I normally like the stuff that Steve Pavlina writes, but I just don't agree with his 10 reasons you should never get a job. I've had a regular job with a big company. I've had a regular job with a small company. I've started a company and focused on it as my sole full-time gig. I've started a company or two as side gigs while working a full-time job. And the truth is that everything has tradeoffs. I don't agree with Steve's points, so I decided to provide my own perspective on them.
1. Income For Dummies
The reason jobs are for dummies is "because you only get paid when you're working." I disagree. First of all, this misconception that all corporate environments are for mindless drones that punch a clock is wrong. There are good places to work out there (not a ton, but there are some). My current job isn't concerned with hours worked, it is concerned with results. If I worked 5 hours a week but got a sweet deal with Microsoft to put our wireless software into Windows CE, my boss would care less about when I was in the office or how much I worked. No one looks over my shoulder, I get to define much of my own workload, and when things are slow, no one cares if I work on side projects or personal things.
2. Limited Experience
Again, this is a misconception. This was true when I worked for a large company, but the small firm I work for now asks me to do all kinds of new and different things. I just had a trip to Taiwan to attend a conference. I'll be going there quite a bit to help open an Asian office. My company paid for the trip, and I am gaining invaluable experience about international business. If I was doing my own thing, I probably could not afford to fly to Asia on a regular basis unless I either raised money from investors (which means I'm now working partially for them and partially for myself) or else waited who knows how long until my business ramped up and had adequate cash flow.
3. Lifelong Domestication
If you let corporate life kill your entrepreneurial spirit, then it was weak to begin with and you probably wouldn't have made it if you had tried to go out on your own.
4. Too Many Mouths To Feed
To an extent, this is true, but when you factor in health care, 401K matching, etc., it can be a really sweet deal. The key is to get paid what you are worth.
5. Way Too Risky
Studies show that entrepreneurs do better the second time around. So why not make your first gamble on the company's dime instead of your own? Practice intrapraneurship by going to your boss with an idea and taking the lead. If you fail, the company pays the financial price. You still get your paycheck. If you go out on your own and fail, you have one hell of a hole to dig yourself out of.
6. Having an evil bovine master
The flip side of this is you could work for a business genius that teaches you all sorts of lessons in two or three years that it would have taken you ten years to learn on your own. Think about it – if you want to be a value investor would you rather start from scratch or work a few years under Warren Buffett?
7. Begging For Money
Again I say if you are good, you will get paid what you are worth. Begging for money is what you do when you owe the bank or credit card companies or whoever financed your startup and you don't have enough customers to meet payroll. Many entrepreneurs I have met get paid less than they are worth for several years because customers don't value their services as much as a private company would. Often, customers expect the new business on the block to be cheap and willing to cut deals to gain business.
8. An Inbred Social Life
It's your own fault if your only friends are co-workers.
9. Loss Of Freedom
This only happens if you work for a bad boss, and you should never work for a bad boss unless you have no other option.
10. Becoming a Coward
If you lose your drive, it was weak to begin with. And anyway, not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. It is tough. Maybe it isn't tough for Steve. Maybe it isn't tough for a small percentage of the population, but I know dozens of people that failed at it, and it was tough for them. Just because you aren't an entrepreneur doesn't mean you are a coward. What if you work at NASA on the space shuttle and you love that? How in the hell do you work on the space shuttle by yourself as a startup? You think someone will fund you if you don't have some experience related to space already? What if you are a physicist working on one of those massive particle accelerators? How do you get access to a particle accelerator if you don't work for CERN or someplace similar?
I am so tired of this common thread on blogs that says everyone must be an entrepreneur and in order to be an entrepreneur you have to be a programmer, web designer, consultant, or freelance writer. There are tons of skills that real people have that are not accurately appreciated on the web. Not all of them lend themselves well to startups, and not everyone has the skill set to be an entrepreneur.
I'm not against entrepreneurship. I think it is the single most exciting and educational "career" path you can pursue, but it isn't for everybody. I have done it in the past, and I have something in the works as we speak, but the truth is that most people that do it will never end up better off than their friends that have jobs. Many of the ones that are successful will piddle around with small salaries for several years before they finally take off and do okay.
Working for a company has advantages. It lets you save money to use to start your venture some day. It gives you access to assets that you wouldn't have otherwise. It is an easy way to meet people in an industry and make contacts that will be invaluable when you are ready to start your business. It allows you to test some of your ideas while someone else bears the financial risk. The best thing though, is that if you work for a company you can usually go home at 5pm. As an entrepreneur, work is your life (which can be both good an bad).
If you are smart, you will take control of your own career no matter what you do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, work for a company that will teach you skills you can use. Analyze your company to figure out what processes and procedures you can use to aid your own startup workflow someday, and what processes and procedures you should never implement because they just get in the way. Most importantly, never let someone else tell you what you should do. People are different, and Steve's path is good for him just like your path is good for you. Set your expectations high, be true to yourself, and go after what you want – whether entrepreneurship, a job as CEO of a large company, or whatever it is that will be challenging and rewarding to you.