There is no better way to prepare for entrepreneurship than through the experience of working at a company. It’s not just work, it’s practice, and every resource, opportunity, and chance you get working for someone else won’t be available when you are out on your own trying to make it.
You can just go to your job, do the minimum amount of work and go home, or you can explore every facet of that company in painful detail to figure out how and why it works so you can run your own company one day.
Here are nine ways to learn what you need from the company you work at now so you can be a boss later.
1. Learn to work with people you don’t like.
One of the challenges of working for a company is having to deal with difficult co-workers. Perhaps the best part of that is that it’s someone else’s company, not yours, which means it’s time for practice. Running your own company and being a good business leader is knowing how to manage different types of workers. Take this opportunity to figure out how different people tick and how to work effectively with them because you won’t have time to learn everything when you are busy running your own startup.
2. Build deep relationships beyond the simple business transaction.
Especially if you working sales and marketing, you’ll be meeting with clients and other vendors all the time. Using the companies resources and connections also affords the opportunity to test out your business relationship skills. Keep the mindset that you are representing yourself, not just the company; if you end up developing good relationships, they could come in handy later on, and this can be as simple as saying, “If there is anything else I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
3. Analyze your boss.
In business, who knows what challenges could come up, but you know they will. Working for someone else is the best opportunity to learn leadership skills and see how your boss handles challenges. The best part about it is you win even if you have a terrible boss. How do they handle stress? What do they do during a crisis situation? And most importantly, how can you be better than them?
4. Connect with co-workers who are good at what you are bad at.
Nobody is perfect and chances are your skill set isn’t perfectly rounded. Bad at math? Connect with an accountant you might like working with. Not too great at selling things? Connect with someone in sales. Developing relationships with people whose skills compliment your own can only benefit you, especially when you don’t have to worry about running a company yet. When one day you do have your own startup, reconnect with those people- you might be able to offer them a better position and you know their skills are already tested.
5. Show face whenever possible.
As an entrepreneur, you are going to need to get used to getting your face out their to grow your company. Take every opportunity you can to get in front of clients and your bosses, interviews and press opportunities- get in front of anyone who will be judging you.The purpose is to get out of your comfort zone and learn how to conduct yourself when you are in the spotlight. If you mess up, that’s okay, no harm done and you just keep practicing. If you are good at it, you only make yourself look more impressive.
6. Learn from every department.
Get to know the entire company you work at, even the departments you never interact with. Why? Because you are learning about how to structure a company. As a great business leader, you will need to know what every department does, why and how they do it. What better way to get a peek at how a developed company works than to learn from the one you are at? Even better, you are getting paid to be there.
7. Gather employee feedback
This is how you learn to build a company you know people like working at. Ask your co-workers how they like their job, what they don’t like about it, what they think of your boss, and what they wish was different. Especially in a corporate setting, things like company culture are virtually non-existent. Take this opportunity to figure out how you can do it better.
8. Keep asking why.
When you don’t know why someone took that course of action or why your boss chose to do this or that, ask why. Don’t ask like you are questioning their decisions, ask like want to know more about how they work so you can work better with them. You aren’t just working at a company, you are at a school of business experience and you are their to learn everything you need to be in business for yourself one day.
9. Always think about how the company can be better.
Try to discover where the company is lacking and figure out what you would do to change that on your own. On the other end, find out what that company is great at and how you can replicate that success. Especially if you want to go into the same industry as the company you currently work at, you’ll never get a better inside view of the strengths and weaknesses of a developed company than by working at it. Who knows, perhaps one day you might be their biggest competitor.