By Serenity Gibbons, the local unit lead for NAACP in Northern CA.
When you think of an entrepreneur, you often think of someone who is starting or already runs their own business. They work for themselves so they can enjoy more flexibility and independence than the traditional job provides. Even some entrepreneurs work regular jobs and enjoy both worlds by taking side gigs. I've done both. Now, I work with the NAACP in a traditional leadership role. However, I still consider myself an entrepreneur who just happens to work for someone else.
If you currently work for an organization but feel that entrepreneurial spirit brewing inside of you, or if your company is looking for individuals who want to stand out, there are ways you can leverage entrepreneurial qualities despite not owning your own business.
Disruption is about discovering and implementing radical approaches to the tried and true processes your organization has used. With an entrepreneurial mindset, you can see that what has worked for years no longer is the best approach so it's up to you to speak up and suggest changes to create efficiency.
When I came to the NAACP, I was surprised by how many paper-based processes were still being used throughout all the departments. Working with various technology companies helped me to present innovative answers that could help everyone in the organization to work smarter instead of harder. In the process, we saved money by switching to online invoicing and payroll as well as cloud-based project management and file sharing platforms.
Develop a Personal Brand
Even though I work for the NAACP, I've still developed my own thought leadership role through articles, guest blogs my own blog and social media profiles. This provides a way for me to stand out for my own capabilities as other entrepreneurs do when they develop their personal brand. At the same time, my personal brand reflects the values of the NAACP, helping to enhance the organization's branding efforts.
Being able to develop this individual identity helps me feel like I have not just blended into the scenery at the organization I work for. It also serves as an outlet for expressing what I have learned working here. This provides a way to always leave that door open to return to a purely entrepreneurial role or help me climb farther up the leadership ladder within my organization.
Run With That Intuition
When working in organizations, most people don't want to rock the boat, so they stay within their defined roles and avoid any risk that might compromise their jobs. However, most organizations actually want their staff to take risks that lead to innovation or that push the company forward. By enacting your entrepreneurial mindset, you'll forge ahead rather than worry if it will make someone angry or disrupt office politics.
Of course, working at the NAACP makes it easy to have a voice. That's what the organization is about and already encourages everyone to share their opinion. Be that brave entrepreneurial soul who does feel something could be done differently. Not every idea or opinion will be accepted even if your intuition tells you it's the best one yet. Over time, there will be those ideas that your organization accepts. Just keep listening to that inner voice and sharing it.
Find a Passion
Entrepreneurs are driven by the burning passion they feel for a problem or social cause. Look for a project within the organization where you can channel that enthusiasm to create change.
Identify something you see in your company that you would like to work on. Look for a way to add a program you champion or identify a problem you want to solve. You can opt to explore this as part of your regular role with the organization based on what your manager agrees to. Of course, you can also suggest that you explore this passion on your own time.
An entrepreneur always wants to know why -- they are naturally inquisitive people. You may find a greater reason to continue learning and asking questions while working within a structured organization where many of the time-consuming tasks are done for you.
This provides more opportunities for study, research, skills development and more. With fair work hours, I have more opportunity to take extra online classes and courses as well as visit conferences and seminars than when I was running my own business. This is where that 9-to-5 really creates an advantage that provides you with the window of opportunity to explore your own interests or do more work related to your organization. Or, like me, you can do both.
Serenity Gibbons is the local unit lead for NAACP in Northern CA. She is a former assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal.