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Entrepreneur Office Hours: Issue #195
The best preparation for failure is being an entrepreneur
Recently, lots of things haven’t been going my way. Nothing major. I’ve just taken some professional risks, they haven’t gone how I’ve hoped, and it’s been frustrating.
To be clear, I’m not complaining. I love my job. I love my kids. Everyone close to me in my life is healthy. Instead, I’m sharing this info because a close friend has been dealing with similar kinds of professional friction in his career, but he’s a doctor, and it’s fascinating to see how differently the two of us respond to failure.
Every time I talk with my doctor friend and he complains about his struggles, he presents himself as a victim. Nothing is his fault. The world is out to get him. He’s got terrible luck. And so on and so forth.
Conversely, I’m an entrepreneur. While I’m frustrated by my failures, I don’t feel like I’m the target of some grand, cosmic conspiracy. Part of the reason is because I like to imagine God has better things to do than worry about my career. But the other big reason is because, as an entrepreneur, I’m trained to look at failure differently than most other professions (especially doctors!).
When things don’t go my way, I get annoyed and frustrated, but I also know to focus on myself and my own contributions to the failure. I ask myself questions like:
What things did I do that contributed to this outcome?
What might I have done differently?
What should I change the next time I’m in a similar situation?
In other words, I respond like an entrepreneur, and this seems healthy.
In contrast, every time I talk with my doctor friend, he seems miserable. He’s at a point where he gets the wrong food at a restaurant and he immediately assumes the waiter is part of some grand conspiracy to ruin his life. Whereas, being an entrepreneur, if I get the wrong food I ask myself, “Is there a way I could have communicated my order more effectively? And, if so, how can I make sure I do that next time I order so it doesn’t happen again?”
I realize I’m biased, but this type of response seems much healthier, not just professionally, but also, personally. I mention it because it’s something I hadn’t fully appreciated about being an entrepreneur until watching my friend, the doctor, deal with his professional anxiety.
I know the startup world can be stressful, but it deserves more credit for training entrepreneurs to be surprisingly calm and zen in the phase of failure. When you’re used to failing, dealing with failure gets much easier, and that seems like a good thing.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem relies on mentorship, but the mentors have an impossible challenge.
There’s a subtle warning sign that appears when entrepreneurs aren’t proud of the thing they’re building.
Office Hours Q&A
This isn’t necessarily an entrepreneurship question, but I feel like crap, and I just wanted someone who could give me support. You seem like a genuinely nice and honest guy, so I thought you’d be the best person to ask.
How do I get a good job?
I’m a college graduate from a Top 100 university, I have a good GPA, I majored in computer science, and I feel like I’m an overall normal, well-adjusted human being. But nobody will hire me!
I’ve been looking for a job for months. It doesn’t have to be a startup job. Any job will do. Not McDonalds, obviously. No offense to the people who work there. I just feel like I should be able to get a decent job, but I can’t. I submit dozens of resumes every week, and I’m lucky if I even get a phone call. It’s like people don’t even want to talk with me, and I’m starting to want to quit. What should I do?
I have never gotten a job I’ve applied for.
For example, back when I first started teaching, I got a job as a freshman writing professor teaching a single course for a writing program that needed last-minute help covering one class. I had a course students loved, and I enjoyed teaching it, so I decided to submit a resume for one of the full-time positions that open every year. I figured they’d see I was already teaching for them and want to at least interview with me. I even talked it over with my wife, and we decided we’d both be comfortable quitting my startup for me to become a full-time English/writing professor.
Did I get the job? No!
Did I get an interview? No!
I didn’t even get considered for the job. My resume never got past the first cut. And this was literally for a job I already had and was already doing well.
How is that possible?
How does someone’s resume not even get considered for a job they’re already doing successfully???
In case you can’t tell, I’m still bitter about this particular rejection. More importantly, I’m sharing it to remind you that blindly applying for jobs is a giant crap shoot. Chances are, tons of other people are applying, and your resume is just one of many sitting in a giant pile on someone’s desk. They’re going to choose applicants based on a bunch of different factors that have little to do with you and lots to do with things you can’t control.
For example lots of the job postings you see online are for jobs where the hiring manager has already identified internal candidates and the posting is just a formality. The company has no plans to hire outside the org. (Yes, this sucks because it tricks people into applying for jobs they have no chance of getting, but that’s an issue for a different Q&A.)
The point is, first and foremost, don’t be too hard on yourself. I know that’s easy to say from the outside, and, obviously, I don’t know you. However, the fact that you wrote me a perfectly articulate email combined with the fact you’re a recent college graduate reading a newsletter about entrepreneurship suggests you’re – as you put it – an “overall normal, well-adjusted human.” (And a human with great taste in newsletters, I might add!) You will get a job eventually.
If you’re interested in speeding up the process, I suggest you start networking. As I mentioned at the beginning of this answer, I never got a job (or any similar type of opportunity) with a resume. I always had to know somebody.
For example, even though I got rejected for the writing professor job, I networked with other people, shared details of my class, and, eventually, someone else hired me to teach more classes.
Rather than just sitting behind your computer submitting resumes, reach out to people. Send LinkedIn connection requests. Ask to meet them for coffee. Talk to as many people as possible about yourself, your qualifications, and your accomplishments, and let them know you’re looking for a job.
Not only will this help you get more job interviews, it’ll also make you more attractive to the people doing the hiring because you’ll seem like the kind of employee who’s self-motivated and proactive.
Good luck. Keep going. You’re doing great. And be proud of yourself!
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!