6 Jobs That Prepare You for Entrepreneurship

Your day begins with a loud noise, maybe an alarm from your cellphone or from some obnoxiously loud source outside your window. You groggily rub your eyes, slowly awakening with muscles aching. You get dressed for work with barely enough time to brush your teeth, let alone grab a morsel of refined sugar-based food that doesn’t do your health any favors. One traffic-ridden car drive or long bus ride later, you’re facing another workday, and possibly already wishing it was over.

But don’t despair. You might not know it, but your current job might be preparing you to work for yourself one day. Few people realize it, but some of the most thankless and demanding jobs actually prepare you for a lot of what you’ll face as an entrepreneur. While no one job will prepare you for everything, your current job is probably already teaching you valuable lessons applicable to things like supply chain management, customer relationship management and even safety code compliance.

So as your professional career wakes up to “I’ve Got You, Babe” for the umpteenth time, remember that your time isn’t necessarily being spent in vain. You can cultivate important entrepreneurial skills in the most unlikely positions. Here are six types of jobs that you may not have realized are actually preparing you for entrepreneurship.

1. Waiter or Foodservice Worker

A career in food service exposes you to a side of human behavior that a large segment of society couldn’t be paid to even tolerate. But those that endure it learn many more virtues than patience.

What you learn:

  • When you’re opening your own business, especially a restaurant, being quick on your feet will be both a figurative and literal asset. Calls, requests and tasks (some of which will not be the most pleasant) will come from all sides, and being cool under pressure can set you miles apart from your competition.
  • Aside from learning the value of patience when dealing with customers, you learn to be nimble and balance a flood of rapid oncoming demands from customers and management alike.
  • Tipping systems train you to develop a keen eye for what makes a customer happy. You become very finely attuned to making customers comfortable and satisfied, which is a subtlety many new business owners take for granted.
  • You also learn a lot about various codes, such as health and safety compliance requirements, and the complexity of things like liquor licensing.

2. Accountant or Financial Specialist

As an accountant or financial specialist, you thrive on delegating dollars and making sense of cents. While many new business owners are forced to endure a crash course in money management, taxes and business cash flows, you will have a leg up on optimizing your business for financial success.

What you learn:

  • Sure, entrepreneurship culture celebrates risk-taking, but your familiarity with budgets will help you avoid costly mistakes in every facet of running a business. Balancing available capital against one’s ambition is a skill that comes with experience, and you’ll have a head start on developing that skill.
  • When you work in accounting or finance, you learn how to keep budgets in balance, becoming extremely familiar with the flow of money in and out of a business. You’ll already be an ace at creating income statements, balance sheets and cash flows statements, which are not only helpful but oftentimes required for corporations.
  • You understand the process of setting up payroll and are already familiar with the general costs of employees, inventory, utilities and other budgetary demands.
  • Perhaps most importantly, you learn how to prepare and file important documents including tax filings and government-mandated financial statements. You also learn how to avoid costly audits.

3. Retail

As a retail worker, you bear the scars of demanding customers, boring inventory counting and plenty of off-hour shifts. Because of this, you oftentimes know more about daily operations and customer engagement than your superiors.

What you learn:

  • As a retail worker in the front of an American business, you will come to know your customers inside and out. You know what marketing campaigns and sales tactics speak to them, and can directly observe which setups cause customers to linger on an item or purchase it.
  • The combined responsibilities of maintaining a storefront and addressing incessant customer inquiries about everything from product details to business hours train you to stay cool under pressure. This helps prepare you to consistently ensure great customer service while juggling numerous demands of your time.
  • The benefits of keeping your cool don’t only apply to customers. Dealing with difficult customers also helps prime you to manage business relationships with account reps, clients and government regulators with greater patience than most.
  • Having survived the consequences of long hours and even low pay, you’ll likely be sensitive to creating a great company culture to motivate your future employees.

4. Wholesale or Manufacturing

Nobody can top the resourcefulness of wholesalers and manufacturers when it comes to fulfilling orders. Your mastery of how supply chains work is privileged knowledge, and an asset to any business owner.

