This is an extract from ‘The Anxious Entrepreneur’, my latest/fourth book. I dedicate it to Matric Class of 2016.
This chapter is for those who have just finished high school and don’t have the money to further their studies but are hustling hard for it, or those who absolutely do not want to go to varsity.
It is also for those who have just graduated from university, but don’t want to pursue a career related to their qualification, and who want to explore their interests instead.
Those who want to pursue entrepreneurship will find this particularly mind churning.
First, let me get my guilt out of the way.
In 2005, I enrolled for a three year diploma, in accounting, at the University of Johannesburg. I finished it in record time. To be completely truthful, in January 2008 I wrote a supplementary auditing exam and passed it, but yes, it is still record time.
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was applying for jobs and at the same time trying to be an entrepreneur. The job hunting was a side thing. You can’t apply for employment eight hours a day.
The frustration still haunts me at times; maybe I should have used my accounting qualification to look for accounting clients, so as to take care of the money problems and later possibly to finance my business interests.
I don’t know. I do not think I knew at the time how to get clients and do the work in real life, since tertiary education does not teach you that. Did yours?
Secondly, the practice in accounting – I am not sure if it is the universities that instil this – is that you should start by getting an internship and shadow experienced accountants. I wasn’t sold on this.
Maybe I should have just started my own accounting practice and then gone on to mess up people’s accounting books, just so as to get my learning on. You know; the ‘fake it till you make it’ type of apprenticeship, disguised as a professional accounting services firm.
Thirdly, maybe I did not want to have an accounting business, but just liked the thought of possibly being employed in an accounting firm, but the opportunity never came.
Since 2008, I have learned that I cannot do what I do not want to do; I am just that kind of person.
I have had fun outside the education system. I absolutely learned more than university ever taught me.
I have been many things, a DJ, a photographer, a graphic designer, a web designer, an eBook converter, a writer, a publisher, an event promoter and many more.
I have done many things, written hundreds of proposals, pitched, sold, got rejected several times, started many businesses, closed a lot of them, and failed.
I know how to have fun, survive, and conquer outside the education system. More importantly, I have made many mistakes, and gone through many pitfalls, so I now understand, and know, the hacks thereto.
If today you were to venture away from your academic qualification’s career path, towards something new, you could do the following; learn as much as possible and have fun at it.
So, figure out what sort of things you are interested in and start learning them. It could be graphic design, swimming, public speaking, coding and marketing; try to learn all of them.
There could be one trade that you prefer more than the others, and it is ok to give it more attention than the rest. The basis is that you don’t know exactly what to do, so you are free to explore different interests. If you absolutely know what you want to do, by all means concentrate on it; just remember that it’s fun to kill your free time by learning new things.
You will realise that when you dwell on the things you love, you will have less anxiety in all the other of life’s problems.
Use YouTube and the internet to learn. There are how-to videos and articles on almost anything and everything. Don’t just learn the theory; practice what you learn as well.
Cash is king. With dough you can at least buy the data bundles you need, as internet connections are so expensive in South Africa.
So, by all means get a side job but if you can go without a job for some time, do so please. Going without a job will help you build the stamina to focus without unreasonable disturbances. The only disturbances you should have to deal with are your parents, or family members, taking advantage of your ‘free time’.
I am still too scared to tell my parents that I’m busy when they ask me to do something, but the other day I gave a friend of mine advice on how to handle his parents concerning his time. How ironic!
He recently moved back home as he encountered challenges in the City of Gold. Life forces you back home sometimes.
They have a family business which he now helps run. There is never a pre-arranged schedule of what they need him to do in a day so; at any given time of the day he could be asked to collect clothes from the dry cleaners. He could be in the middle of his hustle and his parents still expect him to heed their call.
What I told him to do is to get his parents to give him a weekly schedule of the things they need him to do, so that he can plan his time accordingly.
The principle here is to learn how to self-populate your eight or more hours and work towards being productive on your own. With a job it will be tough because you can fool yourself into believing that you don’t have the time, as most employed people do. Please watch out for this excuse.
In 2009 I had three jobs in a day, and still I managed to explore my own stuff. The jobs were a side thing, even though they took eleven hours of my day. At any given point during the day, I would sneak in a call to a factory, enquiring about manufacturing specs for gabble heights, or whatever I needed to do.
This is the point where you take whatever you have taught yourself and try selling it to someone. The real learning, or point, of this is to get you to a stage where you are able to pitch to potential customers. This is learning in real life, it tests whether what you have is what they need. If not, go back and revise accordingly, or even build what they need. Assess whether your skills can produce anything someone needs; then test it.
The more you educate yourself on your interests, the bigger your skill set becomes and your creative potential also expands. You are then at a level where your skills and creativity can assemble the useful products and solutions which someone needs, and is willing to pay for. These could be competing products or totally new products to the market, but you must test, test, test and remodel, remodel, remodel, until you get it right.
All jobs are products or contribute to a product. Security officers, for example, sell protection.
Security guards in a clothing factory, contribute to the clothes. The better you know how to create or contribute to a product, the better you can innovate, survive and thrive in the world.
It is even more revolutionary if you create something that doesn’t already exist in the world; this is pioneering.
The best education is learning something on your own and testing it in the real world.
The best career friends I have today are those I met while doing things, and making a fool of myself, in the name of entrepreneurship, but they were making fools of themselves too. Talking only ideas and never taking any action won’t get you these kinds of friends.
You are going to have anxiety in life anyway, so rather get anxious while doing something worthwhile, like exploring your interests. Elevate the anxiety by creating finer products, selling them and scaling the business.
This chapter isn’t about how to create a brand or business; it is about interest tests and trying to create something the world needs.
For creating a business, or brand, get my other two books; “Forget the Business Plan Use this Short Model” and “Township Biz Fastrack.”
Until someone recognizes you for your skill, that is if you want employment, you have to keep practicing, testing, creating products and selling those products, getting attention, scaling the product and selling yourself.
In the greater scheme of things, it is more fun doing the things you love than those someone forces on you.
And FEES MUST FALL