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Entrepreneur Office Hours: Issue #207
Inbound versus outbound job hunting
NOTE: I wont be publishing next Friday, 11/24, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday in the U.S. But I’ll be back the following week. For those celebrating, happy Thanksgiving!
This past week, I had five separate conversations with people asking for career advice. Whenever I wind up in these types of conversations, I can’t help but chuckle. I’m probably the last person who should be giving career advice since I never once thought about my “career.”
Instead, I’m just a guy who didn’t realize he needed to get a “real” job until after he’d graduated college and suddenly had bills to pay. As the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention,” so I started doing things that made money. Eventually, those things turned into my own business. And I kept building more businesses until I eventually got a job teaching other people how to build their businesses.
Is that a career? Maybe. But it wasn’t a career I’d planned.
Despite the unexpectedness of my career path, the journey has been fulfilling and fun, and I think that’s what people really want to know when they’re asking for my career advice. They don’t want to know how to get a specific job. They want to know how to spend a career doing what you love.
With this in mind, the career advice I tend to give everyone is to approach your career the opposite of what most other people do. By that I mean most people find jobs by doing what we might describe as “outbound job hunting.” They search for published professional opportunities, apply for them, and then hope their resumes get selected.
When you do that, you’re going to wind up with a job someone else needs done rather than a job you want to do. In other words, even if you enjoy a job, it’ll never be your job. It’ll always be a job you were hired for, and, by extension, it means someone else can be hired to do it, too.
Rather than outbound job hunting, I encourage people to try what I like to call “inbound job hunting.” Inbound job hunting is when you focus on doing things you’re passionate about and doing them really well.
When you do things you’re passionate about really well, others tend to notice. When they do, they’ll start reaching out asking how you can do something similar for them.
That’s how I got my current job teaching entrepreneurship at Duke. I was passionate about building companies and mentoring other entrepreneurs. Duke saw that, and they invited me to do something similar for them and their students. As a result, I have a job (and career) I love that was, quite literally, created specifically for me. How cool is that?
Honestly… it’s pretty darn cool. But I don’t mean it in a bragging sort of way. I mean it as a reminder that you can do the same thing. Focus on being excellent at something you’re passionate about. It’ll take some time, and you’ll certainly encounter challenges along the way, but, in the end, you’ll create a unique career for yourself.
Once you know the right strategy, selling stuff isn’t nearly as hard as most entrepreneurs think.
What if losing all an investor’s money isn’t as bad as most entrepreneurs think?
Office Hours Q&A
Hi there, Aaron!
I’m an early stage founder still validating my product-market fit. How would you suggest someone at my stage thinking about monetization?
At what point should monetization start to become a priority? What principles or frameworks have you found effective for founders to assess when and how to approach generating revenue? What pitfalls related to monetization have you seen trip up founders, especially in this early stage?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Normal caveats apply here… it depends on the type of company you’re building. For example, monetizing a medical device is completely different than monetizing a social media app which is completely different from monetizing a B2B SaaS company.
Those concerns aside, at the stage you’re describing, I’d put monetization fairly low on your priority list. To be clear, you should absolutely be testing pricing and trying to get people to buy. In fact, you need to be trying to get people to buy, because customers buying something is what proves you have a genuine business. However, in the earliest stages of building your startup, making money (usually) isn’t the priority.
The priority is acquisition. How are you going to reach potential customers, and how are you going to sell to them?
Even though you’re going to charge people, the actual prices and mature monetization strategy can and will change over time. That’s OK! For example, OpenAI (creators of ChatGPT) seem to be introducing new pricing every six-ish months.
Think about that for a second. If the hottest tech company on the planet is still tinkering with monetization, what makes you think your monetization strategy needs to be rock-solid on day one?
Clearly, it doesn’t. So don’t obsess too much about specific monetization goals and focus, instead, on customer acquisition. As you do, be sure to try lots of different things because the more experiments you run, and the more you test, the more you’re going to learn.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!