What you learn:

  • Because you know supply chains like the back of your hand, you know exactly how—and when—to source products and materials for price and quality better than anyone else. Because the pricing and availability of goods can be affected greatly by seasonality and demand, you’ll know exactly when to get the best price, and where to get it from.
  • In addition to price, you’ll know how to ask for the best terms, because you’ll know all the pricing tricks of the trade, like when to buy in bulk or bundle materials.
  • Manufacturers and wholesalers often operate on large regional and national levels. Because of this perspective, you’ll learn to fine-tune your marketing campaigns with greater precision, increasing overall sales and effectiveness.
  • Your knowledge of how wholesale prices are set allows you to determine the most effective retail price. Picking the perfect price is an art form that many new business owners struggle with, but your familiarity with all the elements involved in the decision will help you offer competitive price without destroying your bottom line. 

5. Sales or Business Development

Whether you’re going door-to-door or riding elevators in high-rise buildings, as a sales or business development person, you always have to be at the top of your game to make a living. Your mastery of not only the sales process, but the art of persuasion, allows you to convince investors to fund you, customers to buy your product and suppliers to enter contracts essential to operations. 

What you learn:

  • Most business development and sales efforts require prolonged discussions before they close. During this give and take, you learn how to get to the heart of your customers’ concerns on an intimate level, and adapt your pitch to meet these needs. This is something many marketers take years to master.
  • Sales is all about building relationships. Trust is the foundation for those relationships and is also the hardest thing for new entrepreneurs to establish. If customers, B2B partners or investors don’t trust you, they will never enter an agreement with you, and they will certainly never give you their money. People with a background in sales have a lot more experience building trust with customers.
  • You learn resiliency, the ability to persevere after being repeatedly told “No.” This skill is indispensible for any aspiring entrepreneur. Hundreds of people will refuse to buy, refuse to invest or tear your idea down. Salespeople learn how to bounce back from discouragement quickly.
  • You master the fine art of creating an incredible unique selling proposition (USP). A USP is a statement that succinctly tells customers how and why your product or service is better than the competition’s. It is perhaps the most compelling reason for a customer to choose your product or service over another, and yet remains the stumbling block for many new business owners.

6. Lawyer or Paralegal 

As someone who works in the legal field, you gain familiarity with the inner workings of business and legal matters to a degree that would bore most people. You know and appreciate the consequences of breaching a deal, which justifies the time you take to read the fine print. 

What you learn:

  • Even if you aren’t a business lawyer, having a basic understanding of the law will help you in countless procedures related to starting up, including structuring your business and being properly licensed.
  • You may not be an entertainment lawyer, but you will certainly have a better understanding than most of the intellectual property. You will be able to more easily and affordably file trademarks to protect your brand (or patents to protect your inventions), and will understand how to prevent others from misusing your intellectual property through the use of Cease and Desist Letters.
  • You will have a leg up in understanding the procedures for correctly onboarding and managing employees in a way that is compliant to federal and state labor laws.
  • Many new entrepreneurs spend a lot of money on attorneys when setting up business deals, and sometimes still end up getting the short end of the stick. Because of your experience and attention to detail, your contracts with other businesses, with clients and with investors will be airtight, and you will be more easily able to recognize contracts you should not enter.
  • Like the accountant or financial advisor, your understanding of legal consequences lends itself to risk aversion, which can save you from jumping into a course of action that puts your entire business at risk.

So if you find yourself thinking that you’re getting nothing from your day job but a paycheck and a headache, think again. Every job, no matter how boring and unforgiving it might appear, still provides experience and perspective that apply to bigger and better roles.

While starting a business is an immensely challenging, stressful and risky endeavor, any advantage you have going into it may be what sets you apart from the competition. Cultivating intimate knowledge of customer relationships, finances, legal procedures or even managing inventory gives you a head start on understanding what it takes to make a business succeed.


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