podcast!
Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, pure and simple. This is they key to being in business. You solve problems for other people. You serve them. There’s nowhere on a job application where you get to write down that you have this skill — or level of intellect. Perhaps this is what companies would mean if they seriously sought workers with “entrepreneurial spirit.” But again — don’t be fooled. They are using it as a marketing ploy to recruit you, but don’t fall for it. They say that’s what they want, but they really want sheeple.
Come across as sheeple.
Sorry, this sucks but it’s the truth. Fortune 500 companies want specific degrees and high GPAs of 3.5 and above. They want you to tell them in the interview you’ve wanted to do X job at their company since you were 14 and you’ve been working towards it since then. They don’t want to hear that you want the job. They want to hear that you worship the company. We all know this is old school thinking.
So before you apply for that job…hide who you really are and what you really want. Become a lemming. Look like you NEED them. If ever you look strong and independent, that’s death in the job search.
The absolute workaround is obvious
Get a job at a startup. Work for companies that aren’t on the stock exchange — yet. Work for a company that knows you actually *have* “entrepreneurial spirit.” Work for one that admires you for your side hustle and the skills it brings — none of which are taught at universities. Find a company that understands this. How?
Ask about it in the interview!
Look, I know you want a job. But you have to interview the company, too. What is it about me that got me in your door? Do you see me as someone who brings something to your company or are you interested in turning me into something else once hired? This is a great way to not waste anyone’s time.
We all want to work at jobs where we are happy and we’re a fit. If transparency is important to you, ask them how they stay transparent with their staffers. You will know from their answer whether they meet your standards and beliefs — or whether they are just blowing smoke.
I get it. You just need a job until you can fund your own business. But as long as you don’t make that be the thing that comes across about you, you’ll be fine.