Every employer is looking for people with a can-do attitude who have a track record with solid marketable skills. Well, maybe not every employer. Some hiring managers just care about finding a warm body. But those aren’t the kind of jobs you’re interested in.
You want a decent job at a good company. As the saying goes, employers hire for attitude and train for aptitude. So, if you’ve already got a great attitude, fantastic – you’re halfway there!
But what if you don’t have much job experience or don’t have a demonstrated record of specific, in-demand job skills?
No experience? No problem!
Don’t worry! You can develop just about any skill an employer is looking for – and make some extra cash while getting that real-world experience.
What skills can you learn?
- project management
- product development
- expense management
- business planning
- web development
- the list goes on.
There’s a little secret here too: if you do really well getting that real-world experience, you may never need a “real” job again.
So what’s the secret? How do you get such great experience in virtually any skill? Do you need to go back to school, spend months or years in classes, and fork over thousands of dollars that you don’t have or can’t spare?
Start your own business
Wait. Did you feel it? That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you read “start your own business?” That’s because you think business is risky, right?
Well, it can be – if you do it wrong. But every good entrepreneur manages risk, and you’ll do what you can to lower that risk. Nobody wants to spend years of their life and thousands or millions of dollars to fail.
How can starting your own business not be risky?
Here’s secret #2: You start a business on the side, test your ideas and assumptions quickly and cheaply, learn from your results, and incrementally move toward greater success. (That’s the formula I follow, and it’s also a popular entrepreneurial movement called the Lean Start-up Model).
That’s a very different way to start a business than most people think. Most people think they need a pile of cash, have the “perfect” idea and quit their job to start a business. A pile of cash might be nice, but it’s not necessary. And the “perfect” idea? It doesn’t exist.
What about quitting your job? Definitely a bad idea. Without a job, you’ll be so stressed about paying your bills – or going into debt – that you’ll doom yourself to fail. Instead, use your day job to fund your fledgling business.
I know, I know. You think starting a business is unrealistic. Or that it’s complicated. Or costly.
You can start a business. It’s not terribly complicated. And you can do it on the cheap.
You’ll need to do some basic planning, but don’t waste too much time on this phase. You only need a back-of-the-envelope plan, just a handful of bullet points to get started. Figure out what value you’ll provide, why you’re the best person to do it and who your ideal customers are.
To figure out the value you’ll provide, think of the benefits to your customer. For example, car companies don’t sell cars; they sell status, speed, comfort, image, etc. That’s their value. Figure out your value, and what benefits you’ll give customers.
Test your idea quickly and cheaply
Next, you’ll want to test your ideas to see if they work and whether there’s a market (aka paying customers). The testing part is where the details come in, but fear not. There are plenty of ways to test your ideas quickly and on the cheap – or even free – so you can see whether people will pay for what you’re offering, and you can do this testing whether you’re offering a physical or digital product or a service.
For example, Google’s Keyword tool lets you analyze a market to determine how many potential customers you might have, and both how competitive and profitable the market is. Cost? Free. Time needed? A couple hours, tops.
Once you’ve researched your market niche, you can get a domain name, set up a website using WordPress and start marketing to potential customers to see if they’re willing to pay for what you’re offering. Cost? Less than $100. And, yes, you can do this in an evening, even if you’re not a techie.
One of the easiest and cheapest kinds of businesses to start is a freelance or consulting business. Freelancing/consulting is a great business model – either as a side business or with the intent of building it into your full-time endeavor – because it has:
- low start-up costs
- flexible hours
- a high hourly pay rate
And best of all, you likely already have the expertise to get started.
But even if you end up starting another kind of business, you’ll still get tons of real-world experience that will have potential employers drooling. Maybe 1 in 100 other job hunters have experience running their own business. Some applicants have hands-on experience in one or a few skills, like accounting, marketing, product development, project management, or any of the other things you’ll learn while starting and growing your business. But you’ll get real-world experience in ALL those areas. How’s that for standing out from the crowd?
Plus, if you do really well, you’ll never have to look for a “real” job again.
Greg Miliates started his consulting business in January 2007, grew it through the recession, ditched his day job and quadrupled is former salary along the way. His blog gives specific tips, tricks, techniques and tools for starting and running a successful consulting business on the cheap.